Expert Committee for the Fifth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting
Discussion Outline of the 2nd Meeting

1. Date:

Wednesday December 17, 2008 15:00-17:00

2. Venue:

A Conference Room in Mita Kaigisho

3. Participants:

Committee members:

  • Mr. Kobayashi (Chair)
  • Mr. Kusano, Ms. Chino, Mr. Tokita, Ms. Nakano, Mr. Noda

Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

  • Mr. Kohara, Deputy Director-General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau

Other officials

  • Observers: Government and governmental organizations officials

4. Agenda:

  • (1) Opening Remarks
  • (2) Review of the Okinawa Partnership by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • (3) Free Discussion
  • (4) Announcement of the Next Meeting
  • (5) Closing Remarks

5. Outline of discussion:

(1) Opening Remarks by the Chair

In the last meeting, each committee member shared significant insights and asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs various questions regarding PALMs and their commitments. The Ministry answered some of the questions during the last meeting, but not all: Therefore, the Ministry will present us with an explanation and a review of the implementation of the Okinawa Partnership, including success and challenges of Japanese aid to the region, after which free discussion will follow.

(2) Explanation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(a) Mr. Kohara, Deputy Director-General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau

Explanation was given for the implementation of the Okinawa Partnership announced at PALM 4. The Okinawa Partnership consists of self-help effort of the Pacific islands represented in the Pacific Plan and Japanese assistance to it. As promised at PALM 4, Japan has been striving to meet the target of '45 billion yen's worth of aid - mostly grant-aid - over the following three years.' It is in progress, but there is still much to be done to accomplish the goal.

In addition, Japan has been increasing the share of bilateral ODA to this region in total ODA to pursue the Okinawa Partnership. Regarding priority fields of Japanese assistance, we have been complying with the targets of the Okinawa Partnership. We also cooperate with Australia and New Zealand by holding policy discussion and roundtable conferences in order to meet the needs of the island nations.

(b) Mr. Hida

Explanation was given for achievements and challenges of the Okinawa Partnership, in line with the 5 areas: economic growth, sustainable development, good governance, security, and people to people exchange. There were achievements in economic growth through promoting trade and investment via the Pacific Islands Center and assisting with infrastructure development. Approaches to sustainable development included region-wide assistance for waste management and infectious diseases, using the New Pharmaceutical Services Center in Fiji. Japan also took action on global warming, water and sanitation, and support for the distance and flexible learning initiative by the University of South Pacific (USP).

Progress toward good governance was made to strengthen administrative capacity and assistance in systematic organization, while security assistance involved minimizing natural disaster toll through meteorological cooperation. Speaking of people to people exchange, we expect to meet one of the Okinawa Partnership goals - 'exchange of more than 1000 youths over the three years.' Because exchange programs tend to be short, making them longer is a way forward.

(3) Free Discussion by the Committee Members

(A) Comments and Questions on the Review of the Okinawa Partnership

  • The Review seems to cover too many elements of the Partnership and be too general. If it was more specific with examples of success and failure or challenges, media could promote it better.
  • As for evaluation of aid programs performance, actual aid workers know about outcome of the programs better than the third party like expert committee members. Therefore, we should hear more from the actual program officers.
  • The explanation by the Ministry made it clear that there is no duplication among the donors, and we now understand how priority areas were chosen. Because all assistance ideas and proposals seem to have already been exhausted at the past PALMs, we should now work on enhancing effectiveness of aid, focusing on Action of the PDCA-Cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). It is also important to spread this mind-set.

