Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2006


Main Text > Part I JAPAN'S OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FOR WORLD PEACE AND PROSPERITY > Chapter 2 Specific Activities of Japan's ODA > Section 1. Strengthening Friendly Relations and Promoting Understanding of Japan through ODA

Section 1. Strengthening Friendly Relations and Promoting Understanding of Japan through ODA

As explained in Chapter 1, ODA consists of the provision of funds and technology for the main purpose of fostering the economic growth and well-being of developing countries, and its aim is to contribute to solving development problems such as the poverty that afflicts developing countries. However, the results of ODA activities do not pertain solely to the achievement of development. Activities made possible by ODA help to strengthen relations with the governments of recipient countries, increase Japan's presence in recipient countries, and foster understanding and support for Japan's ideas and policies and Japan's stance in the international community.

    For example, in the actual process of providing assistance for the development of developing countries, Japanese experts and engineers in various work on the ground alongside the people of developing countries and transfer the technology and experience possessed by Japan. Through such activities, understanding of the thinking and basic policy associated with Japanese assistance is deepened in developing countries. In addition, the relationship between Japanese experts participating in assistance and the people of the developing countries involves more than the simple transfer of technology and experience; it also promotes mutual understanding and builds human relationships, and thereby promotes cooperation with Japan in various fields even after the conclusion of ODA activities. Moreover, ODA often enhances Japan's image and fosters pro-Japanese attitudes among the people who benefit from the roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure provided by ODA. In order to achieve these efforts of ODA, Japan's assistance activities must be conducted in a way that is visible to the people of the recipient countries. In order to ensure the visibility of Japan's aid, it is important to provide assistance, based on Japan's aid principles, in fields in which Japan excels, or to have Japanese citizens participate in ODA projects.

    This section describes how Japan's ODA activities play a role in strengthening friendly relations with developing countries and in promoting understanding of Japan.

Strengthening Friendly Relations and Japan's Presence

Japanese ODA consists of various activities, including the transfer of Japan's knowledge and technology to developing countries, the provision of equipment and materials, and the construction of infrastructure such as roads and schools. These activities raise living standards among the people of developing countries and promote development. They also deepen trust between the Japanese involved in ODA and the people of the recipient countries and form linkages among people. In addition, through ODA projects, the experience, knowledge and institutions acquired by Japan in the process of its development following the Second World War often take root in the recipient countries. As a result, friendly relations between Japan and the recipient countries grow stronger, and Japan's presence in their countries increase. The following presents a few examples of these results of ODA activities.

Hospital de los Japoneses ("Hospital of the Japanese" in Spanish) (Dominican Republic)

Since equipment and trained personnel were in shortage in the Luis E. Aybal Hospital in the Dominican Republic and it could only accept a limited number of patients, Japan implemented the ODA project to construct a specialized ward for gastrointestinal diseases and to give instructions in diagnostic imaging technology and patient information management systems. As a result, this hospital acquired the highest level of medical technology in Central America and the Caribbean region. In addition, the number of patients with gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea (a cause of infant mortality) who are received in one week increased to almost equal the number of those accepted in one year before Japanese assistance began. Since then, Luis E. Aybal Hospital came to represent Japanese assistance in the Dominican Republic, and when patients go to the hospital, they can ask the taxi driver simply by saying "Hospital de los japoneses." It can be easily concluded that the results of assistance improve people's image of the Japanese, foster pro-Japanese attitudes, and help to promote friendly relations with recipient countries.

The Luis E. Aybar Hospital, dubbed “<i>Hospital de los japoneses</i>”
The Luis E. Aybar Hospital, dubbed “Hospital de los japoneses

Japanese Support for Bus Transportation and Thermoelectric Power Supply (Mongolia)

In Mongolia's capital of Ulaanbaatar buses are the sole means of public transportation. Because the number of buses is small and the buses are extremely crowded, Japan offered assistance by providing 100 buses and building a bus depot. These buses were emblazoned with the national flags of both Japan and Mongolia, prompting Mongolia's Minister of Trade and Commerce to remark that "these attractive and comfortable Japanese buses are popular among women."

