Darya Gribkova
Darya Gribkova, PICREADI (Creative Diplomacy) event coordinator and contributor; Higher School of Economics, Moscow
As an important part of state`s foreign policy, humanitarian aid allows to shape the image of the country abroad and to influence both associated information agenda and public opinion; it pays dividends in the form of public support, bolstered economic activity and strengthening political positions. Cooperation in the humanitarian sphere provides an opportunity to reduce tension between political rivals, come together to solve shared problems and create a basis for further collaboration in other fields.
Humanitarian engagement in Japan emerged as an article of its expanding economic diplomacy.
After World War II, Japan was focusing on the restoration of its economy. This task coincided with the need to get rid of the image of an aggressor and affirm itself as a reliable
economic partner in the international arena. Japan`s economic diplomacy, as a driver for internal economic growth, was given expression in a cautious and non-assertive policy and economic
assistance, provision of loans on favorable terms and participation in significant socio-economic projects. Domestic economic success, known as Japanese economic miracle, contributed to the formation of a positive external image of the country.

In the 1950s, Japan`s humanitarian activity became part of its international economic practice. The growth of Japan`s involvement globally together with the emergence of new challenges led to the expansion of the scope of humanitarian aid: new stages of development and post-conflict recovery have been added to the previously existing elimination of consequences of
natural and man-made disasters. Over time, official development assistance grew into an important dimension of Tokyo`s foreign policy. It allowed Japan to emerge as one of the leading states in the world in the field of humanitarian relief.
The legal framework of humanitarian action

Since 1953 Tokyo began financing the UN Palestinian Refugees program. In 1954, Japan joined the Colombo Plan for cooperative economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific. Directly and through international organizations Japan started to provide Official Development Assistance (ODA), grants and long-term loans under favorable conditions.

A cooperation program between volunteers from Japan and other countries (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)) was launched a decade later. In 1974, Japan established International Cooperation Agency (JICA), an implementation office for technical cooperation within Japan`s ODA; it is charged with tasks such as dispatch of specialist teams, coordination of local humanitarian activity and provision of grants and loans.

The increase in provided assistance and emergence of new challenges made it necessary to come up with a legislative framework. In 1987, the Law Concerning the Dispatch of Japan Disaster Relief Team (JDR Law) came into effect. It regulates participation of Japanese experts in the elimination of the aftermath of natural disasters and man-made crises abroad, with the
exception of those resulting from armed conflicts.

The Persian Gulf war fueled domestic disputes over whether Japan's engagement in the aftermath of disasters provoked by armed conflicts would be acceptable, since this would require the involvement of Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). Not without the outside pressure exerted by the United States, a discussion on the functions and the scope of JSDF`s activity

In order to play more active role in the international peacebuilding, Tokyo passed the Act on Cooperation for UN Peacekeeping operations in 1992 It allowed to send both civil specialists and SDF personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations. This law sanctioned SDF personnel's participation in peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, El Salvador, Rwanda, Timor-Leste. Participation in the UN peacekeeping operations in Cambodia in 1992-1993 marked the beginning of Japan's full-scale involvement in the area of maintaining peace and security.

The Overseas Dispatch of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and U.S. War Preparations 自衛隊海外派遣と米国の戦争準備.
Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
One of the most important issues back then was the devising of concrete definition of the circumstances that call for humanitarian aid. Finally, in 1999, Japan's Medium-Term Policy on Official Development Assistance was adopted. Priority spheres, identified by this act, included social and economic development, work on conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery. As a
result, humanitarian activity had become one of the ODA dimensions.

In July 2000 in the Japanese city of Miyazaki, the G8 Foreign Ministers adopted the Miyazaki Initiatives for Conflict Prevention. At the same time, the government of Japan submitted a document entitled "Action from Japan on Conflict and Development" in response to the Miyazaki Initiatives. The document emphasized the importance of timely assistance, the need to bridge the time gap between humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. In addition, it stressed the importance of involving Japanese NGOs, private companies and the media in humanitarian activities.

The assistance provided by Japan also focuses on preparing recipients for possible disasters in the future. This framework is described as follows: "...in practice, this approach involves the transition from post-emergency rescue operations to recovery of normal functioning – humanitarian-development nexus" [1] and it is predicated on the understanding that humanitarian relief, development programs and peacebuilding should be going hand in hand.

60th Anniversay of the Training Program in Japan. Source: JICA Channel
After terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Tokyo started to enact laws with a view to facilitate the use of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) in peacekeeping operations and expand its functional scope. In 2001, the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law was adopted, specifying the functions of the MSDF in counter-terrorism operations and essentially enabling Japan to offer cooperation and carry out support activities (search and rescue operations, supply, transportation, repair, maintenance, communication, medical services) to the United States during its operations in the Indian Ocean. However, it was not allowed, for example, to carry out the supply of weapons and ammunition, to conduct maintenance on aircraft
preparing to take off on military sorties, or undertake the land transportation of weapons in foreign territories. Later in 2015, the SDF were given the opportunity to participate in post-conflict reconstruction and security operations.

