Japan has recently emerged as the largest donor among the Development Assistant Committee (DAC) countries. In just ten years (1985-1995), Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) has grown by over four-fold. According to official statistics, Japan contributed $14.5 billion in 1995, which is equivalent to 22% of the total contributions of the DAC countries.

As the amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) increases, development assistance activities in the private non-profit sector, i.e. by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), should normally augment proportionately. Yet, development assistance through NGOs in Japan has not appeared to be as active as that in other industrialized countries. Table 1 shows quantitative evidence of the diminutive scale of the Japanese NGOs relative to those in other industrialized countries. In 1994, for example, ODA per capita in Japan was $105.9 whereas in the United States, NGO assistance per capita amounted to $10, whereas, in Japan per capita NGO assistance was only $2.9, one-third that of the U.S. Furthermore, percentage of assistance carried out by Japanese NGOs proportionate to the Japan ODA was only 2.9%, much lower than the average of the DAC countries (14%).

Since Japanese NGOs initiated operations only in the 1960s, it is inevitable that their scale of activities is smaller than other Northern NGOs, and that they are still in the process of expansion. However, taking enormous pride in its present economic prosperity as well as the tremendous amount of ODA it provides, Japan appears to be slow in its development of Japanese NGOs, and at the same time, the NGOs themselves have not been proactive in identifying and meeting international development needs.


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