Expert Committee for the Fifth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM5)
Fifth Meeting Discussion Outline

1. Date:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 10:00-12:00

2. Venue:

Conference Room in Mita Kaigisho, Tokyo

3. Participants:

Committee members:

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

Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Mr. Kohara, Deputy Director-General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau
Mr. Yamada, Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation Bureau

Other officials:

Observers: Government and governmental organization officials

4. Agenda:

  • (1) Opening remarks (Chair)
  • (2) Discussion: assistance areas to be discussed at PALM 5
  • (3) Closing remarks (Chair)

5. Outline of Discussion:

(1) Opening remarks (Chair)

The expert committee has two more meetings including today's meeting to finalize the proposal Today, I would like to narrow down the pillars of assistance to be discussed at PALM5. I have prepared an outline of the proposal based on the past discussions. Today's discussion is based on this outline.

(2) Free discussion

(a) Wording of the proposal outline

  • It should be noted that the purpose of the proposal is not only to submit our opinions to the government but also to raise public awareness. We should carefully define "vulnerable countries" to avoid unwanted misunderstanding.
  • We should also pay close attention to the volume of the proposal. A short but succinct proposal will be more readily read by many, but if we incorporate detailed but important points into the proposal, an annex will be a good option.
  • It should be written in such a way that any relevant public officials can easily grasp the points to better follow up the proposal. At the same time, the proposal outline should be concise to be read by many people.

(b) Contents of the proposal outline

  • The importance of cooperation in the non-ODA fields should be an independent paragraph, considering the recent trend of collaboration between the public and private sector. The development of a civil-aviation network of this region should also be a separate paragraph to emphasize how under-developed it is compared to ones in the other regions of the world.
  • Since it is impractical for the government to take the lead in improving the civil-aviation network, such commitment should not be made too readily. What the government can do, instead, is to create a favorable environment for commercial airlines to establish new routes by, for instance, providing assistance to promote tourism industry in the Pacific region.
  • It is not practical to apply the general concept of collaboration between the public and private sector to this region, if Japan focuses its assistance to vulnerable countries. NGOs, instead, can play a pivotal role.
  • "Vulnerability" and "vulnerable countries" are not interchangeable because there are vulnerable people even in big countries. "Vulnerability" will allow the Japanese government to provide assistance to all countries of this region. In addition, the proposal should give special consideration to the common characteristics of Pacific island countries such as remoteness, small land area and geographic dispersal as well as to the vulnerability to climate change and disaster which all countries of the region share in common.
  • Since grassroots efforts such as JOCVs and NGOs receive a great reputation as visible assistance, such efforts should be promoted and emphasized separately from the public and private sector collaboration.
  • PALM does not have any set mechanism for reviewing implementation of assistance. With this understanding, the government should make efforts to check and improve its assistance by, for instance, information disclosure. In this regard, the paragraph "Public Relations" should be revised to "Public Relations and Transparency."
  • At the previous meeting, I suggested holding PALM every five years. what I meant was the importance of establishing a review mechanism during the intermediate years. As long as such mechanism is created, three-year frequency is also welcome. The establishment of such a mechanism can be mentioned in a separate paragraph in the proposal.
  • Since the term "environmental refugee" has been more often used these days, PALM5 will need to discuss it.
  • My understanding is that there are indeed labor migrants in this region, but no environmental refugee.
  • It is easy to imagine actual projects if disaster risk reduction is included in the paragraph for environment and climate change. Early warning systems and communal disaster risk reduction are projects that are easy to be understood.
  • It is important to secure food and jobs as part of human security. Food security, in particular, is a priority for PIF countries. The fluctuation of international food price greatly affects the countries that depend on imported food. Helping those countries to deal with such risks is of significance. Assistance to local, subsistence economy such as growing rice will serve as a safety net against such risks. A fund that allows for bulk procurement of food could be an option to reduce such risks.

(3) Japan's vision for the pacific island region

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

The draft proposal lists the environment and climate change as one of the pillars for PALM 5. This could be easily understood and welcomed by both the Japanese general public and pacific island countries. Although actual adverse effects of climate change differ among the island countries, climate change is a common issue in that all countries in the region are affected by it some way. A vision, tentatively called "Pacific Environment Community," could be established by combining the idea of "Equal Partners in the Pacific community" in the draft proposal with the environment and climate change issue. Further discussions should be made in preparation for PALM 5 on this Pacific Environment Community where Japan and pacific island countries share the sense of community, send out to the world a strong message on the environment and climate change, and emphasize their efforts to conserve the beautiful ocean, a common asset of mankind. Human-resource development and human security could also be considered as pillars of cooperation. I would also like to consider how Japan can strengthen its relations with PIF, including whether Japan should remain as a Post Forum Dialogue member or go beyond that.

