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OGATA Sadako

June 25, 2007

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Oxford Speech: Japan's Development Assistance and the New Challenge

President Sadako Ogata delivered the following speech on the future of Japan's ODA at Oxford University on June 22.


I am deeply honored to be speaking today at Oxford, a place renowned for so many centuries as a center of global intellectual excellence. My topic, entitled "Japan's Development Assistance and the New Challenge," is both demanding and highly topical.

For a half century, development assistance has been one of Japan's major foreign policy instruments and has played a decisive role in shaping the country's overall standing in the world.

But today, we are at a crossroads. While countries such as Britain have been increasing their own help, Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) has fallen by 40 percent in the last 10 years. We need to reverse this trend, but the challenge confronting us is 'how are we going to do this?' and also tackle the world's major problems including global warming and African development.

Next year will prove decisive and will help shape Japan's role in the global community. In May, we will host a fourth international conference on Africa--The Tokyo International Conference on African Development--known as TICAD IV. In July, Japan will chair the G8 summit.

In October, JICA itself will complete a major restructuring when it merges with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, JBIC, into 'New JICA.' This new organization, with some 8.8 billion dollars of available financial resources, will provide faster and more efficient help to some of the world's neediest people and will reshape the way Japan's Official Development Assistance, or ODA, is dispensed.

New Challenge

Before I discuss Japan's 'new challenge,' let me briefly review the history of its development assistance.

Japan was devastated by WW II, and in the immediate aftermath the country was mired in hunger and poverty. During the immediate post-war reconstruction period, it received massive assistance from the United States and international organizations such as UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund), including food aid. The World Bank helped Japan rebuild vital infrastructures such as electricity, roads, and rail networks. Effectively, Japan was a major 'aid recipient' during this period and the international community underpinned its reconstruction and redevelopment.

By the early 1950s, however, that role was changing. Japan rejoined the international community as a donor as well as being a recipient when it became a member of the so-called Colombo Plan in 1954. As the country's economic vitality returned, Japan expanded its Official Development Assistance, both in financial and geographical terms, particularly throughout Asia. It reached a pinnacle between 1991 and 2000 when Japan became the world's single biggest bilateral donor. It provided 20% of the overall funds for the so-called DAC (or Development Assistance Committee) countries. As a leading donor, it also took policy initiatives such as TICAD and contributed to the formulation of DAC's development strategy.

But in the last decade this trend has again reversed. While countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European nations increased their official assistance--partly in response to the attacks of 9/11 to ensure that developing countries do not become breeding grounds for future terrorists--Japan's ODA has fallen 40 percent because of a prolonged economic recession and the need for fiscal reform. Last year, in overall terms, Japan's development assistance fell behind both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Now, as we head towards 2008 and that 'crossroads' that I mentioned in my introduction, let me discuss 'Japan's Development Assistance and The New Challenge,' particularly in relation to three priority areas.

(1) the promotion of 'human security'
(2) the enhancement of development aid to Africa
(3) and the restructuring of my own agency into what I will call 'New JICA'

Human Security

For the last few years JICA has based many of its development projects on the concept of 'human security.' This concept first gained international attention with the publication of the 1993 UNDP Development Report. This was an attempt to add a more 'human face' to economically focused development assistance.

It gained credibility in Japan during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis which sparked major social upheavals adversely affecting millions of people in the region. Then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi suggested that economic progress was inextricably linked with stable social conditions and proposed the concept of 'human security' as a way to provide a social safety net for vulnerable populations.

Japan and the United Nations took joint steps to develop this concept, and at the UN Millennium General Assembly decided to establish the Commission on Human Security to define the concept. After retiring from my post as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, I was asked to co-chair the Commission with the Nobel economist Amartya Sen. The Commission subsequently submitted a report to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

The thrust of our recommendations emphasized that security could no longer be guaranteed by state structures alone. It proposed a two-way approach: the more traditional 'top down' by which laws and government institutions protect basic rights and freedoms of the people and a new 'bottom up' approach emphasizing the need for people and local communities to empower themselves through education, information and health management, and provision of social safety measures. The two approaches would mutually reinforce each other and the overall covenant between state and people.

In Japan, the 'human security' concept was incorporated into a revised 2003 ODA policy framework. The subsequent 2005 ODA Medium-term Policy reinforced the concept, stating clearly that "the human security perspective should be adopted broadly in development assistance." The Japanese government set up the UN Trust Fund for Human Security which supports UN agency projects based on this approach.

'Human Security' is a cornerstone of my own agency's policy and JICA has adopted guidelines in project implementation including: 1) reaching those in need through a people-centered approach; 2) empowering the people as well as protecting them; 3) focusing on the most vulnerable groups whose very survival or dignity are at risk; and 4) comprehensively addressing both 'freedom from want' and 'freedom from fear.'

