At a glance
ODA funding trends
- Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) stood at US$17.6 billion in 2021 (current prices), making Japan the third-largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Donor Assistance Committee (DAC) donor country in absolute terms and the largest in Asia. ODA represents 0.34% of Japan’s gross national income (GNI).
- Japan’s total ODA in fiscal year (FY) 2022 (April 2022 to March 2023) is estimated to decrease by 10%, compared to FY2021. Projections may not hold considering recent changes in the international geopolitical space including the COVID-19 response and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, among other global crises. The government aims to increase its overall ODA, as it announced plans to review its current ‘Development Cooperation Charter’ at the end of 2022.
- Japan historically focuses its support through bilateral ODA (83% of total ODA in 2020), with contributions to multilaterals as a share of total ODA (17%) remaining well below the OECD DAC average (42%).
- Japan prioritizes self-reliant development, promotion of economic growth, and public-private partnerships (primarily with Japanese companies) in its ‘Development Cooperation Charter.’ As a result, a majority of Japan’s ODA is channeled through loans, typically of a concessional nature with below-market interest rates and long repayment periods.
- Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ strategy focuses on connecting Africa and Asia to promote sustainable growth in the two regions. Japan’s strong focus on Asia is expected to remain due to the country’s close economic, diplomatic, and geographic ties to the region. Japan is strengthening its relationship with Africa, particularly in the areas of governance and infrastructure development.
- Japan has structured its international response to COVID-19 under two main themes: 1) promoting health and ‘human security’ through multilateral health initiatives and health systems strengthening with a focus on Africa and Asia and 2) addressing the economic impacts of the pandemic through financial assistance to partner countries and support for sustainable and long-term economic growth initiatives.
- Prime Minister Fumio Kishida assumed office in October of 2021, following the resignation of former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Since assuming office, Kishida has emphasized his commitment to tackling global challenges such as climate change, the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and poverty reduction.
- Japan has also expressed commitment to establishing increased development cooperation in Africa in light of policy shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), Japan aims at setting a pathway for African development recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. TICAD has been spearheaded by the Japanese government since 1993, and the next conference will take place in Tunisia in August 2022.
- As it prepares to host the G7 presidency in 2023, Japan has taken bold steps to strengthen its role in global health security and global development cooperation as a whole. Japan announced plans to review its ODA guidelines with the aim of increasing its total ODA budget after 2023. In May of 2022, Japan finalized its new ‘Global Health Strategy,’ which will focus on pandemic prevention and preparedness, and on achieving a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable UHC.
Japan is the largest donor in Asia
Japan’s total ODA was US$17.6 billion in 2021 (current prices), making it the third-largest donor country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the largest donor in Asia. Japan’s ODA in 2021 was 12% higher than 2020 (increasing from US$16.3 billion to US$18.2 billion, in constant 2020 prices).
In 2021, Japan was the 12th-largest DAC donor relative to its gross national income (GNI), spending 0.34% of its GNI on ODA. This also represents an increase from 2020, when Japan spent 0.31% of its GNI on ODA.
Current projections and budget trends show Japan’s total ODA is expected to decrease between 2021 and 2022. Japan’s ODA budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022 – which runs from April to March – shows an expected decrease of 10%, which would bring Japan’s total ODA in 2022 to approximately US$16.4 billion. These projections may not hold given the changes in the international geopolitical space, including the COVID-19 response and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, among other global crises. The government recently announced plans to review its ODA guidelines with the aim of increasing its total ODA after 2023.
