The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) held the first meeting of an experts’ panel on official development assistance (ODA) on July 25 to kick off discussions on ways to strengthen international NGOs involved in medical care, education, disaster relief, and other issues.
ODA projects are also undertaken by NGOs. Foreign Minister Taro Kono pointed out at the meeting: “We need to think about how to make Japanese NGOs operate at a level on par with NGOs of other countries and how to have NGOs take on ODA projects.”
Outstanding issues in this connection include the extent to which NGO execution of ODA projects can be increased in the future and safety standards for NGO members operating in conflict areas.
The government started to implement ODA projects through NGOs in 1989, but they currently only work on a limited number of projects. In FY16, NGO projects accounted for only 1.6% of total ODA (1.8 trillion yen, including yen loans), which was the lowest level among advanced nations, far below the U.S. with the highest percentage at 20.7% and Canada in second place at 19.7%.
South Sudan, from where the Ground Self-Defense Force participating in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) withdrew last May, is designated as “Level 4” in MOFA’s travel advisory, recommending evacuation, so there are currently no Japanese NGOs working there. A supra-partisan parliamentary union recommended to MOFA this week that there should be more flexibility in allowing travel to South Sudan, depending on how the situation in South Sudan develops.