Japan should double the budget for its official development assistance over the next decade to help it protect its national interests and contribute more to building a world based on the rule of law, a panel of experts said Friday.
In a set of proposals presented to Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, the government-commissioned panel said Japan should “set a clear deadline for achieving” the target, such as increasing the ODA budget to 0.7 percent of gross national income from the current 0.34 percent in the next 10 years.
The proposals were made as the country prepares to revise its foreign aid charter next year for the first time since 2015.
“We got strong proposals on how we should utilize development cooperation strategically,” said Hayashi after receiving them from the eight-member panel, headed by Hiroshi Nakanishi, a professor at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Law.
Hayashi said playing a bigger role in foreign affairs is essential for Japan, next year’s chair of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, to “proactively deal with mounting diplomatic challenges.”
Following the proposals, the government will release a draft charter for approval by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet in the first half of 2023.
The 0.7 percent target against GNI is an internationally recognized goal that was agreed upon at a U.N. General Assembly session in 1970, according to the panel.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Japan’s ODA in 2020 totaled about $20.3 billion, up 7.4 percent from the previous year.
The budget for ODA on an initial basis has halved from its peak in 1997 against the backdrop of Japan’s severe fiscal state. The country already has public debt that is more than twice the size of gross domestic product.
The panel, launched in September, said that Japan should “enhance the quality and quantity of ODA to strategically utilize it as one of the most important tools for Japan’s diplomacy.”
It added that Japan’s ODA should also contribute to the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific, a vision advocated by Japan and the United States to counter China’s growing military and economic clout in the region.
Hayashi previously said Japan will “protect universal values such as freedom and democracy,” drawing an apparent contrast with China’s alleged economic coercion and debt-trap diplomacy targeting developing nations.
The panel, whose members include scholars and business leaders, said Japan should adhere to the principle of nonmilitary use of aid “as a nation advocating pacifism.”
When it adopted the current charter in 2015, the government effectively lifted a ban on backing foreign military forces as long as ODA will be spent for noncombat purposes such as disaster relief, infrastructure building and coast guard activities.