Japan has been integrated into the “Western donor system” since joining the Development Assistance Group for its first meeting in March 1960, while maintaining a set of distinctly Asian approaches. These include a strong focus on self-help; a preference for loans over grants, projects over programs, and economic infrastructure over basic services; low levels of conditionality; a close relationship with Japan’s private sector; and a strong geographical focus on Asia. Other issues have at times clouded its relationship with the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) but both sides have learned lessons from each other, and very significant adjustments to Japanese aid practice (as is the case for other DAC donors) have taken place over time. Japan has taken a leading role in some areas such as untying in the 1970s, the development of the International Development Goals in the 1990s and triangular cooperation in the past couple of decades. However, Japan has too often found itself in a defensive posture, when both Japan and DAC might have been more creative.
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