Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2006

Main Text > Part II ODA DISBURSEMENTS IN FISCAL YEAR 2005 > Chapter 2 Details about Japan's ODA > Section 3. Assistance for Each Region > 7. Oceania

7. Oceania

Japan's bilateral ODA to Oceania (the Pacific Island Countries) in 2005 was approximately US$96.97 million, 0.9% of total bilateral ODA.

    Japan and Oceania, which share the Pacific Ocean, have strong historical ties and maintain friendly relations. Countries in this region have an immense Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The region provides an important fishing ground for Japan's deep-sea fisheries industry, as well as strategic stops for maritime transportation. As such, peace and prosperity in this region are extremely important for Japan.

    Many Pacific Island countries have achieved independence relatively recently and the priority issues are to establish socially and economically self-reliant states. In addition, these countries face a number of common difficulties peculiar to island nations, such as small-scale economies, dependence on primary industries, geographic dispersion, lack of access to international markets, vulnerability to natural disasters, the risk of losing land territory, and others. Based on such circumstances, and as a friendly partner in the Pacific region, Japan provides assistance while taking into account the individual situation of each country.

    The Pacific Island region is divided into three major regions of Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.52 Each area has its own unique ethnic groups, traditional societies, and geological characteristics.

    Chart II-32 Japan's Assistance Disbursements in the Oceania

Chart II-32 Japan's Assistance Disbursements in the Oceania

    Some countries in Melanesia are in difficult economic situations, in terms of national income, and have high development demands. Among them are the Solomon Islands, where the domestic politics had been unstable for a long time. However, since public security in the islands improved significantly in recent years, Japan resumed in May 2005 its dispatch of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), which had been halted since June 2000. Also in 2005 Japan installed additional power generation facilities and upgraded an electrical switching facility through the Project for the Improvement of the Honiara Power Supply. Combined with the reconstruction of the Honiara International Airport in 2004, this project is implemented to assist the national reconstruction of the Solomon Islands. On the other hand, there are countries like Fiji, which has a large population and economy and is relatively more developed. Fiji is one of the best known tourist spots in the Pacific, where many head offices for regional agencies such as the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) are located. Japan dispatches experts in health care, fisheries, the environment, and other fields, along with other assistance for development to promote economic independence of Fiji. In addition, Japan has been implementing a project to strengthen preventive vaccinations programs and a project to provide remote education programs to USP and to enhance information and communication technology as part of broad-ranging cooperation for not only Fiji, but also the Asia-Pacific region. In Papua New Guinea, Japan has been implementing a technical cooperation project to promote small-scale rice farming that would help raise income and reduce disparities among regions. Aside from which, Japan has also assisted in improving the quality of learning at primary and secondary schools in outlying regions which are far removed from cities by means of projects to improve learning through television programs.

A project to improve learning through television programs in Papua New Guinea
A project to improve learning through television programs in Papua New Guinea

    In the Micronesian region many countries were governed by Japan before the Second World War as South Sea Islands under the League of Nations mandate. After the war, these were governed by the United States under the trusteeship of the United Nations and later gained independence. Many Japanese descendants, including a number of former presidents, have actively taken part in the region's political and business circles. To date, the tendency to rely on financial support from the United States still remains strong. However, the United States adopts a limited time frame for assistance and, therefore, expectations toward Japan and the role for Japan to fulfill in order for Micronesian countries to achieve economic independence have been expanding. In addition, due to the geographical situation in the Micronesian region, being rich in coral reef and atolls, but poor in underground resources, and the dispersion of their territory over a large area, it is extremely difficult to achieve economic development. Therefore, assistance remains essential for this region to gain economic independence. Japan has been providing assistance to improve national infrastructure and promote industries through grant aid. Examples of this include the Project for Improvement of the Circumferential Road in the Pohnpei Island in Micronesia, and the Project for Improvement of Interisland Access Road in Palau.

    Polynesia is made up of countries such as Tonga and Samoa, which are volcanic islands, whose land is relatively fertile and well suited for agriculture, and small island states and regions such as Tuvalu, the Cook Islands and Niue which are formed by coral reefs. Japan dispatched individual experts to Samoa to provide guidance on utilizing facility equipment and computer maintenance at the National University of Samoa, which was constructed through grant aid. Assistance is also provided to develop human resources in Samoa by improving a vocational school. In addition, for Tuvalu Japan has been providing assistance for the improvement of Funafuti Atoll's power supply facilities.

    Japan has been promoting cooperation with the PIF, a framework for regional cooperation composed of the leaders of the Oceanian countries. The Japan-Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Summit Meeting, a leaders' meeting of Japan and the PIF countries, was held three times, in 1997, 2000, and 2003. The Third Japan-PIF Summit Meeting was held in Okinawa, which shares common characteristics with the island countries of the Pacific such as 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 discussions and the Koizumi initiative on concrete measures announced at the WSSD in September 2002. The Okinawa Initiative contains a strategy and an action plan for Japan and the Oceanian countries to think together 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 the following five priority sectors: security, environment, education, health, and trade. As specific examples, in the area of education, Japan announced that it would implement new construction, expansion, renovation, or equipment provision for 100 primary education facilities such as elementary schools over a period of three years, and has already achieved this target by providing assistance to more than 100 schools. In the area of health and environment, Japan has steadily implemented assistance in line with the Okinawa Initiative, through training, dispatch of experts, etc. In October 2005 the Pacific Plan, which was formulated by the PIF based on the Okinawa Initiative, was adopted. The plan is a set of guidelines for self-help efforts on the part of Pacific countries and intra-regional cooperation. Furthermore, Japan announced assistance based on the Pacific Plan at the Fourth Japan-PIF Summit Meeting held in May 2006 again in Okinawa.

    Japan provides assistance for environmental conservation and the provision of educational services through transnational, region-wide cooperation in order to carry out efficient and effective assistance that takes into account the geographic dispersion of the Pacific Island region. In the area of environmental conservation, Japan provided grant aid to build a Training Education Center to assist the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) agricultural organization. In addition, Japan has been contributing to solving regional environmental problems by dispatching experts and providing training in waste management for the SPREP, and by drafting a waste management master plan for the island countries. In the provision of educational services, Japan offers opportunities to a wider wider range of people in the island nations to receive higher education through facilitating remote education networks at the USP.