Message from Secretary General

Kunihiko Hirabayashi, Secretary General

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand,
as in what direction we are moving”

by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

The health, social, economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is devastating: taking millions of lives, disrupting educational and employment opportunities, and severely affecting the global, regional and local economy, trade and tourism. The effect of climate change could have an even more profound impact on mankind. In the face of such insurmountable challenges, too often, many of us may think we are powerless. However, this isn’t true. I know that despite our challenges, our real strengths – power of respecting and fostering human and cultural diversity; bonds of cross-border friendship and partnership; and solidarity – are just as real, strong and vibrant as they ever were.

I have devoted much of my 40-year professional life for the best interests of people and children in Asia-Pacific and ASEAN countries, listening sincerely to the voices of decision makers; health professionals; teachers; business and community leaders; social entrepreneurs; and young opinion leaders as well as the voiceless people who are the most vulnerable and excluded, such as displaced persons; refugees; and people with disabilities. I also have always tried to spend my time in the field in those countries. What I have learned and realized through the valuable experiences is how geopolitically important the ASEAN region is for Japan, and how much the ASEAN vision of an integrated, peaceful and stable community with shared prosperity as well as achieving their sustainable development goals hold a major significance in building a prosperous and stable Japan, Asia and World.

The ASEAN-Japan Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. Since the Centre was established in 1981, it has significantly contributed to fostering strategic partnership between ASEAN Member States and Japan through the Centre`s core activities of promoting trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchanges between the two parties, which have been anchored by mutual trust and understanding from the Member States. However, there have been also significant changes of the circumstances for the strategic relationships over the 40 years. For instance, the ongoing digital transformation has revolutionized the business landscape and resulted in a drastic improvement for our daily life. On another front, widely speeded narrow-minded egoism has a powerfully negative impact on the world and regional equity and solidary. Winston Churchill once said “kites rise highest against the wind –not with it.” As it happens, this is true of our Centre. I believe the Centre needs to widen the scope further by scaling up our projects from small pilot projects to large-scale movements. We can do this by rethinking our approach on how to better serve our stakeholders and people and by strengthening and expanding our strategic partnership further with other organizations and young people across national borders.

The ASEAN-Japan Centre has a 40-year history of excellence in serving as a bridge between ASEAN Members States and Japan to promote trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchanges. The Centre also has diverse committed experts with vitality, who are devoting all their efforts to expand and deepen the partnership between ASEAN Member States and Japan. With my trusted colleagues, I will play an integral role in reimagining the Centre and will commit myself to contributing toward a sustainable, integrated, peaceful and stable future for people in ASEAN Member States and Japan.

September, 2021
Kunihiko Hirabayashi, Secretary General