Oct 18

The below article appeared in the Summer 2010 Issue of the JLGC Newsletter.

JET Program, JET Alumni Association Vital to the Future of U.S.-Japan Relations

by Matthew Gillam, Senior Researcher and Chizuko Kawamura, Assistant Director, Japan Local Government Center (aka CLAIR-New York)

JETAA New York hosted the JETAA USA National Conference from August 12 to 15, with 42 representatives from 18 of the 19 US chapters (except Alaska) and the three US Country Representatives participating.

Since a review of CLAIR’s overseas offices and the JET Program was conducted by the Government Revitalization Unit in May, and support for JETAA was among the activities under administrative review by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in June and July, this year’s conference was focused much more than usual on explaining the role of the JET Program and JETAA in efforts to improve the English language ability of the Japanese and to promote international exchange in Japan.

The first main session on this topic took place on the morning of Friday, August 13. Mr. Yasuhisa Kawamura, the director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in New York, explained the position of the Ministry after their recent review. During his talk he emphasized that the Ministry understands the importance of JETAA’s vital role in the US-Japan relationship and will continue supporting the alumni. However, this support will be strictly limited to activities and events which enable former JETs to be diplomatic assets for Japan, or which improve the quality of future JETs. He concluded his remarks with his “Three Cs” for future relations, “Confidence, Caution and Cooperation”, and asked for pragmatism rather than excessive optimism or pessimism in dealing with the current situation. As to CLAIR’s position, Mr. Matthew Gillam explained CLAIR’s current situation and future support for JETAA, saying that the continuing fiscal difficulties facing local governments make it difficult for CLAIR to promise to maintain current funding levels in the coming years. He concluded by saying it is very important that we gain the support of local governments for JETAA activities. These presentations were followed by a lengthy discussion by attendees on ways to address the issues raised in various criticisms of JET and JETAA in Japan.

The other main session was on Sunday morning, when we had a special guest from the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC. Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki had a discussion with the conference participants for approximately 90 minutes in which they exchanged opinions and ideas on how to improve the quality of the JET Program.

In addition to these, sessions were also held for chapter issues such as membership management, event planning, leadership transition and succession planning, basic fundraising, and career development.

Furthermore, on Saturday morning, after a brief, general talk on funding, a technical session was held specifically for treasurers where participants learned detailed information on funding policy and administrative procedures for both of MoFA and CLAIR. Everyone seemed grateful for the clear explanations of these increasingly complicated processes.

One more major topic that came up in several sessions was technology, and a lot of effort was made to build on the achievements of the Technology Regional Conference held in Portland earlier this year in order to provide chapters with better, more effective and easier to use technology solutions to their data management and communications needs.

A press release was put together after the conference, entitled “JET Program, JET Alumni Association Vital to the Future of U.S.-Japan Relations.” Among other things, the release says that “JETAA USA came to the conclusion that the JET Program and JETAA are crucial to Japan’s international outreach and to increasing mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. JETAA USA hopes that upon review the Japanese government will rediscover the necessity and value of the JET Program and JETAA. Japan needs both JET and JETAA to continue building bridges between Japan and the United States.” This press release has drawn quite a bit of attention from the Japanese media.

We believe this conference was a good opportunity for JETAA members to share information on recent events and gain a better grasp of the situation regarding the JET Program and JETAA. It was also a valuable chance for all of us from JETAA, MoFA and CLAIR to reconfirm our commitment to working together to maintain and improve JET and JETAA. We are very grateful for the participants’ voluntary initiatives to support the JET Program and improve JETAA activities.

Lastly, we extend our sincere gratitude to JETAA New York, the three Country Representatives, and the Consulate General of Japan in New York. This conference would not have been possible without everyone’s commitment and generous support.

one comment so far...

  • JET Update – JET Programme Safe… for Now! « Bahia Portfolio Said on October 30th, 2010 at 1:23 pm:

    […] involved in things like Japan-USA relations and international affairs. At the culmination of the JETAA USA national conference in August, JETAA New York released the following press release: JETAA Press Release: JET Program, JET Alumni […]

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