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Let's make the 21st Century "The Century of the Child" Thoughts on the International Symposium for CRN's Tenth Anniversary

"Children in Societies with a Declining Birthrate from the Perspective of Child Science," an international symposium marking the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Child Research Net (CRN), was held on February 3 at U Thant Conference Hall, United Nations University. CRN, a research institute that brings together researchers and professionals with a common interest in the well-being of children, marked its tenth anniversary in April 2006. This occasion was CRN's fourth international symposium with speakers invited from outside Japan. Exciting and enlightening presentations were given by two scholars from China, two from South Koreas and three from Japan on the timely subject of Children in Societies with a Declining Birthrate, an issue confronting East Asian nations. The venue was nearly filled to capacity, indicating the high interest in this topic.

The morning session began with a special lecture delivered by Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Laureate in Literature, on "Children: A Model of the Human Future," followed by the keynote address given by Dr. Wei Yu, former Vice-Minister of Education of China and a prominent neuroscientist and engineer in China, on "Research on Cognitive Development in Children: Brain Science and Education in China." The afternoon session consisted of panel discussion.

Today, I'd like to share my thoughts on this afternoon panel discussion. A general report on overall symposium will be posted at a later date. The societies of Japan, China, and South Korea currently face a common problem: the ongoing decline of birthrate. Of course, in China, this has been the result of the government's One-child Policy. On the other hand, as society has grown increasingly affluent, South Korea and Japan have experienced a natural decrease in the number of children, with the pace of decline faster in South Korea.

China presents a different scenario, but it is clear that South Korea and Japan will not see an increase in the number of children, as was the case several years ago. In Japan, at least, this is practically impossible. Leaving aside the question of how to resolve the declining birthrate to maintain socio-economic stability and productivity, the more important issue for the present is child-caring design that meets the needs of the child population in society.

Here, child-caring design refers to designing a child-friendly society, a society that gives serious consideration to children's issues and a society that is good for children from their perspective. Child-caring design is an important issue from an international perspective as well. In some ways, we have not been able to realize Ellen Key's appeal at the beginning of the twentieth century to make it "The Century of the Child." Making children the central concern of our century means putting child-caring design into practice, and I believe that this will build a foundation for peace in each nation that will also lead to world peace. Considering the realities of our world today, it is crucial for us to make this our starting point. This was foremost in my mind when I made my own appeal to realize the twenty-first century as "The Century of Child" in my opening remarks.

In the past ten years, thanks to the enormous backing of Benesse Corporation, CRN has been able to greatly expand its Japanese-, English-, and Chinese-language websites. Access has not quite reached one million hits per month, but it is increasing steadily, and this support has been the key factor in the realization of the International Symposium for CRN's Tenth Anniversary. Today, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who helped CRN in so many ways over the past decade.
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