The year of 2015 is signified with symbolic moments for transformation – Japanese government renewed its Official Development Assistance (ODA) policy in February 2015 and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)in September 2015. Along these changes, Japan established “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Promotion Headquarters” and the theme of sustainable development has become one of the important topics at the G20 Summit at Ise-Shima, Japan this year. While Japan’s behaviors toward the international community may show its serious commitments with global issues, however, it is also relevant to steer our attention to its foreign policymaking, especially with its transforming nature of pacifism under the banner of “proactive contribution to peace (or proactive pacifism)”. Taking into account changing international environments and reconsideration in dealing with global issues, this article focuses on Japan’s changing ODA policymaking with its new charter called “Development Cooperation Charter” and its inclusion of proactive pacifism. By doing so, it also illustrates existing controversies about Japan’s new ODA policymaking considering the absence of non-state actors’ influences as well as transforming nature of pacifism which remains under controversies.
Development of Japan’s ODA Policymaking
Japan’s ODA policy evolved over the course of the Cold War period and has evolved as a ‘global civilian power’, becoming the UN’s second largest donor in the 1990s and the largest provider of ODA from 1991 – 2000. Even though Japan was an ODA recipient in the 1950s and 1960s, it expanded its aid in the late 1980s. It further garnered its ability as an ‘aid great power’, serving the ODA as a pillar of Japan’s foreign policy. Especially, between 1979 and 1985, ODA has become “an increasingly flexible multi-purpose and multi-dimensional pillar of Japan’s overall foreign policy”. After the Gulf War, introducing the concept of ‘human security’, the 1992 ODA Charter emphasizes poverty relief, human rights, democracy, and environment, and even reduced military spending. In addition, NGOs have also played a bigger role in influencing the ODA policy. In 2003, the Charter was revised by including the aspects of peacekeeping, counter-terrorism and other missions where the linkage between aid and security became more visible. Furthermore, in February 2010, the then Foreign Minister Okada instructed Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to conduct a holistic review of Japan’s ODA, a process in which NGOs also participated. Later on, MOFA released ‘2013 Priority Policy for International Cooperation’ in order to improve quality of the ODA program through expanding partnerships with players outside the government ministries and JICA, which include civil society, small and medium-sized enterprises and other private companies, local governments and universities.
Development Cooperation Charter and SDGs
In February 2015, the ODA Charter, or “Development Cooperation Charter”, was revised in line with “proactive contribution to peace”, which is understood as proactive pacifism, while the human security concept remains as the core concept. The content of the new 2015 Development Cooperation Charter with its linkage to Japan’s 2013 National Security Strategy aims to secure Japan’s national interest and pursue aim as a proactive provider of peace with a provision to provide assistance to recipients armed forces for nonmilitary purposes. MOFA notes that the new ODA Charter is in line with Goal 16 of the SDGs as “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development” and sets concrete targets such as promoting the rule of law, combating organized crime, and providing assistance for building capacity to prevent violence and combat terrorism. It also remarks that “Japan, as a ‘Proactive Contributor to Peace’ based on the principle of international cooperation, will more proactively carry out development cooperation that contributes to ‘quality growth’ globally, making use of ‘All-Japan’ partnerships that include the private and public sectors, NGOs, and local governments, by upholding principles such as human security and assistance for self-help efforts”. It further notes that Japan will take a leading role in promoting quality infrastructure investment not only in Asia, but also across the world including Africa.
Controversies about “Proactive-ness” of Peace
Although the new charter maintains some of the key aspects of the previous charters including human security, poverty alleviation, health, women’s welfare and so on, it has introduced some new and controversial agendas as part of its aid program. Firstly, it has been criticized for its use of aid to bolster its national interest is another key policy change in Japan’s ODA objectives. While national interest implicitly guided Japan’s aid policy in the past, it is indeed the first time that it has been explicitly stated in a government document and defended by the MOFA and Japan’s aid agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Kitaoka Shinichi (2016), who is President of JICA and also served the Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, notes that “national interest boils down to safety, freedom, and prosperity of the Japanese people … and for the country to be respected by the international community”.Furthermore, in February 2010, the then Foreign Minister Okada instructed Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to conduct a holistic review of Japan’s ODA, a process in which NGOs also participated. Later on, MOFA released ‘2013 priority policy for international cooperation’ in order to improve quality of the ODA program through expanding partnerships with players outside the government ministries and JICA, which include civil society, small and medium-sized enterprises and other private companies, local governments and universities.
This may lead to the second point of criticism about the closer linkage between aid and security. It is said that this new Charter “marks a complete departure from the traditional policy based on a nonmilitary principle” by calling strategic use of ODA and linking overseas aids with SDF’s PKO and other oversea missions. Civil society organizations (CSOs) even made an urgent statement immediately after its announcement on the new Chapter, emphasizing the two following recommendations; 1) strictly adhere to “the Principle of Non-militarism” and 2) further strengthen cooperation with CSOs/NGOs of both developing countries and Japan to eradicate poverties and genuinely realize “Inclusive Growth”. While the report appraised its inclusion of “Promoting Women’s Participation” as one of the principles many concerns were raised by the CSOs Partnership including the issues of linkage between aid and security as the biggest concern. In September 2014, nine major NGO networks in Japan issued a joint appeal, “Japanese NGOs’ 10 Recommendations for Revision of Japan’s ODA Charter,” claiming poverty eradication as its prime goal instead of economic growth, as well as the importance of nonmilitary principles.
Furthermore, even though the need for expansion for partnerships in the realm of the ODA programs are acknowledged, Jain (2016) notes that their overall influence on policy-making and the budgetary processes still remains minimal even though MOFA’s “2013 Priority Policy for International Cooperation”. Ohashi (2016), who also participated as the member to review the ODA Charter in 2015,remarks that “Regrettably, the new Development Cooperation Charter hardly reﬂects any of the NGO points. On the contrary, it seems very nationalistic and narrow minded, with large gray zones around the use of ODA for prohibited military purposes, and prioritizes the economic growth of developing countries as well as short-term beneﬁts for Japanese private companies”. In this regard, even though some aspects of the ODA can be linked to the goals of SDGs, it is observable that quite a few concerns were considered taking into account changing features of pacifism in the name of proactive pacifism and nearly absent role of non-state actors in exerting influences on policymaking.
This article illustrates the ways in which Japan has developed its ODA policymaking considering changing international environments. Japan’s commitments in Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) may exhibit its seriousness in the realm of assisting developing countries. However, while it is observable that Japan and international community in general steering their attentions to sustainability of development, there has been no consensus about the features of pacifism in Japan. Indeed, whereas it is also said thatJapan had difficulty in gaining understanding from the international community because the concept of human security was confused with Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Japan has been attempting to revise its ODA policymaking taking into account transforming international environment with emerging challenges. Nonetheless, this seems to require more collaboration not only limited at governmental level but also civilian levels to create consensual view on Japan’s pacifist identity. In order to obtain the targets of SDGs and considering Japan’s past engagement with the ODA, it is crucial to seriously take actions as proactive pacifist country with inclusion of relevant actors in conducting ODA programs.