It is vital that Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) is used effectively to support the economic growth of developing nations. The scope of the nation’s international contribution should be broadened through cooperation between the public and private sectors.
The ODA budget has dropped by about half since its fiscal 1997 peak, hovering between about ¥500 billion and ¥600 billion in recent years. Given Japan’s severe financial situation, the ODA budget is unlikely to change much.
Close cooperation among local governments, companies and nongovernmental organizations involved in international assistance activities holds the key to providing more finely tuned support. Harnessing their respective expertise and complementing each other will boost synergies in ODA projects.
From this fiscal year, the Foreign Ministry has started moves to strengthen the financial footing of NGOs. The ministry has increased the proportion of grants that can be set aside for expenses regarding communications, commuting and head office personnel not directly involved in projects.
Japanese NGOs are small compared with U.S. and European NGOs, and their organization is fundamentally weak. This stems from the fact that the culture of individuals giving donations to such groups has yet to take root. It is reasonable for the government to support NGOs financially. Government grants must be appropriately allocated after carefully examining the results of these groups’ activities.
Japan has conventionally supported the concept of “human security” that focuses on the lives and dignity of each individual. Grassroots-level international contributions made through public-private cooperation should fit nicely with this principle.
Keep U.N. goals in mind
There are a rising number of practical examples. The Toyama prefectural government is working together with a local pharmaceutical company to convey to Myanmar the okigusuri system dating back about 300 years in which medicine kept at home is paid for only when used. This project not only delivers medicine to farming villages, but it also involves providing technological support for the local production of crude drugs.
This can be described as a project that combines international cooperation with the promotion of a local industry.
It will be important to coordinate with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and devise efficient assistance plans.
Strategically providing low-interest yen loans to emerging nations in Asia and elsewhere also will be essential. These loans should be used to support construction of high-quality infrastructure such as roads, ports and power plants, and to encourage self-sustaining economic growth.
A recipient nation’s level of development and financial situation will need to be accurately assessed and then suitable steps taken.
It also is crucial that these projects harmonize with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. These SDGs are objectives in 17 fields, such as eradicating poverty, that the United Nations aims to achieve by 2030. Japan should be proactively involved in achieving these goals.
A summit meeting of the Group of 20 major nations will be held in Osaka in June, and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will be held in Yokohama in August. Japan must also play a leadership role in multilateral cooperation on such issues as financing, boosting and strengthening implementation systems.