In Japan, meetings with JICA and the new government representatives

On his first visit to Tokyo since taking office, the President met key policy-makers at Foreign Affairs, Finance and Agriculture within the new administration, as well as a high profile politician and senior officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Nwanze is not an unknown figure in Japan, having visited and negotiated at high levels in his previous capacities. NERICA is still widely discussed in the development circles in Tokyo.

The President’s visit to the capital falls between the recent World Summit on Food Security in Rome and the upcoming Copenhagen COP 15 meeting. The delegation comprised Munehiko Joya and ourselves.

On his first day, IFAD President held a high-level meeting at JICA, with the Vice President, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima in a new building, hosting the new JICA that merged with JBIC. In the discussions, Ambassador Oshima commented on the CARD (Coalition for African Rice Development) exercise being on track and now the need for a major push for early results. IFAD's active involvement has been much appreciated in JICA.

CARD is a comprehensive initiative to support the efforts of African countries to double African rice production within ten years. It also forms a consultative group of donors, research institutions and other relevant organizations to work with rice producing African countries.

The President emphasized the relevance of the initiative, stating that the JICA approach fits very well with that of IFAD, aiming to increase food production for local consumption, access to markets, increased capacity, empowerment of women as fundamental elements for successful long-term rural and agricultural development.

The CARD initiative is the first step toward a broader partnership The President and Oshima agreed that the two task teams will work over the next months to identify 3 to 5 projects or programmes for collaboration including co-financing. On assessment of the outcomes, the two institutions will decide on the collaboration framework. He added that we don’t want partnership just for the sake of it but to bring real added value to the poor people we serve. South–South cooperation and JICA's experience with Brazil and Mozambique also featured in the discussions.

An extraordinary meeting took place between former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and IFAD President at the Diet (parliament) building. Fukuda oversaw the Hokkaido G8 Summit and hosted TICAD IV (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) during his time as Prime Minister. He remains an active voice in parliament and an influential member of the Liberal Democratic Party that held power for five decades. The President and Fukuda discussed aid trends, including the urgency of greater attention to climate issues that particularly affect smallholder farmers. He commended the President for taking up leadership of IFAD and highlighted the need to increase the fund's profile in Japan.

Fukuda chairs an advocacy group of parliamentarians with a strong commitment to development issues. He invited the President to the 2010 meeting of the Inter Action Council, which brings together a group of former heads of state or government from various parts of the world. Members include, among others, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien.

Journalists from leading Japanese media - including, among others, Nikkei, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi newspapers, Japan Times, Agricultural Development News and Jiji news agency - met with the President for a briefing. Most of them raised issues around the upcoming Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, the implications for agricultural development and how the smallholders would adapt. Questions revolved around land issues, food security and IFAD’s work. NHK Television conducted an exclusive interview with the President.

The Director General, International Cooperation Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Masato Kitera welcomed the President and assured him of the Ministry’s confidence in IFAD’s work. Despite the fiscal problems faced by the country, they would like to continue their support.

For the first time in several decades the country has faced a major political shift. Politicians are currently assessing and reviewing public expenditure including ODA. Kitera said he was confident that Japan would continue to play a major role in the international arena.

During the meeting, President thanked the Government of Japan for its leadership, citing the TICAD process as a fine example of the country's engagement in Africa's development. He gave an overview of his discussions with Ambassador Oshima and expressed optimism about showing concrete results through collaboration with JICA under CARD. The President shared his perspectives on food security and land issues.

In closing, Kitera pointed out that in the current financial situation yen loans would remain one of the major aid instruments which can be very attractive because of the low level of interest rates on the Japanese currency.

On the second day in Tokyo, a meeting held with the Vice Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Shuji Yamada focused on land investments. Yamada said that the food crisis and persisting price volatility are fostering interest within the private sector and governments to secure food availability through land lease/acquisition. Japan is very keen to see the development of appropriate rules for dealing with this growing phenomenon.

The President recalled the current effort by IFAD, FAO and the World Bank to frame guidelines for responsible investments, in order to achieve win-win solutions. During the meeting, climate change implications for agriculture and trade-related issues were also discussed.

Nobumitsu Hayashi, Deputy Director General International Bureau, Ministry of Finance and IFAD Alternate Governor, expressed great appreciation for the work taken forward by the President since taking office and expressed confidence in his leadership. Hayashi enquired about the comparative advantage of IFAD within the international aid architecture. The President highlighted the IFAD specificities and briefed Hayashi on accountability. The result-based management system allows IFAD to clearly report to its members about the outcomes achieved through the use of financial resources paid in by taxpayers in donor countries.

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shuji Kira stressed the confidence of his administration in IFAD and in the new leadership. Despite severe budgetary constraints, Japan decided to increase the pledge to the 8th replenishment by more than 80 per cent. The new administration is committed to food security and poverty reduction. The two men discussed in details the outcomes of the visit and about strengthening of the partnership with JICA. They agreed on the relevance for IFAD and Japan to further develop partnership through the APOs programme.

By Farhana Haque-Rahman and Gesolmina Vigliotti