• Kyodo News


Sadako Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is urging the government to boost its official development assistance and regain its status as a major donor.

The former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees also told a news conference Monday that JICA will study whether it can provide support for the growing number of people who have become internally displaced in recent weeks due to civil strife in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In 2008, Japan ranked fifth on the list of major donors. The United States topped the rankings, followed by Germany, Britain and France, according to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“I think fifth place is awkward” for Japan, Ogata said at the Japan National Press Club, adding she expects the country “to at least aim for third place.”

Japan was the world’s largest donor from 1991 to 2000 but fell to second place in 2001 and dropped further to third in 2006, when it was overtaken by Britain. Tokyo tumbled two more places in 2007 to fifth among the 22 major donors.

Although the U.N. Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 require donor countries to provide ODA equivalent to 0.7 percent of their gross national income by 2015, Japan’s ratio stood at only 0.18 percent in 2008, the same as that of the U.S., according to the OECD.

Ogata acknowledged it is difficult for the U.S. and Japan, the world’s largest and second-largest economies, to achieve the 0.7 percent target but stressed that increasing aid for developing countries will remain a global goal.

She said the world is now “increasingly interdependent” as all countries face the common threats of infectious diseases, terrorism and environmental damage. She called for an increase in Tokyo’s aid because Japan “cannot just enjoy peace only within the country.”

Ogata pointed out that the poor have been hit hard by the ongoing global financial crisis and urged donors to bolster spending to secure social safety nets for those affected.

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