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A critical year for achieving the SDGs

picture:The National Diet Building ©The International Development Journal Co., Ltd.


『International Development Journal』2020 April edition

Maintained increase for 5 consecutive years

The General Account Budget for ODA of Japan’s government in FY2020 is 0.86% higher than the previous year at 561 billion yen. It has been increasing for five consecutive years. Relieved voices of officials in charge of ODA can be heard.
The Japanese government’s overall budget for FY2020 had a general account expenditure of 102,658 billion yen, exceeding the initial budget of 100 trillion yen for the second consecutive year. With the aging of society, social security expenditures are increasing, and reconstruction from natural disasters such as recent floods and large typhoons has continued. Under such circumstances, ODA budgets have continued to increase. This can be said to have provided some indication of appreciation for ODA’s past performance.
The following three roles of ODA are emphasized. One is the promotion of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) ”, including the promotion of “high quality infrastructure” exports. The second is the expansion of pro-Japanese and intellectual groups through JICA development graduate school collaboration. The third is addressing global challenges such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In particular, there are many questions this year as to how seriously we will tackle the SDGs, which are 10 years away from the target year 2030. Some targets, such as the SDGs target 6.6 for ecosystem protection and recovery related to water, have deadlines set this year, 2020. In addition, international conferences on SDGs will be held in Japan, including the Asia-Pacific Water Summit, Nutrition Summit, and the international conference on the promotion of marine plastic waste management.
Under such circumstances, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is trying to play a role as a “platform for achieving the SDGs” through organizational restructuring. Government ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are actively developing projects that can achieve the SDGs with ODA and non-ODA budgets. For example, the Ministry of the Environment has been implementing the “City-to City Collaboration Program for a Low-Carbon Society” since 2013. How should these efforts be combined into one major impact? Further cooperation beyond the ODA framework is needed.

Cooperation with the use of STI
In order to realize SDGs, promoting Science and Technology Innovation (STI) is an important factor. Last year, JICA set up an Innovation and SDGs section in their Planning Department and STI section in the Infrastructure Management Department. It is also necessary for Japan to accelerate “STI Diplomacy”.
STI Diplomacy uses its own science and technology to enhance its presence in the international community and to strengthen bilateral relations. For example, Japan’s ODA includes the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS). In the world, Europe and the United States began promoting science and technology diplomacy around 2000. Japan also set up a post of Science and Technology Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2015, when the SDGs were launched. In recent years, as expectations for STI have increased in response to global issues, there is gathering momentum to utilize Japan’s science and technology to build new relationships with developing countries and emerging countries, including ODA graduated countries.
Under such circumstances, Teruo Kishi, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, who served as the first Science and Technology Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, emphasizes the importance of collaboration as a future task. “It is necessary to form a network that includes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and government ministries, research institutes, business circles and academia on science and technology diplomacy. It is not enough right now.”
He also argued that coordination with other countries would be an issue, saying that “strengthening coordination with the United States and Europe is essential, and how will it be with China?” He also said, “Science cooperation is the creation of universal knowledge and there is no objection to global cooperation. However, there are risks for cooperation such as intellectual property rights, technology leaks and security issues. It is necessary to take countermeasures at the same time amid such global cooperation.”
Kishi said, “In the case of technical cooperation, ‘the way of getting together’ has no impact. After finding a key person in the science and technology diplomacy of the partner country, such as Science and Technology Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs like me, and building trust, it is important to develop the cooperation. In other words, a strategy of “breaking through one point” to achieve full expansion is effective.
However, this strategy is not readily available in Asia and Africa, where there are many countries. Kishi said, “In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it is difficult to identify the proper key persons. Indonesia stands at the central position. On the other hand, there are developing countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar and developed countries such as Singapore. So it is not easy to organize them with each other. ”
As for the role of ODA, human resource development and collaboration in joint research such as SATREPS have bigger needs from developing and emerging countries. Kishi said, “Especially in Africa, it is very important to create engineering universities and research institutes, and also to package and support industrial development. These countries are also eager to research cutting-edge technologies. It is necessary to think about how to organize developing, emerging and developed countries to work together with such cutting-edge technologies”.

Increase in female and overseas researchers

At present, Japan’s science and technology is still highly valued around the world. However, some people are worried about a decline in science and technology in the future due to a decrease in the number of research personnel due to a declining birthrate and aging population.
“The solution is to increase the number of researchers. The only solution is to increase the number of female researchers or to attract foreign researchers to Japan. The number of papers published by Japanese universities has also declined and the declining international rankings of Japanese universities have also influenced Japan’s innovation power. Although all universities are working hard, they merely look on with their arms folded without trying to change the current framework. It is necessary for the government to go beyond the existing framework, such as setting up a quota system for foreign researchers at each university with a drastic budget. We want to use ODA and other means to attract more good students from Africa and other countries”.
The role of ODA, such as policy for the SDGs, the promotion of Science and Technology Innovation Diplomacy and the acceptance of foreigners, is becoming increasingly diverse. In order to respond flexibly to these issues, further reforms are required, not only in JICA but also in ODA as a whole, such as institutional reform and management improvements in the development business community. (Saki Kawata)

SDGs達成への本気度問われる一年か 日本の“科学技術力”の向上も課題








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