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Learning from History: JICA-RI Research Projects on Japanese Development Assistance Presented at the JASID Conference

January 17, 2018

Director Kitano spoke about JICA-RI project that seeks to analyze the history of Japan's development cooperation

The 28th Annual Conference of The Japan Society for International Development (JASID) was held on Nov. 25 and 26, 2017, at Toyo University, and presentations were given on JICA Research Institute’s current projects.

JICA-RI Director Naohiro Kitano served as chair of a roundtable held on the 25th under the theme “Why does History Matter in Development Cooperation?”. He spoke about the “Japan’s Development Cooperation: A Historical Perspective” project currently underway at JICA-RI. With the new role Japan is carrying out as emerging donors rise, Kitano emphasized the significance of taking a look back at the history of Japan’s development cooperation. He explained that JICA-RI is scheduled to publish the results of this research in a seven-volume book.

This was followed by presentations by three authors, who explained the concept of the respective volume of the book that they are in charge of. Professor Motoki Takahashi at Kyoto University discussed the changes in the discourse on Japan's support for the self-help efforts of developing countries and Japan’s experience, which represent the distinctness of Japan’s history in development cooperation. Doshisha University professor and JICA-RI Visiting Fellow Yoichi Mine said that he focuses on grass-roots oral history that supplements the history of systems and history of ideas of development cooperation, and that he wants to look deeply into the experiences of those in the field. JICA Senior Vice President Junichi Yamada used an example of the development of Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard to explain the reason why the focus of his study is on infrastructure development in Asia.

In reaction to these presentations, Professor Soyeun Kim of Sogang University, who was serving as commentator, spoke of the history of South Korea’s ODA, which has its roots in South-South cooperation. She emphasized the significance of historical research and expressed expectations toward the contribution to be made by the JICA-RI research. A broad range of comments and questions were raised from the audience, such as on the consideration of the concept of self-help, the relativization of the characteristics of Japan’s development cooperation, and the relationship between arguments on modernization and the history of development cooperation.

Deputy Director Kayashima spoke about JICA-RI project that seeks to examine the history of Japan’s international education cooperation

On 26 November, JICA-RI Deputy Director Nobuko Kayashima served as a chair of a session, presenting an ongoing research project in the education sector. Since its inception in May 2017, the project has been analyzing the historical trends of Japan’s international education cooperation, and the research outcomes will be summarized in an academic publication. Kayashima and Kazuo Kuroda, professor at Waseda University and JICA-RI visiting fellow, described the publication plan, with writers in charge giving reports.

JICA-RI Research Officer Atsushi Tsujimoto, Professor Shoko Yamada of Nagoya University and Designated Assistant Professor Yuki Shimazu at Nagoya University, explained that Japan’s overseas cooperation in TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) began as technical assistance to complement financial cooperation projects. It reached its peak in the 1980s as “Hitozukuri (human resources development) cooperation”. Associate Professor Hideki Maruyama at Sophia University described that the number of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) in the field of human resources development has increased since the project’s inception, which implies that the JOCV program has been shifting to give more emphasis to soft power in international cooperation. Professor Yoko Ishida at Hiroshima University said that Japan’s assistance in capacity development in educational public administration was initially started as development study projects, and assistance is now included in other education projects such as school construction, pedagogy and education material development. Professor Taro Komatsu at Sophia University and JICA-RI Research Officer Naoko Arakawa gave an overview of the historical development in education assistance in conflict-affected countries, analyzing key roles played by international organizations, JICA and NGOs.

In reaction to these reports, Professor Takuya Baba at Hiroshima University and JICA-RI Visiting Fellow Yoichi Mine, who were serving as commentators, described how the unique nature of Japan’s overseas cooperation has changed with the times, the link between implementation support in the field and policy development support, and similarities and differences between Japan’s international cooperation trends and international trends. There were comments from the floor and active discussions unfolded to explore reasons behind for the policy change made in the 1990s, when education assistance prioritized basic education cooperation.

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