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New Program for Overseas Development Aid Has "Abe Flavour": Antagonising China, Giving Aid in the National Interest

2, 27. 2015

   The government's newly finalised Development and Cooperation Program has its Abe flavour at the forefront. This revises the existing Government Development Assistance (ODA) Program, as well as changing its title, with the most significant characteristic being its widening of the range of candidates for aid, in light of Prime Minister Abe's "Proactive Pacificism".

   While aid is limited to non-military purposes, the program permits cooperation with militaries of other states, and the provision of strategic aid. This represents a significant about-face in Japan's aid policy, which was previously of a civilian nature, and questions remain about how aid can be prevented from being diverted to military aims.

"Contributing to Peace and Prosperity through Non-Military Cooperation"


   This is the first revision to the program for 12 years, since August 2003, and was finalised at the cabinet meeting of February 10th.

   The new program is influence by the "National Security Strategy" (finalised by the cabinet in December 2013) which spells out a policy for "proactively and strategically" using ODA for the promotion of universal values, resolving global problems such as poverty and natural disasters, and so on. Its opening sentence sets out its basic essence: "From the standpoint of Proactive Pacifism, Japan must take a strong lead in the international community in order to more actively play its part in bringing about international peace, stability and prosperity." On the other hand, where the previous program was said to be "in line with the spirit of the Constitution of Japan", this has been dropped, showing quite clearly its Abe colouring.

   In its specifics, the program has three key pillars. First, it is confirmed that support for soldiers and military-related personnel is included within non-military purposes. It contains as one item its basic policy of "Contributing to peace and prosperity through non-military cooperation" and states that "where soldiers or military personnel are associated, this will be individually and specifically reviewed, considering its actual purpose."

Aiming to Strengthen Our Ties with Major Nations

   Second, the program widens the range of candidate countries for aid, which was previously limited to developing states, to "ODA Graduate Countries" whose level of economic development has reached a stage where its national income is above a certain watermark. It provides for the re-opening of aid responding to "actual development needs".

   Third, for the first time we find the appearance of the phrase "contributing to the national interest", making it clear the aim is to make an international contribution which also advances cooperation that is to Japan's advantage.

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