NGOs AS STRATEGIC PARTNERS
Many in Japan and around the world were impressed by the way that Japanese NGOs stepped up to play a significant role in relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Their efforts suggest that there is considerable potential for US and Japanese NGOs to partner on international development and humanitarian assistance. However, actual cooperation to date has been minimal because the relatively weak institutional capacity of Japanese NGOs has prevented them from participating fully in strategic partnerships with American counterparts, as well as with the Japanese and US governments.
American NGOs were once in a similar position, but have grown dramatically in recent years, developing the capacity to partner effectively with government agencies and others. Many factors contributed to this expansion, but one key was the effort by USAID in the 1990s to nurture the capacity of a set of promising NGOs so they could serve as partners in development and humanitarian assistance.
JCIE conducted a series of studies and exchanges to examine the lessons that Japanese NGOs can draw from the US experience to expand their capacity and better engage in partnerships. As part of this project, a delegation of Japanese NGO leaders visited Washington DC for meetings with NGO leaders, government officials, and policy experts, and a major conference was held at the National Diet of Japan to discuss ways to strengthen NGO capacity.
This project, which builds on an earlier initiative that brought eight Diet members and NGO leaders to the United States in 2015 for a series of discussions on US-Japan development cooperation, inspired the launch of a Diet caucus to support NGOs and helped trigger a major policy shift by the Japanese foreign ministry to bolster NGO institutional capacity by permitting NGOs to claim reimbursement for indirect costs when receiving government funding for humanitarian responses.