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Issue 13
June 26, 2003

Survey Report: The Impact of SARS on International Exchange and Cooperation Activities

While the SARS epidemic appears to be subsiding, it clearly has had a significant impact on the world community in more ways than one, as health concerns have led to a severe decline in international travel, particularly to and from Asia, which in turn has affected regional economies and other aspects of society. On a grassroots level, as one might expect, the impact of SARS has extended to activities involving international exchange and cooperation. For example, Japan and China share ties through close to 300 sister-city relationships, and this year, almost all related exchange projects were cancelled due to SARS. In a way, this SARS crisis is testing the strength of such relationships, and some Japanese citizens and groups are answering this challenge by finding alternative means of communicating a message of friendship and concern to their counterparts in SARS-affected regions. (Case study)

Toshihiro Menju, JCIE Chief Program Officer


From June 11 to 18, the Japan Center for International Exchange conducted an online survey directed at Japanese organizations to determine what specific consequences SARS has had for international exchange and cooperation activities. The number of respondents totaled 170.

Main Survey Results

The high percentage of respondents affected by SARS is tied to the fact that many are engaged in activities involving Northeast Asia (48.2%) and Southeast Asia (42.9%), where a large number of SARS cases have developed. However, the impact of SARS has manifested itself not just in connection to exchange activities involving these types of regions. In fact, of the 29.4% who responded that the primary target region of their activities is Europe, where there have been very few SARS cases, approximately 45% indicated that they have felt the impact of SARS. In addition, of the activities involving Europe, exchange visits to Japan have undergone the heaviest impact, mainly in the form of cancellations and postponements. This fact suggests that the virus has extended its impact even to exchange between countries where there have been limited cases of infection.

It is possible to say that these results derive from a global perception of Japan as being part of the SARS crisis area. For example, one international exchange association based in the Kinki region of Japan, which responded that it has experienced a "heavy impact," indicated that a project involving a visit by a middle-school student delegation from the United States to Japan was postponed. This example illustrates the fact that while Japanese society tends to view SARS as an outside problem since no cases have developed in the country, the rest of the world is placing Japan within the problem area.

The SARS virus has affected organizations financially, as well, not only through cancellations and postponements of exchange visits but also through such factors as increased work related to scheduling changes and other adjustments and having to buy more expensive plane tickets to avoid stopovers in affected regions.

Shigeko Morita, Program Assistant


Further details regarding the survey questions and results


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