November 17, 2017
As the world focuses on developments in the Middle East and Europe, including the refugee problem, JICA officials recently reported on the situation on the ground in their countries and on JICA's initiatives.
Chief representatives (who lead JICA country offices) from nine countries and regions (Iran, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Palestine, Morocco, Jordan and the Balkans) and the Iraq section manager gave a briefing to members of the media at JICA Headquarters on Sept. 8. They talked about the political and social situations in the countries where they work, emphasizing poverty reduction through economic growth and job creation, and the importance of advancing sustainable development.
Chief Representative Tsutomu Kobayashi of the JICA Jordan Office (right, who is concurrently serving as chief representative of JICA's Syria office) called Jordan, a pivotal country essential to regional stability. JICA Palestine Office Chief Representative Mitsui talks about assistance provided in partnership with five other Asian countries
For Syria's internally displaced people and its refugees flowing into neighboring countries, as well as for the communities accepting those refugees, Japan has provided more than US$1.9 billion in assistance through U.N. agencies since 2012. In addition, at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Japan in 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced $US6 billion in assistance, including the training of roughly 20,000 people for human resource development. The Japanese Initiative for the future of Syrian Refugees (JISR), through which 100 Syrian refugees are to be accepted as graduate students in five years, is part of this assistance. The program has begun with the arrival of first batch of 19 students in Japan after mid August, said Tsutomu Kobayashi, the JICA Syria Office chief representative.
The Hartha Thermal Power Station in Basra province, southern Iraq, has been repaired and has resumed operations
The fiscal situation of Iraq is in a dire state because of its armed conflict against ISIL and reduced revenue from a decrease in the price of crude oil. "Iraq has the fifth largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, but it needs to lessen its dependence on oil, and it is essential to diversify its industry. Also, northern Iraq, which has been liberated from ISIL, reportedly needs US$100 billion for reconstruction in the next 10 years, and we will be considering this," said Masanori Yoshikawa, Director of the Middle East Division. 2. The assistance is expected to be used mainly for infrastructure.
Poverty reduction and sustainable development through economic growth and job creation are needed in both the Middle East and Europe.
The old town in the city of Salt, Jordan, where JICA provided tourism development assistance
Jordan, which has accepted many Palestinian and Syrian refugees despite lacking industrial competitiveness and not being blessed with natural resources, is a typical case. "Jordan not only has disparity between refugees and citizens, it also has great gender gap and disparities between persons with disabilities and healthy people," said Mr. Kobayashi the JICA Jordan Office chief representative (who is also the chief representative of the Syria office). " While working to correct disparities, we are also helping to promote the tourism sector, which has lots of room for growth and employment absorption," he said.
Jericho Agro-Industrial Park in Jericho, Palestine, where a factory has begun operating
"In the Jericho area, Jericho Agro-Industrial Park has begun operating. It is expected to export via Jordan to various countries in the Persian Gulf. In addition, to contribute to drawing tourists, a facility is being created for viewing the largest mosaic in the Middle East, which is located in Jericho," said Yuko Mitsui, chief representative of the JICA Palestine Office, talking about major projects her office is involved in.
In the Balkans region, countries seeking to join the European Union face the major issue of bringing their own countries' environmental standards in line with EU standards, on such matters as air pollution and waste treatment. "JICA is carrying out assistance that leverages Japan's excellent environmental technology, including installing flue gas desulfurization equipment at thermal power plants. Moreover, because the unemployment rate is high in the region, we are also rolling out assistance to small- and medium-sized enterprises in the wider area to stimulate the economy and create jobs," reported Hideya Kobayashi, chief representative of the JICA Balkan Office.
JICA Morocco Office Chief Representative Hitoshi Tojima, right, and JICA Tunisia Office Chief Representative Toshifumi Egusa talk about the Morocco-Tunisia Business Seminar
JICA Morocco Office Chief Representative Hitoshi Tojima reported that the number of Japanese companies expanding into Morocco has been increasing in recent years. He explained that as Morocco has stabilized politically, it has entered into free trade agreements with more than 50 countries (representing over 1 billion people), and it is becoming increasingly prominent as a hub (base for expansion) of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
"Over 90 percent of Syrian refugees live in cities. Supporting the communities accepting them is important," said JICA Turkey Office Chief Representative Mayumi Endoh, right. Chief representative of the JICA Balkan Office, Hideya Kobayashi, left, talked about a project being carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina to engender trust through sports education
"Multiple terrorist attacks in 2015 resulted in a major drop in the number of tourists, but there have been no big terrorism incidents since because of a crackdown by authorities and other factors," said Toshifumi Egusa, chief representative of the JICA Tunisia Office, explaining the local situation. "By June the number of tourists had recovered, up by about 50 percent over the same time last year," he added. "Since the incident in the night club in January, no major terrorist attacks aimed at the general public have occurred. Border security with Syria has been strengthened, too," explained JICA Turkey Office Chief Representative Mayumi Endoh.
"Economic sanctions have been lifted and many European companies are entering Iran," says JICA Iran Office Chief Representative Yukiharu Kobayashi
Iran, which has a population of 80 million, has abundant natural resources including natural gas and oil. A major issue in the presidential election in May was the economy and employment.
"Iran strongly desires Japanese technology and know-how. So in addition to proactively carrying out technical cooperation projects related to earthquake risk reduction, environmental conservation, water resource management and clean energy, we will move forward with cooperation in areas including job creation, infrastructure improvement and health care," said JICA Iran Office Chief Representative Yukiharu Kobayashi.
JICA Egypt Office Chief Representative Teruyuki Ito, left, talks about two newly established departments at the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology. "The north is the key to recovery," said Masanori Yoshikawa about Iraq
Economic growth and inequality reduction are issues in Egypt as well. In Egypt, in addition to such infrastructure as electric power, transport and irrigation, JICA is emphasizing human resource development cooperation. In 2016, the two countries launched the Egypt-Japan Education Partnership. Through cooperation that makes use of the special characteristics of Japanese education, the partnership aims to train human resources for the Egyptian education system as a whole. "Egypt-Japan schools are being created. They will incorporate activities other than classes, such as cleaning and being class leader for a day," said Teruyuki Ito, the JICA Egypt Office chief representative.