JICA Ogata Research Institute

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【JICA-RI Focus Vol.17】 Interview with Research Associate Ryutaro Murotani

September 21, 2011

Getting Ready for World Bank/JICA Joint Seminar
Research Associate Ryutaro Murotani Talks about Complementary Relations between Practice on the Ground and Research in Aid

On September 27, the World Bank and JICA will hold a joint seminar on conflict, security, and development at JICA-RI. At this occasion, the World Bank will introduce the Bank's World Development Report (WDR) 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development for the first time in Japan. Ryutaro Murotani, research associate (RA) at JICA-RI, has been involved in the latest WDR from its planning phase and played an initiative role in arranging the seminar. We asked Murotani, an aid official with rich field experience, about key focus of this year’s WDR and JICA's commitment as well as collaboration between practice on the ground and research in aid.


The World Bank’s World Development Report 2011 and JICA

A World Bank-JICA joint seminar is coming up. This seminar also serves as a dissemination event of the Bank’s World Development Report 2011 in Japan, and expects active discussions on the Report. How has JICA contributed to the preparation of the WDR 2011?

The theme of the WDR 2011 is “Conflict, Security, and Development.” Taking up the issue of “conflict and development” that is complicatedly related, the Report discusses how to solve the two issues simultaneously. As for JICA’s contribution, first of all, Senior Vice-president Kenzo Oshima became a member of the WDR Advisory Council. Based on JICA’s efforts and experience as well as his personal experiences, he provided inputs on the importance of “human security,” JICA’s past achievements in this domain, and roles of the United Nations and regional organizations. Prominent figures in the development field are chosen as members of the advisory council every year. Senior Vice-president Oshima served as an ambassador to the UN and other important posts, and I believe that his participation in the council has enabled the information and knowledge of JICA’s field experience and research achievements to be shared effectively.

Secondly, the World Bank and JICA-RI held a workshop at our premise in April last year, to create an opportunity to have a dialogue for researchers and practitioners from Asia including Japan. In the workshop, we aimed to exchange opinions extensively between the Bank’s WDR editing team and Japanese scholars and NGO/NPO representatives, and to have the workshop reflect various experiences and comments. After that, the World Bank, ASEAN, and JICA invited experts from Southeast Asia and organized the Asian regional consultation meeting in Jakarta. Senior Vice-president Oshima and then JICA-RI Director Keiichi Tsunekawa attended the meeting. I believe it was a valuable opportunity to hear opinions from experts in Asia.

Thirdly, JICA-RI took the lead in writing and offering a background paper on the basis of JICA’s activities and experience. We analyzed and organized information over JICA’s reconstruction assistance experience in Afghanistan and Cambodia, and described how JICA’s efforts have led to state-building in each country. We presented this paper to the Bank’s editing team. I was in charge of writing about the Cambodian case.

Every year, selections of the WDR themes attract attention. In this year’s Report, “conflict” is highlighted.

What is interesting is that the World Bank, a development financial institution, dealt with this theme. In the field of peacebuilding, the United Nations has implemented various efforts for quite a long time, and it is not a novel topic for the UN. In the meantime, I think people’s perspectives are changing. For example, in East Timor, in the 1990s, the focus was how to enter into the area and rebuild the country right after the conflict. But subsequently, we started to realize that emergency recovery efforts were insufficient and that there were various long-standing problems behind the conflict. I think this year’s WDR intends to summarize such problems and challenges, and to sort out issues of conflict, fragility, and security.

The Report not only focuses on conflicts, but broadly discusses problems of violence and fragility as a central point of the debate. Instead of only talking about inter-state wars and intra-state ethnic conflicts, it deals with various forms of “violence” and the issues related to “fragility,” such as rampant presence of gangsters after conflicts, and governance problems including oppression caused by excessive security enforcement capacity of the government. I think it’s very interesting that the World Bank squarely picks up the topic of “security” and tries to approach it from variously diverse angles. Their comprehensive approach to address intertwined security concerns is close to the concept of human security, I think.

In the upcoming joint seminar, JICA-RI will provide an interim result from the research on conflict prevention in Africa, in addition to the presentation on the WDR. I hope the seminar will be an opportunity for understanding the changing nature of conflict in the 21st century and actively exchanging opinions over policy measures to tackle the problem of violence and fragility.

Research and Field: The Two which Complement Each Other

As a full-time JICA staff member, you have also accumulated experience on the ground. What have your field experiences in peacebuilding been like?

While I was temporarily seconded to the then Loan Aid Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Iraq war broke out. Because I was in charge of the Middle East, I went to Baghdad and stayed there for three to four weeks. It was then, when I started getting involved in the peacebuilding. Also, I was assigned to the Japanese embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was engaged in aid operations there for three years from 2004. The political situation in the country was very complex, and each ethnic group had separate and independent decision-making system. We had active discussions on how we could solve the smoldering ethnic conflict through aid.

During my 3-year-stay in Bosnia, I saw the local political situation firsthand, and it was a valuable opportunity to think from diverse angles as to how to position factors such as aid/politics, diplomacy/development aid, and even trade policy to resolve ethnic conflicts, and how to make them function. After returning to Japan, I went to Harvard University to study public policy. I visited Kosovo, Aceh in Indonesia, and other places for field studies and actually saw some conflict areas with my own eyes.

Currently, you are conducting research activities as RA. What is your view about collaboration with operational departments and feedback from research findings to the field?

Some RAs have a background as a pure academic researcher, while I have more operational experiences than academic. Based on my unique characteristics, I keep in mind to first share my experiences in the field with other researchers. Whenever I have an opportunity, I also communicate with practitioners on the ground and operational departments at JICA headquarters, regarding the importance of research activities and useful information like ongoing research activities. Conversely, I try to convey the opinions and concerns of operational staff to the researchers.

Having worked as RA for two years, I feel there are things that we cannot see only through research and it’s essential to link practical experiences and knowledge/findings obtained there with research activities. I am committed to do so steadily. On the other hand, there must be many issues that cannot be solved only in the field because the countries experiencing or affected by conflicts have conditions rather different from other stable developing countries. For example, in South Sudan, where we are increasing our efforts to support people building the new state, there will be cases where regular methodologies of development assistance, which are designed to function in stable situations, do not work. Policy recommendations from academic researches are indispensable to find out innovative approaches to tackle such new challenges. I think JICA-RI’s role is to serve as a bridge between practical operations and academic research in such situations. In the long run, I think it would be important for me to return to the field and put into practice what I have learnt from my research activities in JICA-RI, instead of just giving instructions from outside about what should be done.

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