March 2023: As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, alongside the continued Russia-Ukraine crisis, international cooperation is increasingly important to ensure sustainable and inclusive recovery. This month, the UK government released an updated Integrated Review outlining its geopolitical priorities, which includes a focus on working with like-minded partners to address global challenges. To coincide with this, a new report by Development Reimagined, a leading African-owned international development consultancy, provides key recommendations for stronger collaboration between the UK and Japan in the field of international development.
The report, titled “Japan and the UK’s Development Priorities and Potential for Collaboration“, provides analysis and recommendations for policymakers in both countries to promote joint development priorities and to learn lessons from each other, with a focus on the specific needs of partner countries, in particular African countries, going forwards. The report, commissioned by a group of high-level experts on UK-Japan relations, was delivered to both Prime Ministers, with a constructive response from the UK government.
Japan and the UK are both major donors of Official Development Assistance (ODA), ranking third and fourth globally, respectively. In 2020, the UK and Japan spent US$ 18.6 billion and US$ 16.3 billion on ODA. However, post-Brexit, the UK is seeking new partners for development cooperation while also shifting its ODA budget. In 2021, the UK government reduced the UN target for ODA spending of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to 0.5% – a significant shift in the UK’s development spending. Additionally, the International Development Strategy (IDS) released in May 2022 set out a 10-year approach for the UK’s international development, including priority sectors and regions of focus, specifically highlighting the need for more diverse development partners.
Japan is also seeing a shift in its ODA priorities and is looking to expand beyond the Asian region. Japan’s ODA has been primarily bilateral and prioritises self-reliant development, promotion of economic growth, and public-private partnerships (PPP) in its Development Cooperation Charter. Similarly, the UK has recently placed a stronger focus on bilateral ODA, delivered through key thematic areas such as climate change and gender equality. Against this backdrop, the report evaluates the history of Japan and the UK’s development cooperation, sheds light on the status of spending and policy priorities, and current cooperation initiatives. Then using consultations with leading experts and stakeholders, the report identifies several areas where the UK and Japan can work together to achieve shared development goals in different regions. These include:
●Exploring four new trilateral cooperation programmes with a focus across the African continent. This includes urban infrastructure and investment cooperation, building capacity in health,supporting SME’s (especially women-led) to transform agriculture, and joint trade financing.
●Initiating four new multilateral cooperation initiatives. This includes a new (global) climate change initiative to reduce emissions from the shipping industry. New and innovative research on AI and 5G technology transfer-related initiatives on health and environment, and a global initiative to scale up multilateral climate finance contributions. In addition, increased support on Africa’s efforts to harmonise the region’s regulations on medicines and medical devices.
●Two areas for structured dialogues to enhance mutual learning. Firstly, non-military peacebuilding in Asia and secondly, aid policy improvement beyond UK and Japan.
Stronger UK-Japan development cooperation has the potential to make a significant contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across partner countries. The report highlights the need for continued and strengthened collaboration between the UK and Japan, particularlyin the context of the UK’s updated IDS and Japan’s Development Cooperation Charter, and offers practical recommendations for achieving shared development goals. Looking forwards, experts will be looking to implement and scale up the initiatives outlined and seek out partners for implementation.
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