Japan is the world’s largest bilateral donor, spending over US$13 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2000. Despite domestic pressure to reduce ODA owing to the struggling economy, efforts are being made to sustain the level and make it more effective. One approach to increasing effectiveness has been greater involvement of NGOs.
Since 1989 the Japanese Government has made increasing efforts to channel ODA through NGOs. Japanese NGOs that carry out development work overseas are eligible to receive ODA funds through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) through five separate schemes.
Grants under the Grassroots Projects is the one scheme within which grants are not always made to Japanese NGOs. They may be made to Japanese NGOs if their activities in the recipient countries are long-standing and well established at grassroots level. Alternatively, Japanese governmental establishments or embassies overseas with in-depth knowledge of their respective host countries may play a key role in funding relatively small projects implemented by local organizations.
The government also participates in forums for dialogue and exchange of views with NGOs. Regular NGO-MOFA meetings were established in 1996 and the NGO-JICA dialogue in 1998. In 2000, the ‘Japan Platform’ was set up. This is a partnership between government, NGOs and business, with each contributing resources and expertise to provide emergency relief for natural disasters and refugees. In 2000, 580 million yen was designated for it.
While government-NGO partnerships have been increasing, there is still a long way to go. Development of a fully-fledged partnership will depend on greater appreciation by government of the effective contributions NGOs can make in development assistance and growth of the expertise and institutional infrastructure of NGOs.
Tadashi Yamamoto is President of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) and Laura Potter is a Program Associate at JCIE. They can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com