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Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) budget has been showing a declining trend after reaching a peak in 1997, when Japan was the top donor (number 1). The budget for FY2010 is close to half of the FY1997 level, and Japan’s ranking is now fifth among donor countries in terms of the amount of ODA implementation. One of the background reasons for this decline is the country’s constrained fiscal situation. In addition, public opinion surveys in Japan have revealed that there is insufficient public support for ODA. According to these surveys, the number of people who strongly support ODA shows a long-term declining trend. Following the Japanese ODA Charter of 2003, the government has been pursuing more effective assistance and taking measures to raise the level of public support by strengthening public relation activities regarding ODA.
In comparison, the United Kingdom, whose budget for ODA is showing an increasing trend, regards poverty reduction in developing countries as a major important subject in development assistance and is enhancing the accountability for ODA performance through Public Service Agreements (PSAs) between the Department for International Development (DFID) and the government. According to a public opinion survey conducted on the UK’s ODA, more than 70% of respondents in the UK indicated interest in poverty reduction in developing countries, while there were also concerns about negative issues surrounding ODA, such as corruption and inefficiency in ODA implementation.
A comparison with other major donor countries (France, Germany, and the United States) found out that the objectives of ODA policies have two main elements- “national interest of the donor” and “development benefit of the recipient”-which are closely related to public understanding and support for ODA. Although there are differences between the UK and Japan in terms of the domestic situation and public awareness surrounding international cooperation, this paper examines national consensus building in Japan regarding ODA through a comparison with the case of the UK.