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TICAD V Pushes NGO Role to the Margins

TICAD V Exterior

Outside TICAD V (SNA)

By Kei Kato

SNA (Tokyo) — “Even though we are involved in the dialogue and policymaking process, we are rather excluded when it comes to implementation.” This was an observation made to the SNA by an NGO insider when speaking of the recent Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) held in Yokohama from June 1 to June 3. This person asked us not to publish their name out of concern it could disrupt their organization’s fragile relationship with the Japanese government.

TICAD V closed with the adoption of “Yokohama Declaration 2013” and “Action Plan 2013-2017.” Neither in the Yokohama Declaration nor in the Action Plan was the role of NGOs specifically mentioned.

The insider commented, “It seems the conference slighted the involvement of NGOs in developing assistance [to Africa].”

Naturally, NGOs were present at TICAD V, and they held several panel meetings and forums. They also released the “Joint Civil Society Statement on the UN High Level Panel Report on Post 2015 and Recommendations for TICAD V.”

As implementing high quality and effective aid is urgently required to realize the Millennium Development Goals, several international ministerial level forums were held and the role of ODA and NGOs was reviewed and discussed.

As is often the case with NGOs or private organizations, the relationship with the governments is sensitive and the channels of communication are weak.

Given that there are numerous NGOs with a variety of agendas, their diversity can complement and improve ODA assistance from different angles and perspectives.

With the Abenomics framework in mind, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used the occasion of his appearance to reiterate the importance of private sector-led economic development and measures on vital issues such as security, counterterrorism, and infrastructure.

He proudly announced Japan’s new five-year aid package to Africa worth up to US$32 billion in government and private assistance, receiving applause from African leaders and delegates.

Indeed, in response to his closing speech, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn also stressed the critical role of the Japanese government in infrastructure construction and the investments of the Japanese private sector.

Against the background of the terrorist attack at the oil company complex in Algeria in January, the Japanese government offered US$1 billion to boost security in the Sahel region, where half of the population lives under the poverty line.

However, the TICAD V conference also took note of the continent’s steady economic growth and development of a larger middle class, meaning that Africa is now transforming into an investment partner and a promising market for Japanese goods.

And yet, it is NGOs and other civil society organizations that stand with local communities and often voice its opinions and concerns.

A publicist for Oxfam pointed out, “the exclusion of NGOs is against the principles of Busan Declaration,” which was adopted at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Pusan, Korea, in late 2011.

Kei Kato is a contributing writer to the Shingetsu News Agency.

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