By Stace Nicholson and Marvin Fernandez, Program Officers
On April 7, JICA President Sadako Ogata delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. about JICA's activities and the future of international engagement in Afghanistan.
Madame Ogata noted that JICA is assisting Afghanistan in a variety of sectors, including urban development, agriculture, water management, education and police training.
On April 7, JICA President Madame Sadako Ogata addressed a diverse audience of academics, private sector representatives, and think-tank analysts at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. about JICA's efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and the additional measures that the international community should take to support peace and stability in the country.
In describing JICA's programs and projects in Afghanistan, Madame Ogata emphasized the durable and varied nature of its assistance. Its efforts range from community development to institution building to large-scale infrastructure projects. For example, in 2005 the agency provided technical support to strengthen the institutional, organizational, and functional capacities of the National Tuberculosis Control Program. More recently, JICA has provided assistance for agricultural development, water management, teacher training, and capacity-building for the Afghan police force.
Madame Ogata also noted that JICA has played a pivotal role in the development of urban infrastructure in Afghanistan by helping to fund the construction of roads and the Kabul international airport. Moreover, JICA has supported the New Kabul City Development Corporation by helping to create a master plan for the future development of the city's metropolitan area that includes doubling the capital's area to some 1,000 square kilometers to account for its explosive growth since the fall of the Taliban regime.
When asked to share her thoughts on how the U.S.'s own involvement in Afghanistan should evolve, Madame Ogata referenced a new report by the Century Foundation–for which she served as an international task force member–as an appropriate policy blueprint. In particular, she underscored the importance of the U.S. taking a leading role in fostering peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. To do this, Madame Ogata said the U.S. should begin to broaden its approach from military to political action.
To conclude her remarks, Madame Ogata expressed her sincere gratitude for the assistance and expressions of goodwill that the Japanese government and public have received from around the world in response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of northeastern Japan. She affirmed that the early humanitarian assistance from the U.S., South Korea, and China is a poignant sign of enduring friendship.
Madame Ogata also pointed out that some donations to disaster victims came from the unlikeliest of places, such as the city of Kandahar. For her, this support illustrates just how interdependent the world has become. She stated her hope that as serious fiscal strains continue to put heavy pressure on Japan's official development assistance (ODA) budget, such acts of solidarity will prompt the country's politicians and citizens alike to consider the many ways in which its ODA works in favor of Japan's global standing and national interests over the long term.