Recent Trends in
Japan-Central America Relations

1. Japan-Central America Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation

1. 1 Second Japan-Central America Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation

The forum was held in Tokyo on July 29 and 30, 1996.
It was attended by representatives of six Central American countries, including Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Ernesto Leal, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Fernando Naranjo, El Salvadoran Foreign Minister Ramon E. Gonzalez, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein, Honduran Vice Planning Minister Julio Quintanilla, and Panamanian Vice Foreign Minister Alejandro Ferrer. Japan's representatives at the Forum included Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda.
During the Forum, participants worked to foster mutual understanding between Japan and Central America by exchanging views on issues of common concern, such as the Asian and Latin American situations, the international economic situation, including moves toward integration of the Central American economy, multilateral cooperation in the United Nations and elsewhere, economic and technical cooperation, and the promotion of tourism.
Japan and the Central American nations agreed to establish the Forum, as an organ for regular high-level inter-government consultation, at the Japan-Central America foreign ministerial meeting held during the United Nations General Assembly in 1995. The first meeting of the Forum was held in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, in November 1995.

1.2 Background History of the Forum

As witnessed by the establishment of the Chamorro administration in Nicaragua in 1990, the achievement of a peace accord in El Salvador in 1992, and the current peace negotiation process in Guatemala, the countries of Central America have left "the conflict of the 1980s" behind them and entered the 1990s, "an era of new progress," in which peace and democracy have taken root as nations work to achieve economic reconstruction and development.
Japan saw these changes as evidence that there was now scope for the expansion of dialogue between Central America and the international community. It began to consider holding regular consultations with a view to providing continuing support to the Central American countries for their efforts to establish peace and democracy and achieve economic reconstruction and development, while at the same time fostering mutual understanding about foreign policies and strengthening cooperative relationships.

1.3 Overview of the Japan-Central America Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation

Objectives

In view of the progress made by the Central American countries toward peace and democracy and the reinforcement of relations between Japan and that region in recent years, Japan took the initiative by proposing the establishment of the Forum as a mechanism for regular consultation between Japan and the Central American countries, in order to foster mutual understanding about foreign policies and provide opportunities for exchanges of views on all areas of mutual interest.

Overview of Forum

Venue
It was decided to hold the first forum immediately in the host country of the Central American Presidential Conference. Future venues will be determined according to whether it is convenient to hold meetings in Central America or Japan at a particular time.

Frequency of Meetings
In principle, the meetings will be held annually.

Member Nations
There are seven member nations: Japan, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Issues
There will be exchanges of views on all matters of common interest, including political situations, diplomatic affairs, economic and technical cooperation (excluding bilateral and specific issues), and economic and cultural exchange, and tourism.
The Forum will be used to foster mutual understanding about the foreign policies of Japan and the Central American countries.

2. Japan's Contribution to Peace and Economic Reconstruction in Central America

2.1 Contributing to Peace in Central America

As indicated in a 1987 speech by Japan's then Foreign Minister, Tadashi Kuranari, Japan has consistently supported peace in Central America. For example, the Japanese Government dispatched election monitors (including 15 monitors sent to supervise El Salvador's presidential and general elections in March 1994 in accordance with the International Peace Cooperation Law), contributed funds for United Nations monitoring teams, provided assistance to refugees, and participation in the Partnership for Democracy and Development.

2.2 Supporting Economic Reconstruction

Japan is actively providing assistance for reconstruction and development to Central American countries, especially Nicaragua and El Salvador, which have achieved peace. This reflects its recognition that democratization and the introduction of a market-oriented economy in Central America will contribute to regional peace and stability and hence to the peace and prosperity of the international community. For example, the Japanese Government dispatched a comprehensive economic assistance survey team to Nicaragua and El Salvador in December 1994 and provided economic and technical assistance totaling over $250 million to Nicaragua after the establishment of the Chamorro administration and approximately $250 million in economic and technical assistance to El Salvador after the signing of the peace accord.
As a result of these moves, Japan's economic and technical assistance to Central America has increased from about $50 million in 1987 to $240 million (approximately five-fold increase) in 1992, about $160 million (approximately three-fold increase) in 1993, and $200 million (four-fold increase) in 1994 (all on a net disbursement basis). In fact, in recent years Japan has been one of the leading donors of assistance to the Central American countries. For example, in 1992 it was the top aid donor for Costa Rica, and in 1993 it was the leading donor of aid to Nicaragua.

3. Rising Interest and Expectations

As a result of these efforts of the Japanese Government in various fields there has been a rise in the interest in and expectations of Japan by the Central American countries. This is also reflected by recent personal visits from Central America to Japan.
For example, Central American countries sent extremely high level missions consisting of four presidents, one foreign minister, and one supreme court justice to the accession ceremony of the Emperor. In 1993 three of the six Central American countries sent their foreign ministers to the special Tokyo PDD (Partnership for Democracy and Development) meeting, and four out of the six sent their foreign ministers to Japan in 1994.


Japan's Support for Democratization in Central America

1. Japan's contribution to the holding of elections in Central America

1.1 Financial cooperation for election monitoring, etc.

  • United Nations Observation Mission for Central America (ONUCA)
    $6.6 million (including a $2 million contribution to the United Nations Trust Funds for Assistance to the Peace-Keeping Operations of the U.N. and $4.6 million as a special assessment for peace-keeping operations)
  • United Nations Observation Mission for the Verification of Elections in Nicaragua (ONUVEN)
    $500,000 (contribution to the United Nations Trust Funds for Assistance to the Peace-Keeping Operations of the U.N.)
  • Committee on International Assistance and Verification (CIAV)
    $1 million (voluntary contribution)
    United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL)
    $1.48 million (special assessment for peace-keeping operations)
  • Contribution to the Organization of American States (OAS) to support the Observation Mission for the Guatemala Presidential
    Election (November 1995)
    $100,000
  • Contribution to OAS to support the Observation Mission for the Nicaragua Presidential Election (October 1996)
    $240,000
    $477,000 contribution to the Nicaragua Election Management Committee

1.2 Dispatch of Election Observers

  • Nicaragua general election (February 25, 1990)
    Six observers (one Foreign Ministry official, three former JOCV members, two former special assistants at embassies) as participants in the United Nations Observation Mission for the Verification of Elections in Nicaragua (ONUVEN)
  • El Salvador National Assembly election (March 17, 1991)
    Four observers (all Foreign Ministry officials) invited by the government of El Salvador
  • El Salvador presidential and national and local assembly elections (national and local assembly elections, March 20, 1994; presidential election, April 24, 1994)
    15 observers (three Foreign Ministry officials, one local government official, 11 non-governmental observers) as members of the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL)
  • Guatemala presidential election (November 12, 1995 and run-off election on January 7, 1996)
    Four observers (secretaries from diplomatic posts in neighboring countries)


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