JICA and ASEAN celebrate 50th summit years

JICA and ASEAN celebrate 50th summit years

DILI, 17 december 2023 (TATOLI)- Japan International Cooperation Agency and Asia Southeast Asia Countries (ASEAN) celebrated the 50th summit year.

Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and Southeast Asia were the starting points for Japan’s international cooperation. Japan joined the Colombo Plan in 1954 and began providing technical cooperation to Asian countries, which marked the beginning of Japan’s official development assistance program.

Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency

In parallel with postwar reparations, Japan also began to provide economic cooperation in the form of development loans in 1958 and grant aid in 1969. During Japan’s rapid economic growth in the 1960s, predecessor organizations of the Japan International Cooperation Agency the development-cooperation agency of the Japanese government were created, leading to an expansion of Japanese ODA to Southeast Asia.

In the early 1970s, the export of Japanese products swept through Southeast Asia, which led to the spread of anti-Japanese sentiment. In 1977, during his visit to the Philippines, then-Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda announced the Fukuda Doctrine, which contained the three core principles of Japan’s diplomacy toward Southeast Asia: contribution to peace and prosperity in the region, a heart-to-heart relationship with ASEAN countries, and equal partnerships. This doctrine became the operational philosophy of JICA, which was established in 1974.

Some examples of projects that originated in the early years of JICA include the Brantas River Basin development in Indonesia, which changed the basin into a major rice-producing area; the Eastern Seaboard development in Thailand, which turned the waterfront district into the country’s second-largest industrial zone after greater Bangkok; and our promotion of the Look East Policy of Malaysia, which has seen more than 26,000 Malaysians enter universities or training programs in Japan.

In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War greatly expanded the field of international cooperation. Increasing efforts have been made to address global issues such as peacebuilding, the environment, and human security.

In Southeast Asia, the 1991 Cambodian peace agreement opened the door for Japan to extend full-fledged cooperation to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Along with support for infrastructure, which was ravaged by war or underdeveloped, JICA extended so-called intellectual cooperation to the three countries to promote a shift to a market-oriented economy. A joint study on economic development policy in Vietnam known as the Ishikawa Project, led by Professor Shigeru Ishikawa, was a prime example of intellectual cooperation.

During this project, “learning from each other” was prioritized, displaying the type of relationship that JICA wanted to cultivate in its future cooperation with ASEAN.

Japan’s support for the Philippino peace process in Mindanao since the 1990s should also be highlighted. JICA was involved in peacebuilding after the ceasefire agreement in 2003. When negotiations came to a deadlock and fighting resumed in 2008, JICA, under the leadership of then-President Sadako Ogata, continued its support rather than withdrawing to continue pursuing greater human security. In 2011, the Japanese government sponsored a secret summit in Narita, Japan, which led to the signing of a historic comprehensive peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.

Since the 2000s, regional development as well as the establishment of the ASEAN Community and the deepening of its integration have drastically changed the economic landscape surrounding Japan and Southeast Asia.

The total gross domestic product of the ASEAN members has grown significantly in the past two decades, from $660.7 billion in 2002 to $2.5 trillion in 2012 (a 3.8-fold increase over 10 years), before reaching $3.6 trillion in 2022 (a 5.5-fold increase over 20 years), making it a major economic zone now referred to as “the growth center of the world.”

The members of ASEAN have become more important to Japan because peace and prosperity in ASEAN lead directly to peace and prosperity for all of East Asia, including Japan.

Today, when we direct our eyes to the world, we find ourselves in the midst of a series of “compound crises.” These involve three layers: the outermost layer being the physical system, as typified by climate change and natural disasters; followed by the living system, as exemplified by infectious diseases; and the innermost layer, our social system, where armed conflicts and geopolitics erupt.

As we deal with stagnation in the global economy in the wake of the pandemic, we should consider social systems that interact with physical and living systems as well as human beings. While competition and conflict exist between nations, I believe that all humankind — including conflicting parties — must work together to build a system of cooperation to address these compound crises.

In this context, Japan has been promoting the Free and Open Indo-Pacific for the region, while ASEAN has been promoting the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Japan will continue to contribute to implementing AOIP with ASEAN, which is at the center of the Indo-Pacific region.

On this occasion of the golden anniversary of the Japan-ASEAN relationship, I reflect on the Fukuda Doctrine. When it was announced 46 years ago, it represented words of admonition with which we disciplined ourselves when associating with ASEAN. Today, we have seen those words become reality.

More ASEAN members have already initiated development cooperation with other countries in and outside the region. JICA and its ASEAN partners are now jointly working to address conventional as well as newly emerging regional issues, as well as global challenges such as climate change, infectious diseases, disasters, rapidly graying societies, the environment, food security, and connectivity. Recent technical cooperation programs provided by JICA are focusing more on mutual learning and co-creation than just transferring Japanese knowledge and experience.

It is time that Japan learned from the ASEAN countries how to advance together with them. Thus, JICA’s cooperation with ASEAN is rapidly evolving.

Among all the things that are changing, there is one thing that JICA should continue to uphold: the spirit of the Fukuda Doctrine. When I reflect on the past half century of JICA’s cooperation, I find that what the agency always aimed to achieve was the heart-to-heart bonds that truly cultivated trust between the peoples of ASEAN and Japan. With JICA’s vision of “leading the world with trust,” we will always aspire to be a reliable partner and true friend of the people of ASEAN for the next half century and beyond.




Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!