A bus provided by Japan running across Ulan Bator
A bus provided by Japan running across Ulan Bator

    In addition, for a period of 15 years Japan performed repairs and improved the operation of the 4th Thermal Power Plant in Ulaanbaatar, one of the most substantial facilities for electric power supply in Ulaanbaatar. As a result, the level of management and technology markedly improved and the power plant was operated more efficiently. This stable electric power supply contributed significantly to improving people's livelihood and preventing air pollution. This long, 15-year cooperative relationship with Japanese experts fostered feelings of respect and friendship toward Japan among the staff of the 4th Thermal Power Station. Mongolia's appreciation was also demonstrated at the time of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. Immediately after the earthquake struck, the then Prime Minister of Mongolia flew directly to Japan and delivered a large quantity of blankets and other necessities for the victims of the earthquake to the relevant Japanese personnel at Osaka Airport. Then, not wishing to cause Kobe City authorities any inconvenience right after the disaster, he immediately returned to Ulaanbaatar.

Ulan Bator No. 4 thermoelectric plant
Ulan Bator No. 4 thermoelectric plant

    The development assistance provided through Japan's ODA was actively publicized by television programs and newspapers in Mongolia, and was communicated widely among ordinary citizens. According to a local public opinion survey, more than 70% of Mongolia's citizens had feelings of familiarity toward Japan, and more than 90% highly appreciated Japan's ODA.

Assistance Aimed at Introducing and Promoting the Police Box System (Singapore)

Based on the needs of developing countries, Japan provides assistance using its rich experiences and superb technology it has accumulated in Japan, and contributes to the development of developing countries. There have been numerous experiences and technologies transferred through ODA which have received high praise in the recipient countries and have been disseminated throughout these countries. The dissemination of Japanese experiences and technologies causes the people of the recipient countries to develop a sense of familiarity and respect toward Japan. For example, Japan provided assistance to help Singapore introduce Japan's Koban (police box) system. Consequently, more than 90 Singapore-style police boxes have been set up in this country.4 Singapore's police boxes have significantly contributed to maintaining the security in Singapore, which ranks among the highest in the world in this regard. Its experience of introducing the police box system has been widely presented to countries throughout the whole Asia, Pacific island countries, the Middle East, and African countries. By 2005, more than 240 persons from more than 25 countries have participated in the training program for third countries; "the Seminar on Koban (Police box) System," implemented jointly by Japan and Singapore. Thus, Japan's unique "police box" system has helped to improve Japan's image and has fostered feelings of familiarity toward Japan.

A Singaporean type of police box, built with the introduction of the Japanese police box system
A Singaporean type of police box, built with the introduction of the Japanese police box system

Spread of the "One Village One Product" Movement (Asia, Africa, etc.)

The "One Village One Product" movement began in 1979 in Oita Prefecture. It aims to promote products unique to the region by utilizing local resources and traditional techniques, thereby revitalizing the region. The "One Village One Product" movement in Asian and African countries adopts an idea similar to the kind aimed at revitalizing local regions within Japan. It is one method developed to achieve endogenous economic growth in developing countries through trade.

    A concrete initiative has been taken in Thailand, where the elimination of economic disparities between urban areas and poor rural areas is becoming a challenge. Japan's "One Village One Product" movement was introduced throughout Thailand, in order to reduce rural poverty. Japan dispatched experts to rural areas upon receiving a request from the Thai Government, selected unique products from each region in Thailand and assisted producers in improving quality and design. Also, great efforts were made for sales promotion in Japan by holding exhibitions to introduce unique products made under Thailand's "One Village One Product" movement. As a result of these activities, various goods are produced in rural areas of Thailand today, such as processed foods, silk goods, and bamboo crafts. This helps to raise the income of local residents, and exporting these goods serves as a valuable source of foreign currency. By one estimate, Thailand's grassroots policies, including the "One Village One Product" movement, contributed to raising Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.86% from 2001 to 2003.

