Speech: Japan's Proactive Contribution to Peace: What it Means in Development


Brookings Institution, Washington D.C., the United States

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon.

It is my great pleasure to be back here at the Brookings Institution.

As anyone familiar with Japanese politics knows, the current focus on Japan's security policy is the parliamentary deliberation on peace and security-related laws that allow limited exercises of the collective self-defense rights. The proposed legislation reflects the change in the government interpretation of the Constitution made about one year ago. Once passed, these laws could strengthen the alliance with the United States, enable quick responses to contingencies such as crises over remote islands, and make Japan's participation in UN peacekeeping operations more flexible than before. As such, these laws are in line with what Prime Minister Abe calls "Japan's proactive contribution to peace."

Today, I would like to argue that Japan's proactive contribution to peace is not limited to the activities of the Self Defense Forces and the military functions of the Japan-U.S. alliance. I would like to stress that development cooperation has also played and continues to play an important role in contributing to peace proactively. Obviously, development cooperation does not directly contribute to the defense of Japan or to the strengthening of the alliance, but it could improve the conditions of international security by helping fragile and conflict-affected countries in their socio-economic development as well as their peace-building efforts.

To illustrate what I mean, I would like to share five examples from JICA's activities.

First, Afghanistan. Japan has been committed to Afghanistan's development since 2001 and has provided 5.8 billion US dollars in total as of April 2015. We have assisted various sectors, including infrastructure, agriculture and rural development, public health and education. As we believe that human resource development is critical for good governance and socio-economic development, we are providing scholarships to 500 Afghan officials over a 6 year span to attend graduate schools in Japan.

My second example is our response to the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war. We support Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, all neighboring countries that are receiving large Syrian refugee populations. In Jordan, JICA is working with the Jordanian government to help both refugees and host communities meet their basic needs and protect their dignity. In terms of direct refugee support, we have provided post-traumatic care to children. We pay particular attention to the most vulnerable among them, notably children with disabilities. We are also providing medical equipment and school supplies to host communities. Japan also recently pledged to extend an additional ODA loan worth 200 million US dollars to Jordan for budget support to help the central government cope with this humanitarian crisis.

In Lebanon, we are planning to start a technical cooperation project to support the education of young refugees. Currently, the Lebanese government is making heroic efforts to provide elementary and middle school education to Syrian children through two-shift operations. Using the same school facilities, they have a morning shift for Lebanese children and an afternoon one for Syrian children. We plan to provide additional facilities and administrative assistance.

Turkey is also bearing the burden of the influx of Syrian refugees, especially in the provinces bordering Syria. That is why we have decided to extend a 375 million US dollars ODA loan to the Government of Turkey to improve local utility infrastructure, including water supply and sewage systems in the provinces bordering Syria.

Third, South Sudan. Japan deploys Self Defense Forces as UN peacekeepers in South Sudan. In addition, JICA has been working there since before the formal independence of the country, providing support to socio-economic development activities. We repaired many small bridges destroyed during the war in Juba, built a vocational training center, and repaired port facilities on the Nile River. We are now building a bridge over the Nile to replace the only existing bridge, a very fragile one that could collapse at any moment.

The fourth example is our post-disaster relief and reconstruction activities following the two earthquakes that shook Nepal in last April and May. We immediately dispatched Japan Disaster Relief Teams for rescue and medical operations. In addition to these emergency humanitarian operations, we started discussions with the Nepali government on full-fledged reconstruction and recovery by sending civil engineering experts in early May. Japan pledged to extend very concessional ODA loans worth 260 million US dollars for housing, school and other community facilities' reconstruction. Our staff is working hard so that housing reconstruction can start before the winter sets in there. Seismologists point out that there is still pent-up seismic pressure in the region surrounding Kathmandu. Though Kathmandu was not damaged very much this time, we believe that it is important to develop a reconstruction program to make the capital city more resilient against future earthquakes. We should not forget that Nepal is also a post-conflict country. It is important that the country be rebuilt inclusively so that reconstruction process becomes an opportunity to cooperate rather than become a source of renewed conflict.