As a result of the OECD DAC’s ‘grant-equivalent’ methodology, Japan’s ODA in 2021 (US$18.2 billion, in 2020 constant prices) was 12% higher than its net ODA would have been based on the former ‘cash-flow’ methodology. Starting with ODA figures for 2018, the OECD DAC uses a new ‘grant-equivalent’ methodology to calculate headline ODA figures, which is intended to better reflect donors’ “effort.” Under the previous ‘cash-flow’ basis system, all loans were awarded the same value and net ODA was calculated by subtracting loan repayments from each donor’s gross ODA disbursements. According to the new ‘grant-equivalent’ methodology, only the ‘grant’ portions of loans made by donor countries are counted toward ODA, meaning that more concessional loans represent a higher ODA value than less concessional loans. Japan disburses a large amount of its ODA as highly concessional loans, which accounts for the significant change in Japan’s total ODA under the new system.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
Japan focuses its ODA on Asia; support is increasing for economic development in Africa
Japan’s long-term development objectives are defined in its ‘Development Cooperation Charter,’ which was devised in 2015. Though approved before the finalization of the 2030 agenda, the charter broadly aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The charter identifies three priority areas: 1) realization of ‘quality growth’ and poverty reduction; 2) maintaining a peaceful and secure society, including good governance, peacebuilding, and humanitarian assistance; and 3) building a resilient and sustainable international community by addressing global issues such as environmental and climate change, infectious diseases, and food and energy issues. Japanese development cooperation further commits itself to an overarching focus on human security, gender, peace and prosperity, and self-reliant development and collaboration based on Japan’s experience and expertise.
Partnerships with governments have been a principal focus in Japan’s development policy, but there is expansion towards partnering with the private sector and a wide range of civil society organizations. Priorities also include aligning development programming with Japan’s overall strategic, foreign policy, and national interests.
Asia remains the priority region in Japan’s development cooperation, as it highlights the need for regional connectivity. This has been reflected in past ODA spending. However, Japan has also strengthened its development focus on Africa in line with the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ strategy introduced by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016 and endorsed by current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The strategy focuses on connecting Africa and Asia to promote sustainable growth in the two regions. Official development assistance (ODA) plays an important role in the strategy and involves capacity strengthening and “quality infrastructure” building in Africa and Asia. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Japanese government has focused its support for Africa under three primary themes: 1) strengthening Africa’s capacity to respond to COVID-19, 2) building resilient and inclusive health and medical systems, and 3) responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.
Japan’s short-term development priorities are set in its annual ‘Priority Policy for International Cooperation’ document and are foreshadowed in the annual budget released months earlier. The Priority Policy has contained the same broad priorities since fiscal year (FY) 2016:
1) Peace and stability within the international community;
2) Responding to global challenges;
3) Economic diplomacy; and
4) Promotion of "high-quality growth".
The government emphasizes the role of ODA as a strategic diplomatic and economic instrument in the ‘Development Cooperation Charter’ and the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ strategy. This involves, for example, making use of bilateral ODA over multilateral, as well as approval to use ODA to support foreign military forces for “non-military purposes.” These trends underscore Japan’s explicit references in its foreign policy documents to promoting national interests through ODA.
Japan has structured its international response to the COVID-19 crisis under the themes of health or ‘human security,’ and economic recovery. Within these themes, Japan is prioritizing three pillars through its development assistance:
1) Supporting immediate COVID-19 response through the strengthened capacity for health services, vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics;
2) Advancing long-term health systems strengthening in partner countries; and
3) Promoting broader health security through support for sectors including water and sanitation, nutrition, education, and gender equality.
Japan's key development priorities:
- Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Supporting economic development in Africa and Asia and connectivity between these two regions;
- Global health: Expanding universal health coverage and investing more in managing infectious diseases including COVID-19 through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and
- Infrastructure: Enabling strong and sustainable growth through funding (primarily loans) for core infrastructure projects such as transportation, energy, and natural resource development.
More than three quarters Japan’s ODA is provided bilaterally
Japan provides most of its official development assistance (ODA) bilaterally (83% in 2020, the last year for which complete data is available). This is well above the 58% average among members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the same year.
Japan prefers to channel the majority (83%) of its bilateral ODA through the public sector compared to other members of the DAC (DAC average: 46%). Much less bilateral ODA is channeled through multilateral organizations (10%; DAC average: 22%) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs: 1%; DAC average: 19%).
