Japan has been a controversial figure in foreign aid for a number of reasons. The nation is famous for its strict policies in terms of refugees and immigrants, only accepting 20 refugees out of 19,000 asylum-seeking applicants in 2017. However, historically, Japan has taken the ranks as a leading provider of foreign aid, especially during the 1990s. Even today, Japan ranks fifth in global foreign aid. While impressive, Japan faces criticism for its decreases in providing aid abroad when the nation takes in so few asylum seekers. However, currently, Japanese foreign aid is making a name for itself through the country’s significant contributions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
International Development Association (IDA)
In December 2021, Japan pledged to give $3.4 billion to the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, a record donation for the nation. The aim of this contribution is to provide developing nations with the resources necessary to rebuild after the economic losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese Finance Minister Sunichi Suzuki announced, “Now is the time for global solidarity,” according to Reuters. Japanese foreign aid to the IDA will significantly help developing nations facing the highest levels of poverty globally.
Japan has extended its support to other nations beyond simply providing monetary donations. In September 2021, Japan doubled its goal of providing 30 million COVID-19 doses, extending this number to 60 million doses globally. Japan had distributed the first 30 million vaccines to nations with vaccine shortages, such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.
The vaccines will continue to reach nations in need and may extend beyond Asia. This donation is crucial in eliminating the health care disparities among nations, especially as the impoverished in developing nations suffer the most from a lack of COVID-19 vaccines. Overall, this is beneficial for all nations because the intensity of the pandemic could calm as vaccine distribution accelerates.
Supporting Latin America and the Caribbean
When Japan is not directly sending vaccines, it donates to organizations that distribute vaccines. Japan donated more than $11.1 million to UNICEF in August 2021 to support Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The funds will support the storage of vaccines at ideal temperatures and assist in achieving “effective and inclusive vaccination” across the LAC region. Much of this donation will directly aid in the creation of vaccine sites and the payment of staff and health workers to operate such facilities.
UNICEF reports that children in the LAC region are enduring social, educational and emotional impacts due to COVID-19. Japanese foreign aid in the form of the donation will increase vaccination rates for normality to resume. UNICEF has coordinated much of the efforts to drive donations for vaccines in the LAC region, a region reporting more than 40 million cases and 1.4 million deaths by the close of July 2021, accounting for 20-30% of the global toll of COVID-19 cases. Thus, UNICEF applauds Japan for its donation to accelerate vaccination efforts in the LAC.
Current Top Aid Provider
According to data from the Overseas Development Institute, among the Group of Seven nations, Japan has donated the most in global aid for COVID-19 at $5.1 billion in 2020. In comparison, Germany pledged $4.4 billion while France committed $1.9 billion and Canada gave $1.0 billion. Falling on the lower end of the donation spectrum, Britain gave $990 million while the United States gave $103 million and Italy committed $50 million. However, the United States could surpass Japan’s total donations as the Biden administration has expressed several foreign aid commitments during the COVID-19 pandemic with more to come.
Nonetheless, Japan is contributing greatly to the overall mission of aiding developing countries amid COVID-19, whether it be through monetary or in-kind donations.
Now more than ever, critics affirm that developed countries can do more to support developing nations. Japan has certainly stepped up to the plate during this time of global crisis. Japanese foreign aid has become crucial for developing countries and their recovery from the pandemic.
– Rachel Reardon