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Supporting environment surrounding international NGOs


『International Development Journal』 2020 April edition

By Kiyoko Ikegami  Chair of the Board, Plan International Japan

In the 1990s, civil society was predicted to become “the Third Social Power”. Since then, thirty years has passed and the political and economic environment has changed. But has the environment surrounding civil society, especially Non-Government Organizations involved in international cooperation, improved? Editorial Writer of International Development Journal, Kiyoko Ikegami, considers one of the central issues for the activities of NGOs, “finance and financial stability”.

ODA expenditure through NGOs is only 1.8%

In the case of Japan, the activities of NGOs involved in international cooperationare mainly financially supported by four factors: (1) Official Development Assistance (ODA), (2) Individuals, (3) Foundations and Funds, and (4) Companies.
Regarding (1), according to “the Aid to and through CSOs (2017)” of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the share of Japan’s ODA expenditure through Japanese NGOs is only 1.8%. It is very low and the 28th ranking among 30 OECD member countries.
The biggest change during this 30 years is that Japan’s NGO Grants in Association with an International Organization was set up and Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects (N-Ren) has started. It is also a big change that administrative expenses of NGOs have been raised to a maximum of 15%.
As shown in the figure, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ support schemes for NGOs are mainly based on the N-Ren and the Japan Platform (JPF) project. The actual amount is increasing. While the ODA budget is sluggish, NGO support projects are said to be increasing.
The N-Ren is a scheme in which NGOs implement areas that NGOs are good at and areas that are difficult to support with ODA. It is possible to involve civil society at home and abroad, and it is hoped that the N-Ren will expand and continue to deepen their understanding of Japan’s international cooperation. JPF is also an NGO-like support scheme whereby NGOs can utilize their networks and knowledge and respond quickly to the needs of disaster and conflict hit areas. In addition, there is support to improve the NGO environment (such as training NGO staff), but the amount is small and decreasing. Support for small international NGOs is an issue for the future.

Donations to the field of international cooperation has slightly decreased

Regarding (2), although it has been said that donation culture has not taken hold in Japan, shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake, donations from individuals in FY2011 amounted to 1.0182 trillion yen. According to the Japan Fundraising Association’s “White Paper on Donations 2017”, it was 775.6 billion yen in 2016. However, compared to the world, personal donations, including membership fees, are 0.14% of nominal GDP in Japan, 0.5% in South Korea, and 1.44% in the United States. Japan is only one tenth that of the United States. Furthermore, according to “the White Paper on Donations 2015”, donations to the field of international cooperation in Japan account for around 10% of the total, indicating a slight decline.
Among individual donations, regular membership fees are a very important income for NGOs. That’s because continued support allows budgeting over multiple years. But increasing those donations is not easy. The Japan Committee for UNICEF is known for its continuous donations by individuals, but it is still a special case. The challenge is to improve public relations so that many NGOs in Japan can make their names and activities known to the general public, raise awareness and lead to donations.

Support for foundations and funds is mainly overseas

Regarding (3), NGOs currently rely on overseas foundations and funds, because Japanese grant foundations mainly support research for civil organizations and universities operating in Japan. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been supporting international health policy advocacy for over 10 years. The Open Society Foundation (OSF), founded by investor George Soros, is an organization that outsources the secretariat to the Japan International Cooperation NGO Center (JANIC), is mainly supporting organizations and individuals that address human rights and democracy issues in Japan.
The supports provided by such foundations are based on a well-defined theme, and the support period is one year and must be applied annually. For this reason, they are not so financially stable.

Corporate interest is growing with the SDGs

Regarding (4), according to “the White Paper on Donations 2017”, corporate donations are on an increasing trend, but they are decreasing as a percentage of ordinary income. The amount and trend of NGO support for international cooperation by companies is unknown. But it is true that their interest is growing with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In a familiar case, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., has provided Plan International Japan with ¥ 1 billion over five years in areas such as helping Syrian refugees and preventing sexual violence. Every year, the company decides on themes to support, conducts document screening, and decides who to support by votes cast from employees around the world. The goal is to promote employee ownership and deepen understanding of international cooperation, and it is truly unique. In the future, if companies are to support NGOs not only in terms of CSR (corporate social responsibility) but also in connection with their main business, it should be closely watched whether not only the amount of support but also the ratio of ordinary income can increase.

Collaboration including “NGO alliance” is important

Various challenges have been identified. The ability of NGOs to stabilize their budgets depends on diversifying their financial resources. It seems that flexible responses for each of the NGOs to realize their purpose is necessary.
In order to diversify resources, for example, it is a good idea to create an “NGO alliance” by sharing expertise and complementing among NGOs, and to apply for N-Ren. The role of NGO alliances may include pooling experts. Why not consider making NGOs working in the same field do joint policy proposals or jointly raise funds?
Collaboration with consulting companies and universities (so-called JVs) as well as NGOs is effective. This has been implemented by some NGOs.
In addition, it could be considered to be the implementing agency for UN-managed projects. You can expect the advertising effect of being a partner of an international organization as well as the implementation management costs as income.
In order to implement these, it is essential to establish expertise. Furthermore, when partnering with NGOs and universities, it also depends on each partner’s ability to work on a large common purpose and philosophy, regardless of methodological differences.
A good example is “the New Partnerships Initiative (NPI)” introduced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2018. This is to encourage USAID to diversify its partners and strengthen the independence of the U.S. NGOs that have never or have not worked together before. The selection process begins after the NGO submits a concept paper describing the activity. After the adoption, work on formulation of the implementation plan will be carried out in cooperation with USAID. Since this point is close to the N-Ren system, the ODA responsible organization may try in Japan as well. I look forward to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the executing agency to give it a try.


(公財)プラン・インターナショナル・ジャパン理事長 池上 清子氏



➀に関して、経済協力開発機構(OECD)の『Aid to and through CSOs (2017)』によれば、日本のNGOを通じたODAの支出額の割合は1.8%にとどまり、OECD加盟国30カ国の中で28位と低い。これは、明らかに改善の余地がある。30年前からの大きな変化と言えば、日本NGO連携無償資金協力(N連)が始まり、その運営管理費が最大15%に引き上げられたことくらいだろうか。




 ③について、日本の助成財団は国内で活動する市民組織や大学への研究支援が中心であるため、NGOは海外の財団や基金に頼っているのが現状だ。例えば、ビル&メリンダ・ゲイツ財団は国際保健に関する政策提言活動に関して10年以上、支援している。投資家ジョージ・ソロス氏が設立したオープン・ソサエティ財団(OSF)は、認定NPO法人 国際協力NGOセンター(JANIC)に事務局業務を委託し、主に日本国内の人権・民主主義の課題に取り組む団体・個人を支援している。




 参考になる事例としては、米国国際開発庁(USAID)が2018年に導入した「新パートナーシップ・イニシアチブ」(New Partnerships Initiative: NPI)がある。これは、USAIDが連携先の多様化を目指し、今まで連携したことがない、または連携度が低い米国NGOの強化と自立を促進するものだ。NGO側から活動内容のコンセプトペーパーが提出されてから選考プロセスが始まる。採択後、実施計画の策定、ローカルNGOの具体的連携などはUSAIDと協働しながら進める。この点はN連とも近いので、日本でもODAの担当機関が試みてもよいのではないか。実施機関である国際協力機構(JICA)に期待したい。


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