Japan provides most of its bilateral ODA in the form of loans with an emphasis on infrastructure
Japan channels its bilateral ODA mostly as loans: 68% in 2020, which is six times greater than the DAC average of 11%. This is largely explained by Japan’s focus on infrastructure projects, most of which are supported by loans. Japan’s loans typically feature long grace periods and low-interest rates, which means a large portion of these loans qualify as ODA under the OECD DAC’s ‘grant-equivalent’ methodology (see our Codebook for more information). Japan’s use of loans in ODA is expected to increase further.
Japan allocates the largest share of its bilateral ODA to infrastructure projects. In 2020, funding to this sector stood at US$4.8 billion, which accounted for more than a quarter (29%) of Japan’s bilateral ODA. The second-largest share of bilateral ODA in 2020 went toward general budget support (13%, or US$2.2 billion) followed by the energy sector (11%, or US$1.9 billion), and multi-sector activities (10%, or US$1.7 billion).
Japan focuses its bilateral ODA on lower-middle income countries in Asia, with an increasing focus on Africa
The largest share of Japan’s bilateral ODA goes to lower-middle-income countries: 66% in 2020, compared to the OECD DAC average of 23% for these countries. This is due in large part to Japan’s focus on Asian countries.
In 2020, Asian countries received 60% of Japan’s bilateral ODA overall. The largest recipients were Bangladesh (US$2.1 billion or 13% of bilateral ODA), India (US$1.8 billion, or 11%), and Indonesia (US$1.4 billion, or 8%). Most of this funding was disbursed as loans. According to Japan’s development policy framework, the ‘Development Cooperation Charter,’ Asia will remain Japan’s geographic focus.
Japan is nevertheless showing signs of increased focus on Africa. Japan has used the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) as a forum to push its African development agenda based on the principles of African ownership and international partnership, with the health sector being one of the priority areas. At the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) in August of 2019, Japan stressed its commitment to supporting private investment in Africa and launched the ‘Africa Health and Wellbeing Initiative,’ which aims to share Japan’s global health knowledge and technology with African countries. Japan has announced that TICAD VIII will be held in Tunisia in August 2022, the second time the conference will be held in Africa. Despite these initiatives, the African Union region designations of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa (referred to as ‘sub-Saharan Africa’) only accounted for 8% of Japan’s bilateral ODA in 2020, well below the DAC average of 21%.
Japan is the fifth-largest OECD DAC donor to multilaterals
Even with its current emphasis on bilateral spending, Japan was the fifth-largest donor to multilateral organizations with US$3.9 billion in core contributions in 2021 (current prices; according to the OECD’s grant-equivalent measurement system). In 2020, Japan channeled 17% of its total ODA to multilaterals, and this share has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years.
The largest multilateral recipients of financing in 2020 were the World Bank (32% of overall multilateral spending), UN agencies (19%), regional development banks (15%; mostly the Asian Development Fund and African Development Fund), and UN agencies (19%). Other large multilateral recipients include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) (14%), and the Green Climate Fund (11%).
Japan’s stable support to multilaterals can be partly explained by its leadership role in several major events and related multi-year pledges. In the lead up to its G7 presidency in 2016, Japan announced a range of funding commitments to multilateral organizations in health, women’s empowerment, and stabilization of the Middle East, including US$800 million to the Global Fund for the 2017-2019 replenishment period. Japan subsequently pledged an additional US$840 million to the fund for the 2020-2022 period.
Japan has also maintained its support to the African Development Fund (ADF). In February of 2021, it signed a US$668 million loan agreement to support the ADF’s 15th replenishment, making it the largest provider of concessional loans for the replenishment period (2020-2022). Japan contributed US$151 million in 2020 to ADF.
