Previous Annual Reports
Building the Future, Together
In the 2022 edition of the UK-Japan Student Conference, we explored what the future holds for both countries and the wider world we live in. It saw lively discussions and debates amongst our participants and our invited speakers in issues pertaining to equality, justice and inclusivity in different areas of societal development ranging from immigration policy, brain-computer interface technology, education and many more interesting topics.
Apathy, cynicism and fear tend to be the dominant attitudes towards the future in civil society and public discourse. These negative emotions are fundamentally rooted in a sense of disempowerment – that we, as individuals, have no way of making a difference to various global and national problems and no way of navigating many disorienting changes as time marches on. In this year's conference, we chose the theme ‘Building the Future, Together’ to respond to this feeling and to empower our participants. Our aim was to challenge those feelings and by meeting the future – both the challenges it presents and potential it holds – head on.
At the same time, we believe that in an ideal society everyone is valued and no one is left behind. Our societies will be much stronger when the full spectrum of human difference within them is meaningfully recognised. If people feel that their individual uniqueness is not a barrier to social participation, they will feel like they belong to a community. In turn, that sense of belonging will engender a desire to contribute to the progress of that community.
Ethics & Technology
Managing Emerging Technology
In 2021, we tackled the issues at the intersection of ethics and technology. Living in an era of interconnectedness and technological advancement, where digital breakthroughs impact every aspect of modern life; a new wave of information technology, represented by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and Big Data analysis, has begun to permeate our daily lives more extensively than ever before. From conducting our social lives and shaping our workplace, to the capacity of managing our health, technological innovation must be guided by ethically robust choices. How do we ensure that the technologies we create respond to pressing societal and economic challenges? What policies can improve human wellbeing through technology?
The present moment is a critical juncture in the future of technology. The pandemic is likely to accelerate current trends and shape our digital infrastructure. During UK-JP 2021, we critically considered the transformative potential of alternative proteins, the limitations of technology in fostering freedom of thought or addressing climate change, the ethical questions that arise from cyberwarfare amongst other mind-expanding ideas. We considered the merits of current and future technologies along with the moral dilemmas they entail, and developed policy alternatives to our current legislative ecosystem.
Climate Change & Climate Action
In the 2020 edition of the UK-Japan Student Conference, we addressed climate change — the most urgent existential problem humanity faces today. We fostered an intercultural understanding of the sources of climate change and local drivers in both countries.
Japan has been at the forefront of innovation and policy with the Kyoto protocol. Meanwhile, the adoption of climate-mitigating behaviours in the UK is rapidly accelerating, and the government recently declared a “climate emergency.” Both countries have made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions and are part of the Paris Climate Agreement, yet many argue these policies are insufficient. The conference will raise awareness about the roots of the problem, policies being currently implemented, viable alternatives to them, and more broadly, explore effective ways of addressing climate change on all levels: individual, group, state, and worldwide.
Nuclear Weapons: Legacy of War
Our Memories of Hiroshima
In 2019, we addressed the use of nuclear weapons by the British and Japanese governments. This conference seeks to analyse the causes and effects of governmental use of nuclear power, and debate policies and strategies regarding their use in warfare.
Currently 9 countries hold a total of 14,575 nuclear weapons. The United Kingdom has a comprehensive nuclear defence system and a stockpile of 215 nuclear warheads. A single nuclear weapon can destroy an entire city, kill millions of people, and have long-term adverse effects on the natural environment and future population. In 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was approved by the United Nations General Assembly. Only 70 countries have signed the treaty to date. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Japan voted against the adoption of the treaty. Since the invention of nuclear weapons, Japan is the only country in the world where nuclear weapons were actually used, causing mass destruction and killing indiscriminately. Radiation damage has plagued the people of Japan many years after the bombings. This history has had a tremendous impact on Japan and the Japanese people and is an event that will not be weathered by time.
Last year, Britain commemorated the 100th anniversary of WWI, and Japan reached the last year of Heisei (the first era without war). In this milestone year, we will look at the subject of nuclear power from various angles and discuss their use in warfare.
Migration and Labour Rights
Internationalism, Isolationism, Immigration
International migration is considered as one of the most pressing security agendas in contemporary politics. Therefore, it is necessary to deepen our knowledge on what exactly constitutes a major security threat or cultural challenge. In Japan, millions of Korean immigrants who have permanent residency in Japan identify themselves as Japanese. However locals are having a difficult time accepting them into Japanese society. Meanwhile, the UK has experienced a steady flow of migrants into the nation and has certainly felt their impact over the past few decades, for they brought about great changes in population, wages, productivity, and economic growth. Yet recent terrorist attacks encouraged not only the UK, but many other European countries to close their borders for security reasons. It can be stated as generally true that many existing immigration policies are derived from a perception of threat and the desire to protect their borders and people from “aliens.”
Both the UK and Japan have seen their societies aging rapidly aging, as well as sharing high demands for foreign labours. However both societies have a strong sense of being one united community -- the reality of accepting foreigners into their society might become a threat to them. Recent research has reflected immigrants are one of the most vulnerable groups who are likely to face racial discrimination and exploitation within workplace. During the conference, we frequently asked questions in relations to migration, identities of immigrants their rights, and the various political action that comes within.
How Do We Want to Shape Our Future?
Internationalism, Isolationism, Immigration
In UK-JP 2017, we focus on how immigration has been viewed in the light of internationalism and isolationism to address the question: ‘How do we want to shape our future?’ Analysing historical and cultural backgrounds, domestic issues and circumstances, a discussion was held on how these two nations would address the future of human migration.
2016 was a year when immigration was at the core of political debate. Public opinion was reflected in Brexit, the US presidential election, and right-wing parties gaining support in many countries. Social classification, public votes and other Big Data were analysed to estimate what decisions are likely to be made. However, these representations only capture the macroscopic trend of society as a whole, when undermining the value of individual decision-making, the context of such decision-making and interaction on a personal level. We address this topic this year with the hopes of this youth dialogue will be one of many dialogues to come, and that it would yield better comprehension of the multidimensionality and complexity of the problem we face today.
Poverty in the UK and Japan
In this inaugural UK-Japan Student Conference, we addressed the issue of poverty in the UK and Japan, analysing the causes and consequences, and debating what policies and strategies would be effective in reducing & eliminating material deprivation. Poverty is a significant issue worldwide, and economically developed countries such as Japan and the UK are no exceptions. The nature of poverty in prosperous countries, its mechanism and its solutions can be different from that in developing countries. For instance, expenses for uniforms and stationery to join companies and attend schools filter out those who barely meet the minimum standard of living. In developed countries, these expenses tend to be overlooked. In order to prevent increasing wealth disparities, it is important to raise public awareness towards social and economic factors that work against people in poverty.
We realise that in many cases, those who are experiencing poverty are separated from the ones with social impact that can change the situation. Therefore, it is crucial to make their voices audible so that they can make a difference. Our mission is to foster deeper understanding towards these social issues through active discussion. The conference consists of a series of discussions and seminars, fieldwork with social sectors, and a wrap-up group presentation. We encourage participants to discuss freely, exchange thoughts and ideas, and share their visions towards a sustainable society.