In addition, I have emphasized the need to ensure that human security-based projects adopt a more inclusive, cross-sectoral character. In the past, the tendency for JICA's technical assistance was to concentrate projects around specific sectors such as education, health, or agriculture. There was rarely any linkage between individual projects or between the different sectors. We are now attempting to present a more inclusive and integrated approach to assistance planning.

Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of undertaking programs that are 'field' based and directly linked to the people we are trying to help. As High Commissioner for Refugees, I felt keenly that to protect people, it was necessary not only to implement International Refugee Law but also to stay with the refugees, helping to train and educate them, leading to their eventual self-sufficiency.

Likewise with development assistance, it is vitally important to interact with local people and communities at all levels. Currently there are more than 2,000 Japanese experts planning and implementing JICA projects worldwide. Under the so-called 'south-south' collaboration thousands of third country experts trained in Japan are participating in projects under Japanese auspices. Another 2,300 Japanese volunteers are working in 78 countries, applying skills that can be used at the frontiers of development assistance in addition to liaising closely with JICA staff engaged in other field projects. This large scale Japanese presence 'on the ground,' working together with the people in difficult conditions, has characterized Japan's overall approach to development assistance in addition to emphasizing direct person-to-person technical assistance and capacity building.

African Development Assistance

The second challenge is assistance to Africa. It has already been taken up at the UN, G8 Summits, and other such fora. As I mentioned earlier, an African summit, TICAD 4, will be held in Japan next year, with strong emphasis on accelerating African development. Japan's assistance to Africa has followed the international consensus to focus on poverty reduction through promoting projects covering education, healthcare, water, and agriculture. While remaining active in these fields, we are, however, beginning to look more and more to accelerating economic growth.

It is interesting to note that Africans themselves are gearing towards economic growth and studying the Asian experience as a potential guide to their own development. President Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank together with other African leaders are openly discussing the aim of turning the 'Asian miracle' into an 'African miracle.'

Looking back on the record of Asian development, between 1981 and 1994, for instance, per capita GDP grew 6.45 percent in East Asia, easily outstripping other regions--Africa's 2.97 percent or the 4.27 percent achieved by South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Other important milestones include the percentage of the population in East Asia living on less than one dollar a day decreasing by more than 400 million people, from 56% to 47 %. The development of basic infrastructures such as electricity systems, ports, and irrigation, mainly through Japanese cooperation, stimulated a benign investment climate, promoting direct investments by the private sector. All of these factors helped underpin the region's economic growth and the reduction of poverty.

The East Asian experience underlines the vital importance of key infrastructure development such as roads, ports, and electricity. A start has been made in Africa. More interstate highways are planned. JICA and NEPAD (or the New Partnership for Africa's Development) are promoting the so-called One-Stop Border Post initiatives, setting up common posts to be shared by neighboring countries. This concept is designed to speed up the flow of interstate commerce and movement of peoples.

Development of agriculture is, of course, vital throughout the continent. In Asia, economic progress was made possible by the so-called 'green revolution' which vastly enhanced productivity and helped feed millions of impoverished rural people. In Indonesia, for example, Japan introduced a comprehensive assistance program which eventually helped transform that country from a food importing nation to a major exporter in 1984. I think a 'green revolution' is also possible in Africa. This was proposed in 1985 by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Shintaro Abe. It embraces a comprehensive approach covering not only agricultural research but also desertification prevention and afforestation endeavors. A modest "Greenery Promotion Cooperation Project" run mainly by Japanese volunteers has already been successfully implemented in such countries as Tanzania, Senegal, Niger, and Ethiopia.

Currently around 200 experts and volunteers are working in Africa to promote the green revolution. One ongoing project is the development of a new high yielding and drought- and disease-resistant rice variety--New Rice for Africa known as NERICA. The new variety, a hybrid of African and Asian rice strains, is already being grown in some African countries. In Uganda, for example, NERICA accounts for approximately 30% of that country's overall rice production today.

Other innovations should be introduced to improve Africa's agricultural output. The wider empowerment of women, for instance, is pivotal. Agricultural productivity was increased tremendously in a Tanzanian program that I visited last year. Village women were planting rice seedlings in neat rows as they do in Asia which resulted in better usage of land and water and resulted in better harvests. JICA is also involved in the so-called 'One Village One Product Movement' in Malawi and Ghana. Originating in southern Japan this concept encourages individual villages to produce and market specific products. I believe this kind of approach not only empowers agricultural communities but is effective for developing agricultural economies.

Closely linked with agriculture, of course, is the weather and the environment. It is no secret that developing countries, including those in Africa, are hardest hit by climate change. I believe it is the obligation of developed countries to reduce greenhouse gases while at the same time making specific efforts to minimize the impact on Africa.

