Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2009

Global Financial and Economic Crisis and Assistance to Developing Countries

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama delivering an address at the 64th United Nations General Assembly

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama delivering an address at the 64th United Nations General Assembly (Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

In September 2009, a new government headed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was inaugurated. In his address at the 64th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) which he attended shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Hatoyama presented the new government's policy on official development assistance (ODA). "Even in the twenty-first century, the world has not been liberated from the problems of poverty, infectious diseases, health, education, water and sanitation, food and illegal drugs. The situation is particularly serious in developing countries. I am also compelled to point out the unfortunate reality that fragile or failed States can become breeding grounds for terrorism. The global economic crisis that began last year has been exacerbating the situation." In this context, "Japan will work in partnership with international organizations and NGOs and strengthen its assistance to developing countries in terms of both quality and quantity. Japan intends to continue and strengthen the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process, and redouble its efforts towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the promotion of human security."

Prime Minister Hatoyama pledged to make every effort to ensure the new Japan become a "bridge" between developed and developing countries. However, as the Japanese economy experiences the serious impact of the global financial and economic crisis since September 2008, the question of "why must Japan assist developing countries" is being asked more than ever before.

Amidst the dramatically changing international situation and tough economic conditions, development needs are diversified and incremented in developing countries. As described in Chapter 1 and the subsequent sections, it is Japan's responsibility as a major country as well as Japan's own national interest to become a "bridge" between developed and developing countries by tackling the common challenges facing the international community, i.e., responses to the current financial and economic crisis, African development, assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and assistance to Pakistan, and environmental and climate change issues.

Japan clearly states in its ODA Charter that the objectives of ODA are "to contribute to the peace and development of the international community, and thereby help ensure Japan's own security and prosperity." It also identifies ODA as the most suitable policy for Japan, a nation aspiring for world peace, to gain sympathy and support from the international community. Part I will begin by reiterating the significance and necessity of ODA, followed by a thorough discussion of Japan's development efforts which are one component of the measures to promote global economic recovery—a priority issue of the international community of the present—as well as efforts to address the issues such as conflict and terrorism and to the global issues such as the environment and climate change.

ODA is one of the most important and effective tools to address the challenges confronting the international community, and by extension to advance Japan's national interests. ODA is an indispensable policy tool for contributing to the peace and stability of the world through peaceful means, and creating a desirable international environment for Japan. Japan's ODA is expected to further increase its strategic value, mobility, transparency, and efficiency in accordance with the aid principles which have been established based on Japan's prior assistance experience and record. It is also expected to promote a deeper understanding of the objectives of ODA and the importance of its use, both domestically and internationally, through broad public participation. Japan's ODA marked its 55th year in October 2009. Japan's efforts to draw on its assistance experience while taking the lead in the development field and contributing to the development of developing countries are now more significant than ever.

Despite the tough economic and fiscal conditions, Japan will make active use of ODA and strive to enhance its strategic contributions to the international community. In addition, Japan will continue to make its unceasing effort to further promote ODA reforms, such as improvements in aid effectiveness and development effectiveness and in the assistance implementation system to make Japan's ODA even better.

The Significance and Necessity of Japanese ODA: Why Does Japan Assist Developing Countries?

After World War II, with the assistance of the United States (US) and World Bank, Japan strove to reconstruct its economy and achieve stability by its own efforts and through economic prosperity and democracy, Japan has built a prosperous society in which each and every citizen enjoys peace and happiness. Meanwhile, ever since Japan started economic cooperation in 1954 (Note 1), through ODA it has made significant contributions to the promotion of sustainable economic development and poverty reduction as well as the improvement of the people's livelihoods in developing countries, beginning with East Asia. Japan, a prosperous society with the world's second largest economy, has a large responsibility as a major country in the world to promote the economic and social development of developing countries and take steps to solve global challenges, and to demonstrate leadership in building a world where all people can live humanly and peacefully.

It is the harsh reality that many people in the world continue to suffer from extreme poverty and hunger. The international community cannot ignore this reality from a humanitarian standpoint. As globalization progresses, the international community is faced with numerous issues that require a coordinated response, such as environment and climate change issues, the spread of infectious diseases, and the financial and economic crisis. These issues have a large impact on the lives of people beyond borders. If nothing is done, they will threaten the human dignity of the people who have been left behind by economic development, and will become a direct threat to Japan's own interest. There is thus an ever-growing need to step up global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and ODA is playing an important role in these efforts. Japan attaches importance in ensuring human security by addressing, through ODA, the direct threats to individuals that cannot be addressed merely through protection of a state as before. The Hatoyama Cabinet has repeatedly pledged, with regard to assistance to developing countries, that Japan will re-double its efforts towards the achievement of the MDGs and the promotion of human security.

Japan's prosperity today has not been established by Japan alone. Japan enjoys the benefits of free trade in the international community, and is dependent on overseas sources for much of its resources, energy, and food in the context of such interdependence, Japan must continue to ensure its survival and prosperity. Thus, it is essential for Japan, which obtains tremendous benefits from its partnership and cooperation with the international community, to work towards building a peaceful and stable international environment through the strategic use of ODA.

Japan's contribution to the development of developing countries for over half a century has enhanced its friendly relations with these countries and promoted mutual understandings with them at the grassroots level. Furthermore, it has been largely fruitful also in strengthening the trust in Japan as well as Japan's assertiveness in the international community. If Japan takes a leading role in harnessing its ODA to address the development of developing countries and to tackle global challenges, this will improve Japan's reputation among the international community, and consequently, strengthen its diplomatic foundations and ensure its security and prosperity.


(1) On October 6, 1954, Japan joined the Colombo Plan (a regional cooperation organization which was founded in January 1950 to promote the economic and social development of Asian and Pacific countries) and began providing technical cooperation.