World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings have become synonymous with anti-globalisation protests, some of them having had to be violently put down with tear gas and water cannons.
But not in Tokyo. There was a small protest of 300 people holding placards, and not shouting very loudly, which didn’t even try to defy the security cordon around the Tokyo International Forum, where the meetings are being held. But compared to Istanbul and other venues before this, it was a joke.
“How come you aren’t out on the streets protesting?” one activist asked Masaki Inaba, a Japanese civil society leader at one of the officially sanctioned meetings inside the Forum complex.
Inaba explained how it was difficult to get the Japanese people mobilised against neo-liberalism because of their lack of awareness. “But it is also important to lobby and try to reform the organisations from within,” added Inaba, the Director of the Africa Japan Forum.
It could also be because of the conformist culture in Japan and the desire for order and harmony. There is also a need, activists felt, for civil society to sharpen its arguments and the best way to do that is to engage in dialogue with the institutions that need to be reformed – and that is more effective than stoning shop windows.