In addition to core contributions, Japan also channeled US$1.7 billion, or 9% of its total ODA in 2020, as earmarked funding through multilaterals, which is reported as bilateral ODA. This is below the DAC average of 14%. Such funding is earmarked for particular regions, countries, or themes, rather than contributing to a multilateral’s core funding, which can be spent at the multilateral’s discretion.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
For more granular and up-to-date development finance data on Japan, including information on where and in which sectors it is spending both ODA and non-ODA funds, please consult the IATI d-portal. IATI is a reporting standard and platform on which organizations and governments voluntarily publish data on their development cooperation.
MOFA steers policy; JICA leads implementation
Japan’s Prime Minister sets overarching priorities for development policy. In October of 2021, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (Liberal Democratic Party, LDP) took leadership of a conservative coalition government with the National Komeito Party (NKP). Kishida chairs the Cabinet Office’s Sustainable Development Goals Promotion Headquarters (SDGs HQ), which coordinates and aligns the government’s efforts to achieve the SDGs, both domestically and internationally. The SDGs HQ was established in May of 2016 by the Cabinet Office 2016, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), led by Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (LDP), sets development priorities in consultation with other ministries. Within MOFA, the International Cooperation Bureau (ICB) is responsible for designing development policy. ICB is currently led by Director-General Atsushi Ueno. ICB’s Global Issues Cooperation Division, led by Director Kazutaka Kawahara, is responsible for multilateral policy and some sector policies.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF), currently headed by Shunichi Suzuki (LDP) plays a key role in development finance, funding contributions to multilateral development banks, as well as official development assistance (ODA) loans that are implemented by Japan’s development agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Under the supervision of MOFA and MOF, JICA is responsible for implementing bilateral development assistance through loans, grants, and technical cooperation. It is headed by Shinichi Kitaoka and employs more than 1,900 people (as of 2020), including staff located across nearly 100 country offices.
Guided by the ‘Development Cooperation Charter,’ MOFA country assistance planning divisions draft five-year country assistance policies (CAPs) for selected partner countries, which outline priority areas for Japan’s bilateral development funding. CAP divisions consult recipient governments and seek input from Japan’s ODA task forces when developing CAPs. ODA task forces are in-country teams that coordinate bilateral ODA, usually made up of staff from embassies and JICA country offices.
The relevant stakeholders for in-country program planning are MOFA’s country assistance planning divisions (for grant assistance and technical cooperation), MOF’s International Bureau (for loans), and JICA’s human development, rural development, and regional departments.
Parliament: Japan’s Parliament, referred to as the ‘National Diet,’ is composed of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. Members of the Diet debate and vote on the national budget, including the budget allocations for ODA. In the House of Councillors, the ‘Special Committee on Official Development Assistance and Related Matters’ reviews the budget before it goes to the Cabinet for approval. The committee has significant influence over the strategic direction of development policy.
Civil Society: Since 2000, MOFA has increasingly promoted partnerships between the government and Japanese civil society organizations (CSOs). In 2015, MOFA and CSOs jointly released a five-year plan for their collaboration on development activities. No plans have been announced for a follow-up strategy. CSOs were responsible for only 1% of ODA spending in 2020, a share that has remained static over the past five years and is well below the DAC average of 19%. This can be partly explained by the type of ODA Japan focuses on — i.e., infrastructure projects — that is often implemented by private corporations. MOFA also organizes dialogues with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seven times a year. Important players are the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) and the Japan Platform (a humanitarian assistance organization), as well as three NGO networks: Ugoku, Japan Civil Society Network on Sustainable Development Goals, and the Global Compact Network Japan.
The Ministry of Finance manages the majority of ODA, largely consisting of loans
Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) comes from several budgetary sources. More than one-third (36%) of ODA in fiscal year (FY) 2022 comes from the General Account, which comprises the regular budget for all ministries. For FY2022, ODA from the General Account is budgeted at US$5.3 billion (¥561 billion; see table below). Additional ODA comes from various other budget sources, including the Special Account, the Ministry of Finance’s Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP), and capital from Japan’s development agency (Japan International Cooperation Agency; JICA). Special accounts are dedicated to specific government activities, they have their own specific revenue source (like interest, borrowing, etc.) and receive transfers from the general account. Only a minor share of the ODA budget is channeled through special accounts.
