Japan fell to third place in the official development assistance rankings in 2006, dropping for the first time in 24 years, a group of 22 developed countries said Tuesday.

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japan contributed a net $11.61 billion in ODA in 2006, down 11.7 percent from 2005.

The top ODA leaders were the United States, which gave away $22.74 billion, and Britain, which gave $12.6 billion.

Net ODA is gross ODA minus debt repayments received for past ODA loans. In terms of gross ODA, Japan was still No. 2 with $18 billion last year, following the U.S. with $24 billion, according to the Foreign Ministry.

In net terms, Japan passed the U.S. in 1993 and remained the world’s largest donor until 2000. Its ODA efforts peaked at $14.49 billion in 1995.

Recently, however, Japan has reduced its ODA budget to cope with empty government coffers and a snowballing fiscal deficit.

The U.S. and European countries meanwhile have been trying to boost ODA to defuse growing interest in the relationship between global poverty and terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001, a Foreign Ministry official said.

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