The final example is Mindanao, in the Philippines. As you know, Mindanao has suffered from a prolonged conflict since the 1960s. There have been a series of attempts made to bring about lasting peace. Japan started its serious engagement in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. Japan has participated in the International Contact Group and sent JICA staff to the International Monitoring Team (IMT). Our staff has acted as civilian members of the IMT and has coordinated our socio-economic cooperation with both the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Based on such coordination, in 2006 JICA started a project called J-BIRD, Japan-Bansamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development. J-BIRD has provided community facilities, schools, vocational training for women, and farm roads in areas controlled by the government as well as by the MILF. In 2011, a breakthrough meeting secretly took place between President Aquino and MILF chairman Murado in Narita, Japan. The comprehensive peace agreement was finally reached in March 2014. Now the basic law to cement peace is under deliberation in the parliament. There are many tasks that need to be implemented for lasting peace, but Japan's diplomatic efforts and JICA's development cooperation have contributed to creating an environment that promotes peace in Mindanao. We are now engaged in projects of human capacity development for decommissioned soldiers of the MILF and training of future administrators of the Bansamoro government. We are planning more extensive and long-term development projects as well as quick-impact projects to let people realize that peace has finally come.

Based on these experiences, what lessons can we draw? What are some general statements we can make?

I would like to make four points.

First, expectation is key. Generally, stakeholders' expectations in post-conflict societies are often very pessimistic. People tend to suspect that the possibility of renewed conflict is very high. And these pessimistic expectations can be self-fulfilling. That is one of the reasons why post-conflict societies are prone to experiencing violent conflicts again and again. What we should do is design projects that have the potential of changing people's expectations. We need projects that can offer practical benefit to people and that symbolically indicate that peace is coming. Humanitarian assistance is absolutely needed in post-conflict situations. But humanitarian assistance alone cannot fulfill the function of practically benefiting people as well as symbolically indicating peace. That is why development cooperation is so important, including repairing roads, building community facilities and schools, constructing bridges, and opening vocational training centers.

The second point is to ensure that projects are "inclusive," benefiting all stakeholders. As I described, our programs to address the Syrian refugee crisis target both refugees and host communities so as to build a culture of trust among different groups. J-BIRD projects are conducted in both areas controlled by the government and MILF. In this sense, we regret that now in South Sudan, it is hard to implement our work in areas other than in Juba.

The third point is to develop human resources and build institutions. This point has been made very clear in theoretical literature on fragility in economic and political development. And it is Japanese conviction that human resources in general are critical in our development cooperation efforts. As such, in Afghanistan, we have been working on strengthening local capacity to improve service delivery.

The fourth point is to make long-term commitments and continuously affirm our engagement to partner with governments and people. This is another way of affecting stakeholder expectations. Knowing they have long-term partners encourages governments and local populations to continue investing in their future, even if the road ahead is long.

We must keep in mind, however, that abiding by these four points does not necessarily guarantee success. We may encounter challenges that cannot be solved only by development efforts. If diplomatic negotiations fail and cease-fires collapse, organizations like JICA cannot do much. But to the extent that other conditions for peace improve, our efforts can contribute to the consolidation of peace.

I believe that the efforts I described are also in line with the United States' strategy. This is illustrated by the joint agreements we have made in this realm. During Prime Minister Abe's visit in April, both governments agreed to take joint actions to further support fragile states and disaster-prone countries.

I strongly hope that through the development cooperation that JICA delivers, we continue to promote a "Proactive Contribution to Peace" while further strengthening the U.S- Japan alliance. In the discussion to follow, I look forward to hearing your perspectives on Japan's "Proactive Contribution to Peace" and possible measures to further promote the U.S-Japan collaboration in international development.

Thank you for your attention.

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