(B) Insights for PALM 5

  • In Africa, poverty is a serious issue, and even supply of safe water is not sufficient. In contrast, the pacific region does not seem to suffer from poverty to the same extent as Africa. That is why it seems difficult to explain the legitimate use of ODA to this region to the Japanese public. If ODA is spent for specific purposes, such as climate change and tourism development, it will make ODA to the Pacific region look more relevant. For the sake of publicity, PALM needs a slogan, just like 'Vibrant Africa' in TICAD.
  • I have searched for a flight to Kiribati and learned about inconvenient flight access to the Pacific island countries. Airlines will not operate unprofitable flights. It is time to cooperate amongst nations in the region to improve flight access to this extensive area.
  • Because the Pacific island countries are at different development levels and in various sizes, it is difficult to analyze this region as a whole. ODA alone will not develop economies of these countries, and it is important to think what ODA can help with. Moreover, being the fifth biggest aid provider, there are both areas where Japan can and cannot accomplish with its ODA, I would like to propose the following for 'Check' and 'Act' concerning future assistance.
  • Generally speaking, it is meaningless to compete with Australia and New Zealand in the amount of ODA. I became involved with Japanese ODA to the Pacific island countries this year and understood that Japanese aid receives good reputation because it uses an well-thought, detailed approach sharing the same viewpoint as the island nations. Prioritizing aid areas, we should make the best of this strong point of Japanese assistance. Examples are the following:
    • a. Although they share the same problems, because of the diversity of countries in this area, it is not enough to approach them as a region, especially to make the best of Japanese assistance. Therefore, we should classify the island countries based on their development levels into the following categories: 'countries that can gain economic independence,' 'countries that need aid for the time being,' and 'countries that require aid almost eternally.' We then need to take different aid approaches accordingly.
    • b. Japan is strategically using its aid in this region; however, considering diversity of the island nations, it is important to have both the regional strategy and the country-specific one. Country analysis will make it easy for Japan to show its aid strategies to the aid receivers and focus on assistance in areas and sectors in greater need. This should make a significant impact with a small amount of aid. We can aim for a greater effect by accumulating successful aid outcomes. This should also lower the administration costb. . We can learn from ADB for this matter.
    • c. As for quality-rather-than-quantity of aid, Japan already has good practice. One of its examples is agricultural development in the Solomon Islands in cooperation with NGOs. In this region, self-sufficiency plays a profound role in the economy, although it does not appear in macro-economic indicators. Reinforcing self-sufficiency is also crucial in food security. Another example is the Japanese Support to the Pacific Immunization Programme Strengthening (J-PIPS) in cooperation with international organizations, whose impact is greater than how much aid is actually spent on. We should value aid effectiveness and expand these good cases even to other regions.
    • d. To gather wider public support for PALM 5, Japan should emphasize not only the challenges the Pacific Island countries face but also Japan's interest and relations with them. The government should appeal why this region is important to Japan. For an impressive example, the Pacific island nations have very large Exclusive Economic Zone and marine resources, and 80 percent of tuna consumed in Japan comes from this area. It is also good to set up a slogan like in TICAD.
  • Traditional culture and society of the Pacific islands have a lot to do with chiefs, ancestors, land, natural resources, and its space. We should not impose modernization but respect the tradition like in the example of growing rice in PNG, which the local will really enjoy. Japanese ODA is appreciated in this region in this sense.
  • It is sometimes pointed out that Japanese assistance takes too long to be launched. However, it is only natural for a democratic nation and should not affect our confidence that we can continue successful assistance.
  • Human resource development is fundamental in any development assistance. Without this, ODA will be measured only by monetary value. We have a useful senior volunteer program in addition to JOCV. The elderly possess a great advantage in engaging human resource development since they will be respected in Pacific cultures and are familiar with tradition and culture.
  • Exchange programs tend to be short, but they will be more meaningful if participants can stay in host countries for a longer period of time. The youth can also be inspired by different life styles.

(C) Questions Addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

  • How is each ODA project actually evaluated?
  • It was mentioned that the flight route between Japan and Fiji will be discontinued, and air travel is not easy in this region. PNG claims that it wants to increase flight to Japan. What is the Japanese government's stance on this matter?
  • I would like to have a breakdown of the numbers of accepted trainees as well as dispatched experts and volunteers (by country or by field). In small developing countries, duplications in ODA can easily occur in such cases as the same person participates in multiple training courses. It is worth considering if there can be any synergy between trainees, experts, and volunteers.
  • What are the existing flight routes in this region? Better access is important for a country or a region to achieve economic development. Emirates Airline plays a significant role in connecting flights to Africa.
  • What are the plans and their timeline preparing for PALM 5? How will the proposal of this Expert Committee be used?

(D) Responses by the Ministry to the Questions Listed under

  • We have a system to evaluate ODA projects by third party experts. (Another committee member took part in the evaluation and visited the Solomon Islands and Fiji to assess the overall Japanese aid effect to this region. He also agreed that the evaluation was to be used at the next PALM.)
  • Government can not do much to improve flight access on its own - The judgment of airline companies matter. Airline companies will increase flight schedules or establish new flight routes only when the market expands through tourism development and successful advertisement. This means that it is important for us to discuss it with a wide-range of stakeholders including Pacific island governments, airline companies, hotels, and travel agents. (Mr. Kobayashi will be providing information on flight access in the region researched few years ago. However, flight routes often change and update will be needed)
  • We will hold a Senior Officials Meeting at the end of March or the beginning of April to prepare for PALM 5, in which senior officials of the PIF countries will be invited and agenda of PALM 5 will be discussed. We will also collaborate and exchange opinions with Australia, New Zealand, and other donors including international organizations.
  • We will provide each member with the breakdown of trainees, experts, and volunteers sorted by countries and fields as well as the current air travel situation by next Expert Committee meeting.
  • We will select two or three achievements and challenges of the Okinawa Partnership with more clarity by next Expert Committee meeting.

(4) Announcement of the Next Meeting and Closing Remarks (Mr. Kobayashi)

The third Expert Committee meeting will be held on January 13, 2009. The topic will be climate change, and the Secretary General of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) will be invited to join the discussion. As for discussion topics for the Expert Committee meetings after the third meeting, I will consult with the secretariat to send out a proposal to each member before the third Expert Committee meeting. I would like to seek consent to this procedure from all the members.

(Approved by each member.)

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