With the above points in mind, we shall closely communicate with each country of the pacific region as well as the PIF Secretariat to hear their opinions about PALM 5 and thus reflect their voices in the blueprint of PALM5.

(b) Mr. Yamada, Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation Bureau

I agree with the proposal to have the environment and climate change and human-resource development as pillars of assistance. Disaster risk reduction has been categorized under the environment and climate change. We hear voices from those working in the ODA field that needs for assistance in infrastructure and fisheries is very high. All encompassing assistance should be avoided by setting some areas of assistance as pillars. As the introduction of the draft proposal mentions the importance of comprehensively responding to the Pacific Plan, the overall picture of assistance to be presented at PALM 5 looks like having two big pillars under which there are two major areas of assistance. The draft seems appropriate in this sense, but it should not be forgotten that the Pacific island countries may still request aid in infrastructure.

It is also important for PALM to have a permanent mechanism for monitoring and follow-up with due consideration for administrative burden. TICAD has already established one.

(4) Free discussion on (3)

  • Aid in infrastructure is greatly welcomed and highly reputed. However, rather than trying to cover all areas, it should be prioritized to the environment and human security. Ms. Ogata, President of JICA, has said that we can build a bridge for the sake of human security. For instance, providing small-scale water tanks, though considered infrastructural aid, would serve the purpose of human security. The same is true for a bridge by which residents of a small island can escape to a bigger and safer island in case of natural disaster.
  • We must be careful not to repeat the case of incorporating the road tax revenues into the general budget. We should avoid the situation where people in Japan might think that Japan's ODA has not changed a bit, as all the infrastructural aid programs are valid from the perspective of human security. As the amount of ODA continues to decrease, the government has to make people think that Japan's ODA has changed. Just replacing the cover may create a negative impression in and outside Japan.
  • To improve Japan's aid, aid workers including JICA need to change their mindset. It is natural that they start to have emotional attachment to the local people they are working with and hope to respond to their needs as much as they can. This is not an equal partnership. Their changed mindset should be reflected on the project development process.
  • The idea of the Pacific Environment Community presented earlier by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a good approach. However, creating a charter for it is not a good first step. Instead, continued, thorough discussions and cumulated achievements should come first, resulting in the establishment of such a community. It may be an option to develop a second PIF where Japan can take the lead.
  • I agree on the approach, too. To make it useful and more than a conference, I would like to propose to establish a "Japan Pacific Environment Fund" to be used for environment and climate change-related programs. There is no such special fund in the pacific region as a sector-wide approach (SWAp), so if such a fund is created by the initiatives of Japan, Japan will be able to show its presence in the region. Assistance to already-existing funds would not be effective in this regard. Assistance through funds can be provided in a relatively quick manner, which is another merit.
  • ASEAN has a fund established by Japan and uses it to implement projects for strengthening partnerships. It also foster the ownership of ASEAN.
  • While Japan's aid is project-based, those of Australia and other countries often take a sector-wide approach. However, when they provide assistance, they also try to force their ideas/opinions, which is why the recipients do not necessarily favor their assistance. When creating a fund for the environment and climate change, Japan should take an extra caution for the fund not to be regarded the same as that by Australia.
  • What we should be careful about is how to communicate our ideas/opinions . Establishing a fund for the environment and climate change should be considered as an opportunity for Japan's initiatives.
  • When it comes to financial aid in this region, we should remember that Australia and other countries first started their assistance to support their independence as former colonizers. Such aid should be differentiated from the aid/fund we have discussed today.
  • If we focus only on building infrastructure and do not pay attention to follow up its implementation, it may not be used effectively. In fact, I have often seen such cases. Providing soft assistance together with hard assistance (infrastructure) will be effective in this regard.

(5) Closing Remarks (Chair)

There were wonderful opinions from various perspectives today. If you could put together your revisions to the draft proposal in writing and submit your revisions to me, I will revise and edit the draft and present it to you all prior to the final meeting, in which the revised proposal will be discussed. (Approved by all members.)

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