Another important legislative milestone appeared in July 2011, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) published the document named "Humanitarian Aid Policy of Japan". It touched upon the following areas of activity: assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, smooth transition from emergency assistance during a crisis to assistance in the early stages of recovery and further to development assistance, response to natural disasters, ensuring the security of humanitarian aid workers, civil-military coordination.
The post-war prohibitions limited functionality of Japan Self-Defense Force, as is stipulated by legislative acts.
Humanitarian assistance principles and mechanisms

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for humanitarian aid,
Japan`s humanitarian activities are based on principles of humanity, neutrality, independence, and impartiality. Assistance is provided in case of emergencies that a country or a region cannot cope with on their own, and at the request of the government of the country or an international organization. Under these conditions Japan can use the three tools for emergency assistance: it is then allowed to dispatch Disaster Relief teams, to provide the material assistance, such as basic necessities, or to allocate Emergency Grant Aid.

If there is a request from the country, affected by either natural or man-made accident, or alternatively a request from international organization, MOFA conducts consultations with other ministries and agencies regarding assistance they could provide, sets out the timing, amount and the type of assistance. Then the Minister of Foreign Affairs gives the order to the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation, which sends Disaster Relief teams or Emergency Relief goods. For quicker access to such goods, Japan maintains stocks in Singapore, Miami (US), Accra (Ghana), and Dubai (UAE).

Between 1987 and 2019, 151 Japanese Relief teams (20 of them being units of SDF personnel) were deployed to 45 countries. Depending on the type of work, the teams are divided into Search and Rescue teams, Medical teams, Infectious Diseases Response teams, Expert teams and Japan Self-Defense Force Units, serving special needs.

From the very beginning of Japan's humanitarian activity, the cases when the country can provide humanitarian aid were clearly stipulated by legislative acts. These include natural or human-made disasters that the affected country cannot cope with on its own. This specification is a consequence of the post-war prohibitions that led to the limited functionality of JSDF.

Besides the aid in the form of technical cooperation and emergency goods, Japan equally provides grants to international organizations. These grants are used to cover the assistance to the victims of conflicts, man-made and natural disasters, to the refugees, displaced persons, as well as to "support the administration and monitoring of important elections for democratization".

And while relief teams and material assistance are only sent in cases of man-made and natural hazards, financial assistance is also provided in cases of armed conflicts.
Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces arrive at the airport in Juba, South Sudan Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. Japanese peacekeepers, with a broader mandate to use force, landed in South Sudan in the first such deployment of the country's troops overseas with those expanded powers in nearly 70 years. Source: AP Photo / Justin Lynch
Non-governmental actors of Japan`s humanitarian policy

Humanitarian assistance issues resonate among Japanese companies and nonprofit organizations. Along with that, there are efforts to make Japan's contribution noticeable, for instance, by "labeling the national flag of Japan on distributed relief supplies and publicizing the projects through the media".

In 1994 in the former Yugoslavia several non-governmental organizations created the Japan Emergency NGO (JEN), a humanitarian organization that specializes in providing emergency assistance and supporting social programs. JEN`s local branches were opened in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (today's Serbia and
Montenegro). Initially, the project was designed to last for six months, but ultimately was only completed in 2004.

Over time, the activities of JEN went beyond the Balkan region. By October 2016, JEN was implementing projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Jordan, and had a number of them completed in India, Mongolia, Indonesia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Haiti, Nepal and other countries.

Peace Winds Japan, the NGO established in 1996, works in two directions: providing emergency humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities and reconstruction assistance for the "regeneration of self-sustaining livelihoods". This organization operates in countries such as Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Kenya, Myanmar, East Timor, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, 33
countries and regions in general.

In 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with NGOs and business, established NGO Japan Platform (JPF) to provide more effective and expeditious assistance; today the Platform unites 43 NGO. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through ODA), companies, private individuals and NGOs-members provide funds for the JPF. The main objects of Japan Platform
assistance are refugees and people affected by natural disasters. JPF acts as a kind of hub which accumulates resources for assistance and distributes it. By interacting with JPF, affiliated actors can gain certainty in that their assistance will reach the intended addressee.

JPF operates in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia (Sulawesi, Lombok), Yemen, South Sudan, Palestine. In fiscal year 2015-16 JPF implemented 90 projects under 12 programs, including assistance to people affected by the earthquake in Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan; flood in Myanmar; support of refugees in
Syria and Iraq; emergency assistance in South Sudan etc.
Financing of humanitarian assistance

According to the OECD, in 2015 Japan held the fourth place after the United States, Britain and the EU judging by the volume of funds allocated for aid financing.
Major states-providers of humanitarian aid. Source: OECD Development Assistance Committee CRS
In 2016, Yasuo Fukuda, former Prime Minister of Japan, as a governmental
representative at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, announced that in 2016-2018 Japan will allocate $6 billion to respond to the humanitarian challenges in the Middle East.

