In the context of current debates about the future of North-South aid in the changing landscape of development cooperation, this paper explores normative frameworks and alternative conceptions of aid, focusing particularly on the case of Japanese bilateral aid in comparison with Southern and DAC donors. Our analysis departs from the conventional approach in aid research which considers the purpose of aid as an economic transfer of resources, and the motivation of donors as an instrument for pursuit of geopolitical or economic interests. We draw on recent social science literature, and explore how donors' conception of aid is shaped by their identity within the international community and concerned with the type of hierarchical relationship it wishes to create with the recipient. The paper finds that while Japan follows DAC norms, it has attempted to accommodate them within a distinctive paradigm of aid that has roots in post-war reconstruction efforts. Like the norms of Southern donors, many of core norms of Japanese aid lie outside of the consensus DAC paradigm while overlapping with those of South-South cooperation. Drawing on anthropological theory of the gift, the paper argues that the normative framing of Southern donors and Japan contrast with that of the DAC donors particularly in attempting to neutralize the power asymmetry that characterizes donor-recipient relationships. While Southern donors are seeking to create a relationship of solidarity, Japan has over the years sought to create a cooperative relationship necessary for mutually beneficial economic ties of trade and investment, and both contrasting with the charitable relationship created by North-South aid. We argue that these values shape policy approaches in aid models. In showing that the values that inform southern and Japanese donors lie outside of the DAC framework, we highlight the limitations of the DAC paradigm.
Keywords: Japan, DAC, South-South Cooperation, aid norms, economic cooperation