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July 7, 2023
The revised ODA Charter of Japan serves as an integral policy document delineating the principles and guidelines that govern Japan's ODA program. The Charter is vital for ODA operations as it offers a coherent decision-making framework, ensuring that Japan's ODA aligns with its national interests and international obligations.
The Cabinet approved the revision of the ODA Charter in June 2023, marking the first modification since 2015. In the revision, Japan restated its steadfast commitment to human security, sustainable development, and international cooperation. At the same time, the revised Charter pledged to foster an internationally favorable environment for Japan and the broader global community. It also set out goals to fortify foreign relations based on trust, safeguard the peace and safety of Japan and its citizens, and further national interests, including the pursuit of prosperity through economic growth.
The revised Charter introduces a suite of novel priorities for Japan's ODA program, including:
Improvements in ODA implementation are also central to this revision, including:
The revised Charter also prioritizes the transparency and accountability of Japan's ODA program, acknowledging the perception that Japan had not adequately considered debt sustainability in its lending by certain emerging donors.
With a marked increase in private financial flows and a diversification of development actors, the revised Charter commits Japan to continually fostering public-private partnerships. This involves incorporating various private entities, including startups and SMEs into the development platform to address the developmental challenges of partner countries.
More specifically, Japan will seek to promote impact investing, ESG investing, and blended finance. The new approach will involve constructing economic foundations in partner countries, facilitating training for private personnel, supporting legal system enhancement, providing conducive business environments, proposing development models, and strategically leveraging public funds, including overseas investment and financing.
Several driving factors prompted the revision of the Charter. Key amongst them was the evolving security context in the Indo-Pacific region and Japan's expanding role in international security cooperation. Since 2015, the global landscape experienced significant shifts, particularly as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic exerted a substantial impact on partnercountries.
In response to these challenges, the nature of Japan's development cooperation required a significant transformation. Where the previous charter’s primary focus was enhancing economic growth, the current mandate aims to respond to urgent global challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. MOFA spearheaded the revision process, soliciting perspectives from an advisory council comprised of academic experts, NGOs, economic organizations, and representatives from international institutions.
Foremost, Japan's revised ODA Charter signals a commitment to increase ODA. While the government has not stated a concrete target, it is implied that allocations will be made with reference to the international goal of the 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio.
Another critical aspect of the ODA Charter revision is the maintenance of the principle that ODA should be "non-military". Simultaneously, the government, separate from ODA, initiated a framework in April 2023 to support the militaries of "comrade nations", known as “Official Security Assistance.” This marks a significant shift from Japan's longstanding policy of not providing aid for military assistance or weapons exports.
The decision to segregate OSA from ODA is a broader effort by Japan to strengthen its security posture. The Japanese government anticipates that OSA will bolster Japan's security cooperation with its Indo-Pacific region allies and partners. It also holds that OSA will contribute to a more stable and secure regional environment.
The specifics of OSA support are as follows:
The revised ODA Charter holds implications for the following sectors: agriculture, climate, gender equality, education, and global health. Specifically, the Charter:
Japan’s revised ODA Development Cooperation Charter comprises a response to major geopolitical shifts and changes in the environmental and health landscapes. The previous Charter’s focus on economic growth is diminished, while increasing regional security and stability is foregrounded. At the same time, the document also advances new strategies for sectoral priorities such as food security or gender equality, while promises for increased quality and quantity of ODA acknowledge the urgency of contemporary challenges.
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