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Broader foreign aid urged

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Japan should expand its use of overseas development assistance by targeting new regions and projects and consider funding noncombat operations led by foreign military forces, a panel said Thursday in a report to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

If the recommendations are accepted in the upcoming review of the ODA charter, it would reverse Japan’s long-held principle of not funding foreign armed forces.

The report observed that military forces are often used in a broad range of noncombat operations, including disaster relief, such as that seen last year in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

The report recommended that the government consider each case on its merits, but pay full attention to preventing ODA from being diverted to military use.

“If it is a noncombat operation such as one aimed at a civilian purpose or disaster relief, (the government) should not rule out (using ODA) just because a military is involved,” the report says.

The present ODA charter prevents aid from being spent on foreign forces. The charter, adopted in 1992 and revised in 2003, stipulates that “any use of ODA for military purposes or for aggravation of international conflicts should be avoided.”

In line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy of turning Japan into a more “proactive contributor to peace,” the report says the scope of Japan’s ODA operations should be widened to strengthen stability in the international community and public safety, such as by funding anti-terrorism measures, bolstering cybersecurity and improving the abilities of coast guards.

It also calls for ODA use in peacekeeping operations, such as infrastructure development.

The recommendations also include giving ODA to a wider range of nations. They suggest targeting not only developing nations, but also “middle-income nations,” to help them acquire technology and skills training.

As more ODA recipient countries have been calling for investment rather than assistance in recent years, the report underscores the need to increase contributions from the private sector, by stepping up cooperation with it and encouraging companies to expand operations overseas.

And given that Japan’s population is expected to continue to shrink, it is important to deepen ties with emerging and developing nations to take advantage of their growth to boost Japan’s economy, it says.

It says official assistance is an “investment in the future” of Japan and the international community.

Foreign Minister Kishida set up the panel in March.

“This is not a report that represents the government’s stance. It is like a set of recommendations. We will study the report in drawing up a new charter,” a foreign ministry official said. “It’s not like this report will be the new charter.”

The ministry is expected to draft a new charter around August. It will them solicit contributions from the public and the government plans to adopt a new charter by year’s end.