May 26, 2009
On Wednesday, May 21, 2009, the Vice President YAMAGAMI Susumu seminar welcomed Hitachi Plant Technologies, Ltd., General Manager of Personal Development & Training, Center Human Resources and Management & Development Mr. Fumitaka SODA who delivered a special lecture on official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries.
In July 2008, Mr. SODA made an inspection of Tunisia as the head of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored ODA civilian monitoring team. Based on his experiences there, he spoke widely about the history and current state of Japan's ODA and raised the effects and current state of aid to Tunisia as an example as he talked about whether or not Japan's ODA is actually helpful to the donor nation.
He also put the spotlight on Bhutan –a country gaining the worlds attention through the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) –as he spoke about their government policy in light of a background of 120,000 refugees brought about by ethnic cleansing.
Mr. SODA spoke of the state of Japan's ODA programs and expressed his fears about the low level of international awareness, "The ODA budgets of developed countries is increasing every year as we work towards achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals and the elimination of terrorism. However, among the developed nations, only Japan is tending towards reducing its annual ODA budget citing a weak domestic economy etc. Proportionate to GNI (Gross National Income), Japan ranks poorly at 20 out of 22."
Based on the results of his inspection of Tunisia, he spoke of his fears about the future form of ODA. However, with the establishment of the new-JICA in 2008, he hoped that it would lead to the solving of such issues, "If we look just at the aid projects, It seems that Japanese infrastructure and technology aid is helpful, however when we look at it from the perspective of a donating nation citizen, it is difficult to evaluate if it is truly making a difference amidst uncertainties about how the donor nation's industry structure and education/welfare social systems should be. The point of view of social scientists and citizens should be included more and there should be a total re-think of what aid is truly necessary."
Those in attendance gave their impressions, "I had heard of ODA in previous lectures, however I learnt a lot from being able to hear stories from someone who has actually seen where it is going. After hearing this lecture, I now have a deeper interest in ODA", "After listing to this lecture, I feel that aid activities should be done after properly understanding aid nation's culture and society.", "This was the first I knew of ethnic problems existing in Bhutan –a nation talked about for its GNH –and I now know the difficulty of ruling a nation."