The Role of Effective Development Co-operation in Achieving Better Results: Japan’s Experience

Let me share some of Japan’s experiences in relation to the issue that I have addressed in the Global Partnership Forum in Busan in November last year; the role of effective development co-operation in achieving better results in the post-2015 era.

A Paradigm Shift from ODA to Development Co-operation

First of all, Japan’s policy has recently seen a paradigm shift from ODA to Development Co-operation. Japan’s development co-operation is now based on Development Co-operation Charter, which was approved by the Cabinet in February 2015 after revising its previous version, the ODA Charter. You may see the shift in the change of its title from ODA to Development Co-operation. In this change, “development” is used in a broader sense rather than in the narrow sense, aligning it more with the Global Partnership principle of inclusiveness to enhance synergetic effects through strengthened collaboration with other funding and stakeholders.

With this, I would like to touch upon two agenda, namely: ‘quality infrastructure development’ and ‘south-south and triangular co-operation’ to share how we are trying to contribute to our partners in achieving the 2030 agenda.

Quality growth through quality infrastructure

Development of quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure is agreed in the SDG 9.1 to support economic development focusing on affordable and equitable access for all. The importance of quality infrastructure was also discussed in the G20, the G7, the APEC, and the ASEAN fora. Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe in May last year announced the “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” through which Japan and the strengthened Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide approximately USD 110 billion for quality infrastructure investment in Asia over the next five years.

New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environment Protection Project in the Philippines showcases the three important elements of quality infrastructure development; 1) effective mobilization of financial resources through PPP, 2) ensuring the quality of infrastructure through inclusiveness, and 3) contribution to the local society and economy.

The Philippine Government’s priority PPP project in the Bohol province is financed by Japan’s ODA loan, which operation and maintenance is expected to avail PPP scheme upon inauguration. Under the “Eco-Airport concept,” the airport is constructed with consideration for the environment by the use of Japan’s technologies, such as solar power systems and geo-textile sheets on infiltration ponds for preventing environmental damage by waste water influx from the construction site. Furthermore, a technical co-operation project is implemented in advance to curb the impact on the natural environment around the airport as a result of an increase in the number of tourists by the airport construction.

South-South and triangular co-operation as an effective means

Under SDG 17.9, South-South and triangular co-operation are positioned as a means to enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the SDGs. Also, in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), South-South and triangular co-operation are mentioned as a means of bringing relevant experience and expertise to bear in development co-operation.

Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), in collaboration with United Nations Office for South-South Co-operation (UNOSSC) and the Brazilian Agency for Co-operation (ABC) jointly organized a training program to enhance management capacity in South-South and triangular co-operation. ABC invited representatives from 40 least developed and middle-income countries to the program that aimed to strengthen their management skills of south-south and triangular co-operation in legal, institutional, project management, and capacity development aspects through knowledge and experience sharing.

The outcome of the trainings was compiled as ‘Case Studies on Management of South-South and Triangular Co-operation’ and made available on UNOSSC’s website. JICA Research Institute also published several research reports on triangular co-operation in co-operation with other organizations including OECD.

While a mountain of development challenges we face, and new and innovative approaches are required to address the development challenges in the post-2015 era, it is positive that various knowledge and experience have been well accumulated by development actors through their activities on the ground. Japan has assumed a steering committee role since last August. We will continue to contribute to the Global Partnership through sharing our experiences particularly in support to middle income countries and triangular co-operation.

Hideaki2About the Author

Hideaki Mizukoshi is the Deputy Director-General of the International Co-operation Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. Mizukoshi also serves on the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

Triangular Co-operation Helps Provide Solid Earthquake Protection

Japan, Mexico and El Salvador all have earthquakes as a common geographical challenge. Now they also share a common tool to address this challenge – “Taishin,” the Japanese word for “quake resistant.” These three countries have shared experience and knowledge to improve their resilience to earthquakes.

Knowledge sharing between Japan, Mexico and El Salvador helped El Salvador rebuild smarter and stronger after two earthquakes in 2001 killed over 1000 people. The earthquakes inflicted over $16 billion of damage to the Central American, equal to roughly 12 percent of the national GDP that year.

Working with El Salvador, Japan and Mexico helped identify an area that would have high impact on improving the country’s quake-resistance – improving building materials for lower income housing, as these households suffered the most severe damage in the earthquake.

Two years later, the Taishin Project came into operation. The Bureau of Housing at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development of El Salvador supervised and served as counselor. The National University of El Salvador and the Central American University José Simeón Cañas performed experiments on the earthquake resistance strength of building materials. El Salvador’s Foundation for Development and Dissemination of Housing was in charge of building the model housing.

Through financial support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, the Project also helped build a large structure laboratory and train hundreds of technical experts. Mexico assisted this through providing expertise and sharing lessons learned from the country’s experience in making their country and buildings more earthquake ready.