    Recently, the "One Village One Product" movement has spread beyond Thailand to China, Mongolia, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. It is also being introduced to African countries, including Malawi, Tunisia, and Ghana. Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), inspired by the results of the "One Village One Product" movement, started a project to spread the "One Village One Product" in Mongolia from 2006 through Japan's financial cooperation. UNDP is also planning to implement similar projects to spread the movement to regions like Central Asia in the future.

    Japan is making efforts to promote the "One Village One Product" (OVOP) initiative. Support for it as a policy to promote trade and investment is a part of Japan's Policy for African Development announced by the then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the occasion of the G8 Summit in July 2005.

    Furthermore, the then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi proposed the "Development Initiative for Trade," prior to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Hong Kong Ministerial Conference held in December 2005. This initiative is a comprehensive policy for supporting the sustainable development of developing countries through trade promotion (see Box I-1 for details on the "Development Initiative for Trade"), in which the "One Village One Product" movement is once again positioned as an important measure. It proposes comprehensive support to be provided in such forms as technical cooperation by JICA, training projects by AOTS, and exhibitions in Japan by JETRO.

A producer seeking advice on product packaging from an administrator in charge of the Thai version of the One Village One Product Movement (Chang Mai Province) (Photo: Oita One Village One Product Movement (OVOP) International Exchange Promotion Committee)
A producer seeking advice on product packaging from an administrator in charge of the Thai version of the One Village One Product Movement (Chang Mai Province) (Photo: Oita One Village One Product Movement (OVOP) International Exchange Promotion Committee)

    At the same time as these announcements are being made overseas, concrete initiatives have already begun within Japan. While the efforts to search for promising products and valuable projects have been made mainly by the overseas diplomatic missions, the OVOP Campaign has been promoted within Japan since February 2006 and led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This assists developing countries to promote experts by introducing their products to Japan. Eighty developing countries (of which 53 are African countries), took part in this campaign. Specifically, airport exhibitions were held at major domestic airports, and events such as the MEKONG Exhibition and Pacific Islands Exhibition were held. Also, the African Fair was held in September with the participation of the then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. In addition to these events, AOTS organized One Village One Product training, in which 80 trainees from 45 developing countries participated from August to September 2006.

The then Prime Minister Koizumi attending the African Fair (Photo: the Cabinet Public Relations Office)
The then Prime Minister Koizumi attending the African Fair (Photo: the Cabinet Public Relations Office)

    In addition, The "One Village One Product" Seminar was also held under Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Promoting regional products based on the seminar was encouraged in the Joint Ministerial Statement of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting.

    These efforts have received recognition in the OECD report on "Aid for Trade," which states that Japan's "One Village One Product" movement contributed to strengthen participation by the private sector and civil society as it directly appealed to local governments and the private sector, and in addition to increase profit through trade.

    The "One Village One Product" movement is highly appreciated by numerous countries, and its advocate, a former Governor of Oita Prefecture, Mr. Morihiko Hiramatsu, was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus by the National University of Laos. Also, inter-regional exchange activities have been increased, such as between Oita Prefecture and the local governments of developing countries. This movement, which began in Japan to revitalize its local regions, has become an effective means to vitalize the economies of developing countries and is contributing to strengthening their friendly relationships with Japan.

Interchange with People and Human Resource Development

In implantation of ODA projects such as those described above, Japanese experts provide training and guidance to the concerned parties of the developing countries in order to transfer Japan's technology and knowledge. In addition to training and guidance provided in recipient countries, Japan also implements projects to support foreign students entering Japanese universities and to accept trainees to foster experts. Developing the human resources of developing countries and applying the technology and knowledge possessed by Japan to development has considerable importance for the recipient countries. Looking back at the history of Japan's economic development shows that the existence of a large number of capable people contributed to the improvement of the technological capabilities of Japan and thus to economic development. Taking a lesson from this experience, Japan's ODA places emphasis on human resource development. In addition, the experts, the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), and the Senior Volunteers who are involved in assistance in the developing countries also build human relationships with residents of the local area. Through Japanese-language education and the establishment of the Human Resource Centre for International Cooperation (known as the "Japan Center"), the capacity of practical business people working to promote market economies is developed, information about Japan is disseminated within the recipient countries, and information about the local area is disseminated within Japan (see Part II, Chapter 2, Section 2 for details), thereby promoting exchange and mutual understanding among the people of the recipient countries and Japan. This human interchange through ODA plays a role in ensuring Japan's visible presence in its development assistance.