Japan's ministries and agencies use, to varying degrees, resources from both the General Account and other budgetary sources. There are three primary players:
- The Ministry of Finance (MOF) manages the largest share of the overall ODA budget (77%, or US$16.4 billion in FY2022), as most of MOF’s ODA funding is for loans through FILP (US$13.5 billion in FY2022, or 63% of total gross ODA). This includes funds channeled through JICA, as well as government bonds, which are used to make most of MOF’s assessed contributions to multilateral development banks. A smaller share (US$729 million in FY2022) of ODA spending by MOF comes from the General Account.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) manages about one-fifth (21%, or US$4.6 billion in FY2022) of Japanese ODA, almost all of which is sourced from the General Account. The budget includes lines for bilateral funding (grant assistance and technical cooperation, mostly channeled through JICA) and multilateral funding.
- The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) directs a large share of MOF’s ODA funding, with JICA’s share alone making up 37% of the total ODA budget (US$7.9 billion in FY2022). This mainly comes from its own capital and is used for loans. In addition, JICA administers large shares of funding for grant assistance and technical cooperation that come from MOFA’s General Account budget.
The budget table displays ODA funding lines for FY2022.
Japan's ODA budget, FY2022
|General Account Budget||5,256||561,164|
|Ministry of Foreign Affairs||4,148||442,821|
|Technical cooperation through JICA||1,422||151,800|
|Multilateral contributions, of which:||952||101,700|
|Other assistance (incl. admin costs, CSO funding, support for JICA loans)||244||26,000|
|Ministry of Finance||729||77,814|
|Other ministries and agencies||380||40,529|
|MOF and others (Multilateral contributions)||7||700|
|MOF and others (Technical cooperation)||4||400|
|Investment and contribution bonds||2,664||282,300|
|Multilateral development banks||2,229||238,000|
|UN and related agencies||415||44,300|
|Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP)||13,531||1,444,600|
|JICA loans, JICA investment bonds, JICA loan collection by MOF and others, of which:||12,923||1,379,700|
|JICA JPY Loan||4,905||523,700|
|JICA Loan Collection||6,100||651,210|
|JICA Investment Bonds||1,855||198,000|
|Technical cooperation by MOF and others||608||64,9000|
|Total gross ODA||21,440||2,289,000|
|Total net ODA||14,739||1,573,600|
Initial ODA budget allocations are determined from April to August; Cabinet makes final decisions in December and January
Japan’s fiscal year runs from 1 April to 30 March. However, certain budget allocations are decided throughout the year (see ‘supplementary budgets’ below).
- Ministries prepare their budget requests: From April to August, all ministries draft their funding requests for the upcoming fiscal year. This includes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MOFA) grant assistance budget, as well as technical cooperation, channeled through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Key stakeholders during this phase are senior officials at MOFA's International Cooperation Bureau.
- Ministry of Finance assesses ministerial budget request: Between September and December, once the ministries have submitted their budget requests, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) assesses them and forwards them to the Cabinet. This process is complete by December.
- Cabinet makes final decision on draft budget bill: Around December, the Cabinet makes its final decision on ministries' budget requests and presents the draft budget bill to Parliament (the 'Diet'), usually by mid-January.
- The Diet debates the draft budget: From January to March, ministerial budgets are discussed by the House of Representatives’ Budget Committee. Once approved by the Diet, the budget bill is adopted.
- Supplementary budgets: In addition to this annual budget cycle, ministries can submit supplementary budget requests for the ongoing fiscal year between August and November. These are assessed by the MOF, negotiated in the Diet, and approved by the Cabinet and the Diet between December and January.
Apart from year-to-year allocations, the Prime Minister has ample discretion to commit new funding to multi-year initiatives. For example, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a commitment of US$2.9 billion in funding for global health in December 2017 at the universal health coverage (UHC) Conference.