In September 2016, Prime Minister Abe attended two summits on humanitarian issues on the sidelines of the meeting of the UN General Assembly – UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants and the Leaders` Summit on Refugees. At the first of them, Shinzo Abe announced that Japan would allocate $2.8 billion over the next three years to fund humanitarian assistance for refugees and migrants; at the second one, Prime Minister declared that Tokyo would send $100 million to the World Bank Global Crisis Response Platform.

In February 2019, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the Near East received $23 million from Japan; of this contribution, $17.7 million should be spent on education and health care programs and improvement of living conditions for 5.4 million of Palestinian refugees. An additional $4.5 million will be used to improve the quality of UNRWA health service, provided in Syria and Lebanon, on the Western side of the Jordan river and in the Gaza Strip. The total amount of assistance provided by Tokyo to Palestinian refugees since 1993 has now reached $1.9 billion.

The ODA programs' budget in 2018 totaled $14.2 billion or approximately 0.28% of Japan`s GNI. The main sectors of assistance are transport and communications, energy, agriculture (forestry and fishing), water and sanitation, education.
Japan's ODA by sector, 2017. Source: DonorTracker.org
Humanitarian assistance and Japanese business

Japanese business community regards humanitarian aid in the way that could be
described "not as charity, but as a way of capitalization and investments in loyalty" [2], in prestige, image, and, therefore, in the future of business in recipient countries. Here are just a few examples.

Itochu Corporation provides financial aid and basic necessities through local
humanitarian organizations to the victims of natural disasters. Despite the fact that more attention is paid to internal issues, humanitarian activity of the company also concerns foreign countries. According to the information on the company`s website, it provided assistance to the victims of the earthquake that struck Sulawesi in Indonesia in October 2018; the victims of the earthquakes in Iran in November 2017, Mexico in September 2017, and Ecuador in April 2016.

In 2008, the pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo contributed $95,000 in aid to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake in China. In addition to financial assistance, medicines were forwarded to the disaster area; that same year, the company also provided $47,000 for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

In the United States Nissan has been providing financial aid, products and services
through organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity International and Second Harvest Food Bank. In 2015, the company donated ¥10 million to the World Food Program to help the earthquake victims in Nepal. Nissan also took part in financing of the disaster relief programs in the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, China and Myanmar.

A partnership between Nissan Thailand and Habitat Thailand was started in 2011. In 2012, Nissan supported the building and repairing of houses in Phathumthani Province, an area severely affected by flooding in 2011. Nissan has also been working on rehabilitation assistance by repairing houses in Chiang Rai province, the 2014 earthquake-stricken area.
Source: Nissan-global.com
Humanitarian aid is not merely charity. It serves as a valuable investment in a country`s image abroad, contributes to the creation of constructive and favorable ambience, which in turn shapes local perceptions of a given country`s economic standing and political good will. Japan's humanitarian engagement inevitably affects relationships at the governmental and societal levels and is extremely important for the country today, in situation of competition among the different integration initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region and attempts by the great powers to attract as
many participants to the proposed projects as possible. As Hudson Institute scholars argue, "...historically, the number of political partners has been a decisive factor in
geopolitical struggles", and so "the number of supporters correlates to the likelihood of winning the competition".

Additionally, political elite of Japan would like to see the country become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. In line with this aspiration, humanitarian activity adds to the image of a responsible state that contributes to the development of other countries.

After World War II, diplomacy, including its economic aspect, developed into the only
instrument Tokyo is putting to use to achieve its foreign policy goals. Today, when Japan is gradually getting rid of post-war restrictions, its humanitarian activity and soft power can to some extent mitigate the effect of the government's policy aimed at increasing the country's autonomy in the world affairs, including in the military sphere. This is especially important for Tokyo in the context of growing geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, with its countries enjoying the lion's share of Japanese humanitarian aid.

[1] Вода К.Р. Политика Японии в области гуманитарного содействия // Пути к миру и безопасности. 2018. № 1(54) Спецвыпуск: Гуманитарные вызовы, гуманитарное реагирование и защита гражданского населения в вооруженных конфликтах. Под редакцией Е.А. Степановой, С. 291-298, стр. 293

[2] Примаков Е.М. Гуманитарная миссия России // Пути к миру и безопасности. 2018. № 1(54) Спецвыпуск: Гуманитарные вызовы, гуманитарное реагирование и защита гражданского населения в вооруженных конфликтах. Под редакцией Е.А. Степановой, С. 182-196, стр.195

Cover picture: The character 災 (sai / wadzawai), which stands for "disaster", had been chosen as the character of the year 2018 in Japan, since that year was characterized by strong earthquakes, typhoons, downpours, landslides and floods.

Original text in Russian