Receiving Trainees

Since the start of ODA in 1954 Japan has accepted more than 230,000 trainees (the cumulative total as of the end of FY2005) and in this way, has contributed to developing the human resources responsible for the advancement of developing countries. The people of developing countries have a highly favorable opinion about training in Japan, and more than 80% of persons who have participated in group training report that they achieved their initial goals through this training.

    ODA projects to receive trainees are not only useful to the development of the home country, but also help to enhance understanding of Japan and increase the number of people with pro-Japanese attitudes. For example, in 91 countries around the world, 105 alumni associations have been established by persons who have experienced training in Japan, and this has contributed significantly to strengthening cooperative relationships with Japan in the respective fields of these former trainees. In addition, many of the administrative officers, engineers, and researchers who were chosen and received training in Japan have achieved significant positions in their own countries. Among the people of developing countries who have participated in Japan's training projects, more than 40 have been appointed to cabinet positions in their own countries. For example, former trainees from countries including China, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Singapore, and Mongolia became cabinet ministers, and in Indonesia 10 former trainees are now assembly members. The ties between Japan and the developing countries which are fostered by training programs have proven useful in various ways even after trainees return home.

Trainees receiving instruction at a police box station (Photo: JICA)
Trainees receiving instruction at a police box station (Photo: JICA)

A snapshot of a presentation held by repatriate trainees having studied in Japan at an alumni gathering (Samoa) (Photo: JICA)
A snapshot of a presentation held by repatriate trainees having studied in Japan at an alumni gathering (Samoa) (Photo: JICA)

Foreign Student Projects

In 2005, the number of foreign students in Japan exceeded 120,000. Japan actively accepts foreign students, and a budget of ¥42 billion was allocated as assistance through ODA to promote foreign student exchange projects in FY2006, including the acceptance of government-financed foreign students. About 73.5% of foreign students from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are satisfied with study in Japan, and more than 80% of ASEAN students who have studied in Japan are inclined to recommend studying in Japan to friends and others. In addition, about 70% of ASEAN students who have studied in Japan reported that their ability to speak Japanese and their understanding of the Japanese was useful to their work after they returned home because of their proficiency in Japanese and understanding of Japanese politics, economy, and society facilitated working with Japan.

    As an example of assistance to students from ASEAN countries, Japan has implemented a program with Malaysia through yen loans since 1992. In this program, known as the Higher Education Loan Fund Project (HELP), Malaysian students study for two or three years at an educational institution in their country, taking a course which includes preliminary studies, the Japanese language, and subjects usually offered in the first and second years of college. After the completion of the above study, they study at Japanese universities. As of April 2006, 669 students had studied in Japan. Malaysia has set a policy goal of becoming an industrialized country by 2020, and is channeling effort into economic development based on advanced science and technology and into the human resource development needed to achieve it. As part of efforts to reach this goal, Malaysia has been sending students and trainees to Japan under the "Look East Policy," which sets the economy and society of East Asian countries, including Japan and the ROK, as a role model.

A reception party held in Tokyo for Malaysian students studying in Japan (Photo: JBIC)
A reception party held in Tokyo for Malaysian students studying in Japan (Photo: JBIC)

    After they return home, many of the former exchange students and trainees seek employment with Japanese-affiliated companies in Malaysia or enter graduate school, and some find employment in research institutions or as professors in universities and other institutions of higher education. Thus, they use the knowledge and experience they gained through study in Japan to contribute to the economic development of Malaysia. HELP has been highly praised as a program that contributes to human resource development in Malaysia.

