Japan’s aid guided by clear vision and priorities but should focus on countries and people most in need


17/07/2014 - Japan has increased its spending on official development assistance (ODA) and is showing more global leadership, but needs to pay more attention to where it is spending the money and increase its focus on results and transparency.


In a new Peer Review of Japan, the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) commended Japan for increasingly exerting global leadership and influence in areas such as disaster risk reduction and universal health coverage. It has also launched a series of new global initiatives in climate change finance and women’s empowerment which should further enhance its influence and impact at the global level.


The Review states that Japan increased its ODA by 36.6% between 2012 and 2013. Japan’s net ODA was USD 11.8 billion in 2013. A debt cancellation for Myanmar and increases in bilateral lending were the main reasons for the rise in spending. As a result, its ODA to Gross National Income (GNI) ratio rose to 0.23% from 0.17% in 2012. This means Japan is now the DAC’s fourth largest donor in volume terms, yet its ODA ratio remains well below the 0.7% UN target for ODA/GNI.


Japan provides aid to about140 countries. Most (70%) is allocated to middle income Asian countries. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) received about a quarter of Japan’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC average of 41%. The DAC recommends that Japan continue scaling up its support to countries where assistance is most needed, including LDCs, bearing in mind international commitments. It also has recommendations for measuring and monitoring its impact on poverty reduction in all aspects of its co-operation.


“On the 60th anniversary of its development assistance, Japan can take pride in becoming the 4th largest DAC donor and an increasingly effective partner in development,” said DAC Chair Erik Solheim.  “Japan will be better able to demonstrate its achievements by bringing a sharper results focus to all of its work, including the ability to show how its co-operation is supporting efforts to reduce poverty in the many countries in which it works.”


Japan has fully or partially implemented 12 of the 19 recommendations from the DAC’s 2010 review. Recommendations not addressed include areas of continuing focus for the DAC, such as the need to reduce the share of tied aid and the need for more flexibility when working in fragile states.


The latest Review also continues to recommend that Japan take a more strategic, better resourced and targeted approach to communications. This would help build better understanding and support among the Japanese people for development assistance. And while the review found increased efforts to improve transparency, Japan will need to do more if it is to comply with transparency commitment by 2015.


Each DAC member is reviewed every 4-5 years as a way to monitor its development co-operation performance, hold it accountable for past commitments and recommend improvements. Led by two DAC members, a review typically takes 6-8 months and uses input from the reviewed country government and officials, and civil society, the private sector and other donors in developing countries. Read more here.


For further information on the review, journalists should contact Rahul Malhotra (tel. + 33 1 45 24 15 07) of the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate. For any other queries, or to request a copy of the review, journalists should contact the OECD’s Media Division (+33 1 45 24 97 00).


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