Official Development Assistance (ODA)
5. New Development Strategy and People-centered Development

(1) Adoption of the New Development Strategy: "Shaping the 21st Century: The Contribution of Development Cooperation"

In addition to strained finances, the factors behind the receding interests in foreign aid among industrialized nations (aid fatigue) are doubts arising in the minds of their peoples about the effectiveness of their aid, especially due to the fact that African development has not been so much successful. In order, therefore, to break the impasse and help their ODA gain forward momentum, it is necessary to show that their aid projects did have certain positive impacts on the well-being of these recipient countries and that ODA is still necessary for their future development.

With a view to addressing such a situation, The DAC High-level Meeting in May 1996 adopted the New Development Strategy: "Shaping the 21st Century: The Contribution of Development Cooperation." Japan played a key role in the preparation process of this document by, for example, proposing specific development goals. By drawing on lessons learned from past aid projects, the New Development Strategy acknowledges that primary responsibility for development rests with developing countries themselves. It also advocates global development partnership with donors and recipients sharing the responsibility and working hand in hand to achieve development.

(2) Specific Development Goals

By declaring that ODA goals are to improve the living standard of all people, the Development Strategy supports the concept of "people-centered development." Based on such philosophy, it proposes several concrete development goals in the following:

  1. a reduction by one-half in the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015;
  2. prevalence of primary education in all countries by 2015;
  3. elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005;
  4. a reduction by two-thirds in the mortality rate for infants and children under 5 by 2015;
  5. a reduction by three-fourths in the maternal mortality rate by 2015;
  6. access to reproductive health services for all individuals of appropriate ages no later than the year 2015;
  7. the current implementation of national strategies for sustainable development in all countries by 2005, so as to ensure that current trends in the loss of forest, water and other resources are reversed by 2015.

(3) Future Tasks

The New Development Strategy was approved by the Ministerial Council Meeting of the OECD held in May 1996 and it was also applauded by the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations gathered at the Lyon Summit meeting held in June the same year. Tasks facing donor countries are to encourage an active participation of developing countries in dialogues and carry the New Development Strategy into execution. Such a process would enhance the awareness of the international community and help improve development assistance in a more effective manner.

(4) People-centered Development

The concept of "people-centered development" places the ultimate objective of development in helping humankind lead an affluent and happy life. This idea was first embodied in the Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1990, which showed degrees of development of countries measured by human development index. The concept was supported at the World Summit for Social Development of 1995 and at a series of international conferences related to development held in recent years. People-centered development has thus become a central theme in the international community in the 1990s when development issues are discussed.

The Human Development Report of the UNDP, released to the world in Tokyo in 1996, basically focuses its attention on human development and economic growth. What it urges consistently is that human development is the end and economic growth is a means. Rephrasing it from the standpoint of sustainability of economic growth, the report states, "Short-term advances in human development are possible -- but they will not be sustainable without further growth. Conversely, economic growth is not sustainable without human development." The idea of people-centered development does not negate economic growth. Rather, the report stresses the necessity of economic growth for the sustainable development in a true sense.

Major concern inherent in the idea of people-centered development is whether or not the benefits of an enlarged economic pie brought about by economic growth would filter down to individuals in the form of increased employment and incomes. Its interest also lies in whether or not individuals would be allowed to partake in the process of development of their own accord.