JICA is taking steps to address other environmental problems through desertification prevention, solar energy production, environment friendly urban development, and improved water usage for both crops and domestic use.

Let me briefly touch on some recent African initiatives to accelerate IT growth. Rwanda has announced its plan for ICT-led economic development. It has asked Japan to help set up technical colleges specializing in IT education and research. Other countries have requested assistance to promote IT as well as science and technology education.

Japan's earlier assistance to Asia placed a particular emphasis on 'human capacity development' based on the belief that nation building cannot be achieved without this vital component. I would like to make similar efforts in Africa. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that this so-called 'Japanese development model' has been a factor in Asia's success and should also be relevant in African development.

'New JICA'

The third challenge is the establishment of what we call 'New JICA.'
In the last decade or so, the world has become a far more complex place with globalization causing the rapid flow of disease, information, and people across borders. There are also expanding threats of terrorism and climate change no longer containable by individual states.

These challenges require new approaches. For the last several years Japan has been restructuring the various mechanisms covering its ODA. This has affected my own organization, JICA. In October of next year JICA will complete a merger with the ODA part of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, JBIC, which currently extends soft loans to developing countries. It will also oversee major portions of the grant aid which is currently disbursed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

'New JICA' will become the world's largest bilateral development agency with available financial resources of 8.8 billion dollars. It will have a staff of more than 1,600 people and will operate in some 155 countries.

Uniquely, and for the first time, one Japanese aid agency will be assigned to provide technical assistance, loans, and grant aid 'all under one roof.' It will be able to utilize various 'mixes' of these three assets to meet the needs of people. And a new slogan--the Three SSSs--Speed Up, Scale Up, and Spread Out--would be appropriate.

'New JICA' will be able to 'speed up' projects by more closely coordinating technical assistance, loans and grant aid. We can 'scale up' successful pilot projects by having available immediate financial resources. And JICA will be able to 'spread out' or enlarge community-based development activities by combining grass-roots cooperation by NGOs and JICA volunteers with microfinance.

Previous interagency administrative bottlenecks between JBIC, JICA, and government ministries should be eliminated, and with this newly created 'synergy' we should be able to explore, approve, implement, and sustain projects far more efficiently than hitherto. The advantages are obvious. Our projects should be more cost effective and quick in reaching the world's neediest people.

We are already introducing several innovations. As I have already mentioned, we are increasingly implementing 'field inspired' projects, closely aligned with the wishes and needs of local communities and their people. To bolster that initiative, more staff are being deployed from domestic offices to field bases.

The fall in Japan's overall ODA volume has been personally disappointing but I am hopeful that the forthcoming merger between JICA and JBIC will result in a new 'value added' element to Japan's development assistance and that 'value added' will even produce a new mathematical equation where one plus one will equal not just two, but three or more.


I would like to conclude my speech by outlining the two directions that I must pursue in order to meet the challenges I have laid before you this afternoon. I shall need partners to share these objectives as well as to support these efforts, both within Japan and abroad.

To gain support within Japan, I plan on taking advantage of the forthcoming merger with JBIC to try to put development aid at the top of Japan's policy priorities.

While it is true that the Japanese ODA budget has been falling, it is important to note that this has been largely due to administrative and fiscal reform requirements. However, the interest of the Japanese people for the plight of developing countries has NOT diminished. On the contrary. In a recent poll, 67 percent of respondents expressed active support for continuing assistance. 'Development education' is increasingly being taught in schools and informal study groups. Young people continue to serve overseas for JICA and in recent weeks we dispatched abroad the 30,000th young volunteer--a major milestone in the program. Increasing numbers of NGOs are working overseas.

When 'New JICA' becomes fully operational next autumn, I plan to build on this continuing public interest, reaching out to business, academics, and journalists to join in development assistance debates and activities.

While pressing changes within Japan, I would like to call on international partners, particularly the United Kingdom, to forge stronger partnerships with Japan to enhance effective development assistance. The United Kingdom has already announced its intention to make development assistance a top priority issue and recently overtook Japan to become the world's second largest bilateral donor. I have admired particularly the vigor with which you have addressed development issues in Africa and called for coordinated global action to deal with climate change.

Now, I wish to propose several steps to forge closer working relations with British aid agencies and research centers where there will be room for closer policy dialogue on development issues. As 'New JICA' reinforces its own research capacity, I would like to discuss with universities and research institutions here the possibility for collaboration and even joint research. And Oxford, of course, stands very highly on that list of those with whom we wish to start consultations.

I would like to conclude my speech today by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to lay out the challenges facing Japan's development assistance in general and JICA in particular. I would be pleased if this occasion could be the start for mutual support and closer collaboration.


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