    In a new development of the Look East Policy, the Government of Japan, in cooperation with the Government of Malaysia, promotes the Malaysia Japan International University of Technology (MJIUT) project. With a view to the human resource development throughout the ASEAN region, this project aims to educate students in an environment with Japanese culture, values and work ethics and build a Japanese-type university in Malaysia. MJIUT is scheduled to be opened in the year 2009. Japan has dispatched three experts to the Malaysia Japan University Center (MJUC) established under the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia.

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)

Contrary to programs to receive trainees and foreign students in Japan is the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV). The program sends volunteers from Japan to developing countries. Under JOCV, young men and women aged 20 to 39 are sent as volunteers to developing countries where they live and work alongside the people of these countries and provide assistance in fields including agriculture, forestry and fisheries, health and sanitation, education, and culture in a citizens-participatory manner to support the development of these countries. Since 1965 more than 28,000 volunteers have worked in 81 countries, and in FY2005, about 1,400 volunteers were dispatched overseas.

    An essential characteristic of volunteers in this program is that they not only work in the major cities of developing countries, but are also active on isolated islands and in villages. There, the volunteers can provide careful, detailed instruction to transfer knowledge and technology needed to overcome the problems faced by the local area. Through this work, volunteers have earned the appreciation of the people of developing countries and have received high praise. The results of volunteers' activities have not been limited to improvements in specialized areas such as agricultural technology, school education, and health services. They also contribute to improving the punctuality and work attitudes of residents of the concerned areas and of the people working in related organizations, encouraging people to reexamine and re-realize their country's culture and values. In addition, the activities of volunteers help to promote friendship and mutual understanding with the developing countries at the grass-roots level.

    An example of promoting friendship and mutual understanding can be given in the case of volunteers working as Japanese teachers. As of April 2006, about 1,400 Japanese teachers had been dispatched to 65 countries as volunteers. One of such volunteers, Ms. Azusa Mikami, was dispatched to Vanuatu, which is located near Australia. There, Ms. Mikami said that she teaches not only Japanese, but also patiently tells students to take proper attitudes for classroom learning and not to carelessly discard trash. As a result, she now sees some students voluntarily advise their friends not to litter in public spaces.

Ms.Mikami inspecting students' Japanese writing exercise (Photo: JICA)
Ms.Mikami inspecting students' Japanese writing exercise (Photo: JICA)

    Another example concerns the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where many people lack knowledge of Japan. Since it has been only four years since volunteers were dispatched to this island and there are only 10 volunteers working there, an event was planned to increase people's knowledge of Japan and the volunteers. This event, entitled "Japan Day—Hajimemashite, Konnichiwa" featuring various attractions such as Japanese food booths and animated films, attracted many people. Impressed by the favorable reactions of the local people to Japan, Ms. Keiko Matsumura, one of the volunteers involved in planning this event, thought that it gave her a good opportunity to think about how we can understand different cultures, and that this experience would be useful in continuing her volunteer activities.

A visitor experiencing origami art for the first time with the guidance of Ms. Murakami (Photo: JICA)
A visitor experiencing origami art for the first time with the guidance of Ms. Murakami (Photo: JICA)

    Another example is given by Mr. Kohei Yamada, who was dispatched to Malawi to work for rural development. Besides performing work such as setting up irrigation facilities, Mr. Kohei Yamada wrote a song for people infected with HIV/AIDS which rose to No. 1 on the country's hit chart. It is reported that, as a result, the number of people receiving AIDS examinations has gradually increased.

Children listening to Mr. Yamada's songs (Photo: JICA)
Children listening to Mr. Yamada's songs (Photo: JICA)

    According to an evaluation concerning JICA's volunteer program,5 the percentage of beneficiaries of volunteer activities who had a favorable impression of Japan and the Japanese doubled after the volunteers started work. As shown in the above examples, the main reason for this favorable impression was that the activities of volunteers enabled the local people to deepen their understanding of Japanese attitudes toward work, Japan's technology and institutions, and Japanese society, culture, and language.

Column I-1 Bringing People Together through Assistance: The Hussain Sagar Lake and Catchment Area Improvement Project in India