In a bold departure from Japan’s traditional official stance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently emphasized that the country’s official development assistance is in line with national interests. Unlike U.K. Secretary for International Development Justine Greening, who has openly said that British aid is “100 percent in our national interests,” the ministry previously held back from making such pronouncements.
Japan’s current ODA policy, however, not only advances national interests but also promotes beneficial partnerships. As a diplomatic tool, future Japanese aid will be used to advance three strategic objectives:
Realize a stable international community.
Support the growth of emerging countries.
Strengthen confidence in Japan.
In line with the Japan Revitalization Strategy, which Prime Minister Shinzō Abe unveiled in mid-2013, MOFA intends to increase its engagement with the international community in 2014 through three ways.
First is to help strengthen Japan’s relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. To boost Japan-ASEAN connectivity, Japanese aid will prioritize infrastructure development and ensure unhindered maritime traffic in Southeast Asian waters. In recent years, China has made bold territorial overtures in the East and South China Seas.
Efforts to bolster Japan-ASEAN relations are already underway. In December, Tokyo pledged $19 billion in aid to ASEAN over the next five years. This is meant primarily to help close the development gap in ASEAN member countries and help the region become better prepared for disasters. An additional $100 million has also been committed in support of the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund.
Second, Japan will be supporting Myanmar’s growth and democratization. In the same summit where Tokyo announced its five-year pledge to ASEAN, it noted that nearly $617.5 million of this package will be allocated to fund railway, water supply and irrigation projects in Myanmar.
Following economic and political reforms implemented over the past three years, Myanmar has seen an influx of overseas aid and foreign direct investment. Japanese assistance aims to develop a stable, legal environment for these foreign investors. Tokyo has also pledged to support Myanmar’s democratization efforts, including helping the Asian country promote peace in its conflict-torn regions. Early this year, Japan announced a $96 million package to create infrastructure and ease tensions in these areas.
Lastly, Japan will help peace and counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. Early this year, Abe pledged to set aside about $320 million in conflict and disaster assistance to Africa. This includes $3 million in support for the African-led mission in the Central African Republic and $25 million to South Sudan.
Condensed and republished with permission from The International Development Journal, a leading monthly journal in Japanese focusing on international development.