THE GROUP OF 7 OR GROUP OF 8 (G7/8) SUMMITRY HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN challenging for civil society actors, but since the mid-1990s the G7/8 states have indicated a greater openness to civil society organization (CSO) participation in the summitry process. In the case of Japan, the sole participant from Asia at the G7/8 summit proceedings, the engagement of Japanese CSOs in the summitry had a circumscribed character. This particular state of affairs has, however, been slowly changing in the twenty-first century. Through examination of three G7/8 summits held in Japan--the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa summit, 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit, and 2016 Ise-Shima summit--I analyze the extent to which the norm of inclusive approach to the participation of civil society in global governance processes has been embraced by subsequent Japanese governments.
The article has three purposes. First, I aim to describe how the relationship between Japanese CSOs and the Japanese government has developed in the context of the summitry process. More specifically, I present and critically evaluate the channels and spaces for civil society representation, participation, and policy deliberation made available during the three summits. Second, on the basis of empirical findings, I explain the extent to which subsequent Japanese governments have embraced the idea of inclusive governance and accepted CSOs as relevant stakeholders in the summitry process. Third, I assess my findings in relation to wider debates around a pro-CSO norm in East Asian and global realms. (1) In summary, I argue that the norm of civil society inclusion in global governance processes has not yet been sufficiently institutionalized among Japanese elites, and the extent and conditions of CSO participation in the summits were dictated by the political philosophy of a given prime minister in power, resulting in an inconsistent and contradictory approach to nongovernmental actors. In particular, the limited political will to engage in a meaningful dialogue with CSOs demonstrated by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the 2016 summit can be seen as part of a broader trend in Japan toward the narrowing of civic space under the current conservative administration despite the country's democratic credentials.
In this article, I build on the existing body of research concerning the evolving relationship between the G7/8 and civil society as represented by works of Peter I. Hajnal, Hugo Dobson, and Philip Seaton. (2) 1 provide, however, a more in-depth overview of Japanese CSOs' involvement in the summitry process and I attempt to introduce views and voices of civil society actors to a greater extent than before, adding new empirical material to extant academic discourse. The findings from this article contribute to academic discussion on the role of "activism from above" in facilitating Japanese CSO access to international politics and adaptation of the international norm prescribing a greater recognition of civil society as partners by Japanese ruling elites. (3)
Theoretical Considerations: International Norm Compliance and the Lasting Importance of Domestic Political Opportunities
On a theoretical level, in this article I draw from a body of research on norm diffusion and socialization as well as studies that underline the continuing causal importance of the state in facilitating participation of CSOs in global governance processes. Civil society organizations are referred to throughout the text, apart from in places where other authors' preference for the term nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is acknowledged, to encompass "a broad set of non-state, non-profit actors." (4) Norms, in turn, are understood as "rules or normative principles that are somehow accepted in and by particular groups." (5) Significantly, norms are conceived here as possessing a prescriptive aspect, as they encompass accepted or desirable standards of behavior or "the basic actions expected of actors in a given issue area." (6) Finally, the concept of political opportunity is used to address the characteristics of a political context that play a crucial role in influencing and shaping civil society activism. (7) The relevant aspects of political context can include the degree of openness or closure of formal political access, the degree of stability of political alignments, availability and attitude of potential allies, and divisions among elites as well as repression and facilitation on the side of the state. (8)
According to Anders Uhlin, a pro-NGO norm "creates political opportunities for civil society activists" in terms of their access to international organizations (IOs); however, IOs and states still "have ample possibilities to limit civil society engagement to tokenistic participation without real influence." (9) This new pro-NGO norm, which emerged in the 1980s and portrayed NGOs as "partners in development" and "an enforcer of good governance," has contributed to expanding their presence and significance in global politics. This particular normative development, which was rooted in liberal democratic and neoliberal economic principles, established a new standard for state actors. That is, "in order to be a properly functioning free market and democratic nation in the 1990s and 2000s, it was now necessary to have a flourishing 'civil society' sector that included NGOs and other citizen-organized groups." (10)
In addition to the growing pertinence of discourses that promote inclusive governance, (11) the active push for CSOs to become "a direct participant in institutionalized global governance" (12) has ushered in incremental change in the presence of nongovernmental actors in global governance processes. Consequently, as John J. Kirton and Peter I. Hajnal argue, "The debate is no longer over whether civil society should be involved in international governance, but rather how much and how it should." (13) Similarly, Jan Aart Scholte expresses a conviction that, "since the 1990s, a general consensus has prevailed that CSOs are rightly involved in transplanetary regulation." (14) The existing literature demonstrates, however, that there are substantial differences between various international bodies as to the extent to which this particular norm and its "ought-to-ness" aspect (i.e., "how an actor should behave" (15)) has been embraced by them. (16) Significantly, the strength of a given norm can be "limited to a region or extend globally," (17) which brings to the fore the matter of different levels of norm recognition and compliance that emerge and exist in varying social, political, and economic environments. For instance, whereas the norm concerning civil society's participation in global governance has gained currency in Southeast Asia, (18) the extant studies reveal that despite its "people oriented" rhetoric, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) tends to expand a "range of opportunities for political representation, while narrowing the opportunities for political contestation." (19)
More importantly, despite the increasing involvement of civil society in global governance processes, the state remains a key player in the latter, and CSOs depend on states for "material resources and political access," (20) bringing to the fore the issue of political opportunities. Christopher L. Pallas and Anders Uhlin aptly point out that the dominant narrative on nongovernmental actors, which underlines CSOs' importance in realizing "direct stakeholder representation in international policy-making" and offsetting the impact of states, overlooks the fact that the latter "are still the primary members of the vast majority of global governance arrangements and that CSO participation and influence often rely on state sufferance and support." Consequently, a "state channel"--that is, cooperation between CSOs and state actors (executive, parliamentary and administrative branches of national governments and individual representatives of these institutions) for the purpose of influencing international organizations--has lasting importance in global governance. (21)
In the case of highly state-centered forums, such as the G7/8 and the Group of 20 (G-20), the importance of "state sufferance and support" plays an even greater role in creating and limiting opportunities for CSOs to access, contribute to, and influence proceedings and outcomes in the run-up to and during the main events. As an informal nonbureaucratic body without permanent headquarters or a secretariat, the G7/8 forum has not developed well-institutionalized channels of communication and cooperation with CSOs such as those offered by the UN agencies. Furthermore, varying institutional and administrative arrangements in member states--which are in place for the purpose of organizing summit events, implementing, and monitoring G7/8 process outcomes--have introduced an additional level of difficulty into the establishment and management of the engagement of CSOs in the summitry process. (22) All of these factors have contributed to the "unpredictability of civil society's access into summitry process" (23) that continues despite the overall trend toward a greater opening and embracing of civil society by the G7/8.
However, in their writings about informal forums such as the G7/8, Kirton and Hajnal predict that they "should have greater flexibility to involve civil society actors, especially when these bodies are dominated by democratic states with open societies that need to respond to their citizens' demands." (24) This observation corresponds with the argument on the emergence of a pro-NGO norm and its anchoring and embeddedness in democratic and liberal principles. Consequently, the G7/8 summits--the gatherings of (mostly) highly developed, rich, and democratic countries--are well suited to exploring how far a given government is committed to following the inclusive governance norm. The host states have full...