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November 28, 2008

JICA Research Institute Inaugural Meeting
25 November 2008

Opening Statement

It is indeed my great pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural symposium of JICA Research Institute.  As you are all well aware, on October 1st, the new JICA was established with the merger of JICA and the development assistance portion of JBIC. This research institute represents the high light of the new JICA organization, and is commissioned to carry out the dual task to crystallize and to communicate JICA's thoughts and actions.

The birth of new JICA and particularly its research institute has been welcome by a wide range of collaborators, both from within Japan and from abroad.  The presence of all of you here is proof of your approval and expectation. I am particularly pleased to welcome Mr. Simon Maxwell, Director, Overseas Development Institute and Mr. Kiyoshi Kodera, Executive Secretary, World Bank and IMF Development Committee.  The organizations they represent have been genuinely helpful in preparing the birth of this institute.  I am particularly gratified that the institute was able to welcome Professor Keiichi Tsunekawa, from the University of Tokyo and the Graduate Institute for Policy Studies as its first Director. Professor Tsunekawa brings with him accumulated years of research and education in comparative political and economic studies, particularly in Latin America and South East Asia.

To create a new research institute, it goes without saying that the organization will have to arm itself both with advanced in- depth analytical and communication capacity as well as with well organized available information and knowledge base.The institute is already in possession of a handful of experienced research staff, but will be recruiting aspiring researchers who specialize in areas in which the institute decides to concentrate its efforts.  As to information and knowledge base related to development assistance, JICA is in possession of a vast amount of data derived from more than five decades of Japan’s development assistance.  However, the information that exists has not been arranged in ways to provide systematic archival base to serve researchers.  The institute is faced with the monumental task to build its materials into a functioning archive set up.

The good news is that the institute has already embarked on pursuing a few selected research areas.  In parallel with the holding of TICAD IV conference in Yokohama this spring, and in response to inquiries from African participants, JICA took the initiative to examine the respective roles of the private sector and the public policy bodies in order to accelerate economic growth.  The Asian experience has drawn renewed interest in many African countries, as they themselves have begun to examine the relevance of social and political institution building in order to accelerate economic growth.  In this connection, the role of Islam in Asia has also attracted the interest of researchers.  Other topics of considerable interest relates to identifying clues to effective state-building in post-conflict situations.  The fundamental issue of the relevance of economic development assistance in relation to the prevention of political discord, or even conflict, was examined at a Wilton Park conference that JICA cosponsored with UNDP and a group of international researchers last year. A lot still remains to analyse and evaluate the overall role of economic development assistance for global peace and prosperity.

As a primarily development assistance agency, JICA itself will continue to be in need of improving the modalities of its technical and economic assistance to developing countries. There is still much room to sharpen its tools to “scale up, speed up and spread out” its operations.  The institute is expected to help improve JICA’s performance. However, as JICA assists the development process of many countries and regions whether in Asia, Middle East and in Africa, it has become increasingly aware of the complexity of interacting factors that promote and/or obstruct development.  The human element has proven vital in accelerating development, but human element in its complex entirety--- economic, social, cultural and historical.  This is the reason why the institute has been tasked not simply to take an economic approach to development research, but particularly an inter-disciplinary approach. It must also address growing threats derived from climate change, technological and scientific advancement.

This is the reason why the institute has decided to call itself not “JICA development institute” but simply “JICA Research Institute” to emphasize the overall synthetic approach to upcoming issues.

As I said at the opening, JICA is embarking on an ambitious intellectual adventure.  I hope all of you here present will encourage, assist and at times criticize us. I firmly believe that what the institute will achieve will not only help JICA on its development mission, but will also enable JICA to communicate its work in a systematic and persuasive manner to collaborators and supporters in Japan and abroad.

At a time when the global financial situation is reaching critical proportions, the lives of those in developing countries will be threatened.  The new JICA will be faced with ever more serious challenges.  I trust and believe that with your support and encouragement, the “JICA Research Institute” will play a vital role not only within the overall JICA set up, but for the overall global research community that deals with the security and prosperity of peoples and states.

Thank you.

By Sadako Ogata
President of JICA


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