May 26, 2007
Increased development assistance and the concept of 'human security' are key to solving global crises, helping millions of the world's poorest people and assuring Japan's own security, JICA President Sadako Ogata said.
Mrs. Ogata spoke in Tokyo May 26 at an international seminar convened by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun to discuss Japan's 'new strategies' for the 21st century. It printed a series of 21 editorials or position papers on issues ranging from climate change to international military intervention to 'human security.'
Mrs. Ogata, who was a key figure in developing the concept of 'human security', said this remained not only central to global efforts to help prevent or solve crises and to helping the world’s poor, but should be substantially strengthened.
"People, human beings, must be central to everything we do," she said and explained that human security involved a two-step approach: strengthening traditional government institutions which provide security and social services, but also empowering individuals and local communities by providing them directly with better health care, education and social systems.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been incorporating this concept into its projects for several years, but Mrs. Ogata said this approach must be strengthened to succeed in an increasingly complex global situation.
Japanese Aid Slipping
She said that development assistance was a 'very effective way' in meeting global crises. But whereas Japan had led the world in the 1990s in this field, "in the last few years we have been slipping. Other industrial countries are increasing their assistance," she said, "and though Japan still has the world’s second largest economy, we really need to be more serious on development assistance."
Not only that, she added, but help should be retargeted to the most needy global trouble spots, particularly Africa. Her own agency has already begun that process.
The Japanese public must be made more aware that not only is such assistance effective in helping developing countries, but it also enhances Japan's own security.
"We need to spread the word that international crises impact on our own security in Japan," Mrs. Ogata told other delegates and the audience. "We need to emphasize that development assistance leads to better security for everyone."
She insisted that Japan must also strengthen its communications to better inform the world not only of its ideals but also the practical measures it is taking to solve crises and help millions of people to escape from poverty. "Right now our communication (with the rest of the world) is too weak. We must improve this area so that Japan's contributions will be evaluated properly by the world," she said.
In its series of editorials, the Asahi Shimbun said that human security should be "one of the two distinctive features of Japan as a nation that contributes to the well being of the earth, along with the global environment."
Japan was reducing its Official Development Assistance (ODA) and "becoming more inward looking" but should in fact increase its help to poorer countries and "stand at the forefront in an effort to make the world a better place," the Asahi Shimbun said.
It endorsed the idea of moving more resources to Africa. "We cannot ignore Africa’s problems," an editorial said, "or they will affect the entire world." It said Japan should not only 'dramatically' increase aid to Africa but should work with other Asian nations and Japanese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide the continent with agricultural and industrial help and expertise.