After 10 years, four low-cost building techniques were in use and the two universities that participated in El Salvador have established a Master´s Programme for Earthquake Engineering and knowledge sharing.

Perhaps most importantly, El Salvador itself has started to play the role of a pivotal country in the field of the “Taishin” technique through its triangular initiative, having already assisted Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The Taishin Project is a good example of how the Busan principles of country-owned development and inclusive development partnerships can produce results on the ground. Through triangular support from Japan and Mexico, El Salvador took charge of improving building practices and making sure building professionals and engineers were trained with the skills to build earthquake ready buildings.

The project has also had a positive impact in managing the housing sector of El Salvador, with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development taking the initiative to create the Department of Standard Formulation and Investigation and the El Salvador Construction Institute, as part of ongoing efforts to modernise the national construction industry.

The second phase of “Taishin” is now underway, which aims to mainstream the quake-resistant low-cost housing methods into national technical standards for future scaling-up.’

Read more about the Taishin project.

Triangular Co-operation: a view from Germany

Germany is often regarded as a so-called “traditional donor country”. The word “traditional” may sound a little antiquated at first. But I believe that Germany has shown that its policy is anything but old-fashioned. Germany is ready to embark on new avenues and forge new partnerships.

One of the new avenues on which we want to embark is to expand the instrument of triangular cooperation. Germany has been supporting this form of cooperation for a long time, since the mid-1980s in fact. Since then, geopolitical changes and the growing importance of emerging countries have led to the appearance of new actors and donors in the global development landscape. To increase the involvement of these new rising powers, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) strives to further exploit the potential of triangular cooperation. We emphasised this intention in the Busan Outcome Document. To us, triangular cooperation arrangements act as an important link between South-South and North-South cooperation.

Together with Japan and Spain, Germany is one of the most active, sought-after and biggest supporters of triangular cooperation. At present, the BMZ and its implementing agencies are carrying out more than 20 triangular cooperation projects in partnership with various emerging countries. The majority of projects are in Latin America and the Carribean, with major partners such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile or Peru. Another major partner for triangular cooperation projects is South Africa, which cooperates with Germany and a number of African partner countries. Most of the projects are financed through our joint triangular cooperation funds in Latin America and South Africa. While the majority of triangular cooperation projects are with Latin American countries, Germany also wants to increase the use of this instrument in Asia and Africa as a whole. Some projects in Asia already show great promise.

Equal Work


A global group for joint learning and collaboration on triangular cooperation is what we should be striving to cement.

For Germany, triangular cooperation is an additional innovative instrument of cooperation with emerging economies, with a particular focus on our partner countries Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. These countries are hereinafter referred to as Germany’s “global development partners”. Besides mobilising transfers together with our emerging country partner – from whom we expect a significant contribution – Germany wants to share knowledge, help develop the institutional architecture of development agencies in emerging countries and foster joint dialogue on values, modes of cooperation and interests. Triangular cooperation can have a particularly significant impact when all three partners succeed in jointly addressing sensitive topics, such as the protection of global public goods, that none of them could have tackled alone. Topics should always be selected according to the interests and needs of the beneficiary country. We believe it is essential that the beneficiary country takes the lead and steers the entire process. This, however, is not an easy task. We see ourselves neither as pure donors nor as pure intermediaries; rather, we see ourselves as an equal partner in a joint project. Contributions at the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico made clear that development agencies in many emerging economies are already in the process of forming adequate structures, developing mechanisms and mobilising resources to fully unfold their potential. Triangular cooperation arrangements are a means of supporting this process further, since they combine political and technical dimensions of cooperation with our “global development partners”.

In the last few decades, the international community has gained considerable experience with triangular cooperation. This is definitely true of Germany. In many cases, however, exchanges of experience are limited to certain groups or topics. One way to further improve mutual learning and collaboration would be the creation of a global group on South South and Triangular Cooperation. The key issues to be taken into account by this group should include the following questions: How can we further reduce transaction costs and maximise ownership on the part of the beneficiary country? What are appropriate, well-matched instruments for monitoring and evaluating triangular cooperation projects? What are suitable formats for reporting, or communication and cooperation structures? We need to integrate experiences and lessons learnt on South-South cooperation, as well as the findings of think tanks already working to better understand various approaches and impacts. Germany therefore also supports the independent work of think tanks from the South and the North in this effort. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) and the UN Development Cooperation Forum (UN DCF) have a very important role to play in this regard. Germany would like to encourage all actors to share their experiences. A global group for joint learning and collaboration on triangular cooperation is what we should be striving to cement.

PStS Thomas Silberhorn (BMZ) 2014Thomas Silberhorn is Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. He was previously Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Parliament (Bundestag). He is also Germany’s Governor at the African Development Bank and is responsible for bilateral development cooperation with the continent of Africa. Another regional focus is on Near and Middle East countries.