Chapter 2

Section 2

7. Oceanian Region

Japan’s bilateral ODA to the Oceanian region in 2002 was approximately $90 million, accounting for 1.4% of total bilateral ODA.

Japan has been providing assistance support for the Oceanian region placing importance on the following points, as stated in the medium-term policy.

(1) Japan will provide support for social and economic infrastructure development (including health care services) which would serve as the foundation for social and economic activities to overcome such island-nation problems as dispersion and geographic isolation.
(2) Japan will provide support for economic structural reform.
(3) Japan will provide support for human resources development for promoting the private sector.
(4) Japan will provide support for environmental conservation.
(5) Japan will provide support to promote wide-area cooperation including human resources development and technology transfer through remote education to multiple countries in the region.

Japan has traditionally enjoyed close ties with the Oceanian region and has gained its support for Japan’s position in international forums such as the UN, etc. The region is vital for Japan’s deep-sea fishery and maritime transportation, and, in recent years, hopes have risen for the abundant sea-bed resources. Upon such circumstances, Japan has been providing support for this region, enhancing the mutual partnership.

In the Oceanian region there are many countries that have achieved independence relatively recently and the priority issues are to establish socially and economically self-reliant states. The island countries also face a number of common difficulties peculiar to island nations, such as small-scale economies, the dependence on primary industries, geographic dispersion, the distance from international markets, vulnerability to natural disasters, the risk of losing land territory, etc. In providing assistance for the region, Japan considers both these common difficulties and the individual circumstances confronting each country.

In all of the Oceanian countries, the priority issue is to develop human resources development to support the less experienced independent states. Japan is contributing to human resources development in these countries through technical cooperation, such as acceptance of trainees and dispatches of experts, etc. in the administrative sector, public services sector, etc. And in the education sector, which is the foundation of human capacity building, the Oceanian countries are struggling to provide all of their dispersed national territory with education services. Japan supports to upgrade the facilities and provide equipment for the primary schools through grassroots and human security grant assistance, and provides education services by the members of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV).

Column 8 The Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge (KB Bridge)

Surely there is no one living in Palau who does not know this bridge. Every day many people use this elegant, easy-to-drive bridge which is 412 meters long, ten meters wide and has a central support 41 meters high. When traveling from the international airport to the city center, it is necessary to cross this bridge. On holidays you can see children having fun playing around in the open space under the bridge, while high school students clean up the place. Each year on October 1 the Government holds Independence Day Celebration in this space and the national flag of Palau, showing a full moon in a blue sea waves from each pillar of the long bridge. This bridge is known as the “KB Bridge,” but because it was built with assistance from Japan it has also been named the “Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge” and the people of Palau have a strong attachment to it. On the occasion of the completion of the bridge, special commemorative stamps were issued.

The bridge was built to replace the former KB Bridge, which suddenly collapsed with an enormous crashing sound on September 26, 1996. As a result of this terrible event, all at once water supply, electricity and telephones lines were cut off and all the residents’ means of living were taken away. Immediately after this collapse, the entire country started tireless reconstruction activities which resulted in the laying of a temporary bridge four and a half months later, but then president Kuniwo Nakamura hoped to construct a new permanent bridge, and decided to enlist Japan’s help. He visited Japan early the next year and requested emergency assistance in funding and technical cooperation. In response to that, Japan provided grant aid of more than ¥3.2 billion for the bridge reconstruction. The completion ceremony was held in January 2002 and the elegant bridge made its debut against the backdrop of the coral reef.

On the day the bridge was opened to traffic, many people crowded from all over the country on to the bridge for a glance at it. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the entire population was there. At the independence day ceremony held under the bridge in October 2003, President Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., speaking in front of many Palauan and foreign guests, expressed appreciation to Japan as follows: “I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to Japan for its extremely generous financial assistance over several years. Japan’s assistance has contributed to the development of the majority of the trunk infrastructure necessary for the economic development of Palau.” Today the bridge is used as a tool in the lives of the people of Palau and as a place for recreation.

The Japan Society of Civil Engineers rates this bridge as an outstanding construction and has given the Society’s awards.

The reborn KB Bridge

The KB Bridge commemorative stamp

Promotion of private sector industries is indispensable for the economic self-reliance and sustainable development of the Oceanian countries which currently depend on primary industries. Japan is providing technical cooperation such as the training concerning the international tax administration and financial information systems, etc. to contribute to sound economic management, and the dispatch of experts to the tourism sector and the export promotion sector to contribute to the promotion of the private sector through such measures as development of the infrastructure that forms the foundation of economic and social activities, and at the same time is contributing to the strengthening of ties between the economy of Japan and the economies of the Oceanian countries.

Japan is providing assistance for environmental conservation and the provision of educational services through wide-area cooperation outside the framework of state in order to carry out efficient and effective assistance that takes into account the geographic dispersion of the Oceanian region. With regard to the support for environmental conservation, Japan has been contributing to solve regional environmental problems through the dispatch of experts and training in waste management for the “Training Education Center for the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme,” which was built by Japan, and through the drawing up of waste management guidelines for the island countries. Concerning the provision of educational services, Japan offers wide-ranging opportunities to the people of the island nations to receive higher education through support for distance education network facilities at the “University of the South Pacific.”

In addition to these individual efforts, Japan has been promoting cooperation with the “Pacific Islands Forum (PIF),” a framework for regional cooperation composed of the leaders of the Oceanian countries. The Pacific Islands Summit, a leaders’ meeting attended by Japan and the PIF countries, was held twice, in 1997 and 2000, and in May 2003 the Third Japan-PIF Summit Meeting was held in Okinawa which shares common characteristics with the island countries of the Pacific including its climate and oceanic environment. At this summit meeting, in addition to previous cooperation with the oceanian countries, the leaders adopted the “Okinawa Initiative,” which takes into account the Koizumi Initiative concerning the discussions at the WSSD in September 2002 and concrete measures of the WSSD. The Okinawa Initiative contains a strategy and an action plan for Japan and the Oceanian countries to together think about the development of the region and to make joint efforts. Based on the Initiative, each country is to take responsibility and make efforts in five priority sectors: security, trade, health, education, and the environment.

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