Official Development Assistance (ODA)
8. The ODA Charter

(1) Adoption of the ODA Charter

The ODA Charter, adopted by the Japanese Government at the Cabinet meeting held in June 1992, acknowledges changes in the time reflecting the end of the Cold War, and recognizes the results achieved and lessons learned by the assistance Japan had extended to developing countries during the past 40 years. The Charter lays down basic philosophy, principles, and priority areas, thus summing up Japan's aid policy from a comprehensive and long-term perspective.

(2) Basic Philosophy and Principles

Basic philosophy:

  1. The imperative of humanitarian considerations;
  2. Recognition of the interdependent relationships among member nations of the international community;
  3. The necessity for conserving the environment;
  4. he necessity for supporting self-help efforts of developing countries.

Principles :

The Charter stipulates that Japan's ODA is provided in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter (especially sovereign equality and non-intervention in domestic matters) and the four points set forth below. Development assistance is to be implemented by comprehensively taking into consideration the requests of each recipient country, its socio-economic conditions, and Japan's bilateral relations with the recipient country. The four points are:

  1. To pursue environmental conservation and development in tandem;
  2. To avoid any use of ODA for military purposes or for aggravation of international conflicts;
  3. To pay full attention to trends in recipient countries' military expenditures, their development and production of mass destruction weapons and missiles, their export and import of arms, etc.;
  4. To pay full attention to efforts for promoting democratization and introduction of a market-oriented economy, and the situation regarding the securing of basic human rights and freedoms in the recipient country.

(3) Ensuring the Credibility of the Principle and Diplomatic Considerations

Since the Government adopted the ODA Charter and laid down the principle to be followed, the credibility of such principle needs to be ensured in the implementation phases of aid. As noted earlier, the ODA Charter urges comprehensive considerations taking into account such factors as requests of each recipient country, its socio-economic conditions and Japan's bilateral relations with the recipient country. Mechanical application of a set of uniform standards is not compatible with the principle.

As the aim of the principle is to help recipient countries put the content of the principle into practice, it is necessary to encourage them to embrace the principle as a value worthy of pursuit of their own accord and urge them to make efforts for its realization. If Japan takes an action in response to a move made by a recipient country which is repugnant to the principle, it may be viewed by the recipient country, depending on the approaches Japan takes, as a unilateral imposition of values, provoke a backlash, and delay improvements in the situation. In case there emerges in a recipient country a move repugnant to the spirit of the principle, it is important to have bilateral dialogue or to bring international influence in collaboration with other countries rather than unilaterally tampering with ODA projects.

In revising aid policy to a certain recipient country, it is necessary to take into consideration the situation in the recipient country and Japan's bilateral relationship with it and check to see if the contemplated revision of the project is truly appropriate. As in the third element of the principle, the ODA Charter urges to pay close attention to the "trends" in a certain period of time, and the current absolute level (e.g. of military expenditure) should not be taken as an exclusive element for making policy.

(4) Concrete Cases

The efforts which Mongolia, Cambodia, and Viet Nam are making to introduce democratic institutions and a market-oriented economy are highly welcome developments in light of the ODA Charter. Japan not only has increased the amount of its aid but also is urging other donor countries to step up their assistance to these countries.

In case there emerge undesirable moves that run counter to the spirit of the principles of the ODA Charter, such as the overthrow of a legitimate government by a military coup d'etat, violations of human rights, or development of nuclear weapons, Japan urges the recipient countries concerned to improve the situation, or revise its aid to such countries on the basis of a comprehensive consideration on each case.

When China conducted a nuclear test in August 1995 despite repeated cessation requests, the Japanese Government lodged a strong protest against China. With a view to making Japan's position clear and to requesting China's understanding on the ending of nuclear tests, the Japanese Government decided to freeze its grant aid planned for FY 1995 except humanitarian and grass-roots aid (including disaster relief) and to continuously suspend, in principle, its grant aid in and after FY 1996 unless it was made clear that China stopped its nuclear tests. As a result, Japanese grant aid to China was cut back sharply, from \7.79 billion in FY 1994 to \480 million in FY 1995. Despite Japan's requests, China conducted nuclear tests twice, in June and July 1996, but declared a moratorium on nuclear tests right after the July test.

The Japanese Government has suspended its aid to Myanmar, in principle, following mounting political turmoil triggered by the popular demand for democracy in 1988 and the subsequent military coup d'etat. Meanwhile, Japan maintained with the Myanmar Government a dialogue through which Japan persistently encouraged a positive move on the part of the Myanmar Government. The Myanmar Government has shown signs of its willingness to improve the situation gradually since 1994 by releasing political prisoners and by releasing Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in July 1995. In recognition of such positive moves, the Japanese Government partially reviewed its aid policy to Myanmar and decided to consider and implement suspended on-going projects and those directly meeting basic human needs (BHN) on a case-by-case basis, while keeping an eye on the developments occurring in the areas of democratization and the protection of human rights. As part of this policy, the Japanese Government in October 1995 provided funds in grant aid for expansion of the Institute of Nursing in Myanmar. However, as the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Mrs. Suu Kyi boycotted the National Convention in November 1995, and as the Myanmar Government detained a large number of NLD members in May 1996 on the occasion of the holding of a NLD convention, tensions between the Myanmar Government and the NLD mounted again. Reflecting such circumstances, Japan's economic cooperation with Myanmar has not developed since then.