From mid-September to mid-October, as students and concerned citizens ‘stood up’ across Japan to call on governments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and create a just Post-2015 sustainable development agenda, GCAP Japan has been working to shape how Japan delivers foreign aid.
Japan – one of the world’s largest international donors – is in the process of revising the charter that governs its Official Development Assistance (ODA). In 2013, Japan spent US$11.79 billion on ODA, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It ranks 4th among OECD countries in terms of absolute numbers, but just 18th in terms of percentage of national income.
GCAP Japan (Ugoku/Ugokasu) wants its government to not only spend more, but also to ensure that the funds are used to alleviate poverty, reduce inequalities and support equitable societies. Together with nine other civil society networks, representing some 480 organisations, GCAP Japan is presenting the Japanese government with a list of 10 Key Recommendations for the country’s ODA Charter.
“International development cooperation should not be regarded just as means to serve diplomatic and economic benefits of Japan,” the civil society statement proclaims. “It should have an internationally shared common goal to support the self-reliance of the people of developing countries. Japan’s ODA should enhance its strategic edge by highlighting its peaceful and humanitarian principles.”
The civil society document also calls on Japanese ODA to focus on fundamental human rights – including universal access to primary education and basic healthcare, promote environmental conservation and to affirm the ‘principle of non-militarism’ so that military expenditures, even if related to deployments to disaster areas, not be counted as official development assistance.
“Economic growth alone cannot solve the problems of the world’s poor,” notes the statement. “We need equitable redistribution of wealth and strong public sector that provides social services required for human dignities, on top of ‘inclusive, sustainable, resilient growth’.”
GCAP Japan and other civil society activists drove this message home on 17 October during a Stand Up Take Action event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.