Engineering the security-development nexus, the Japanese way

#CriticalThinking

Peace, Security & Defence

Picture of Atsushi Hanatani
Atsushi Hanatani

Advisor to the Director General, Infrastructure and Peacebuilding Department, JICA

Reconstructing state institutions to win lasting peace in fragile and conflict affected states and situations (known as FCAS) requires multiple efforts involving both civilian (humanitarian and development) and military actors. It is widely recognised that there is no development without peace, and there is no peace without development. So there is an urgent need to strengthen the security-development nexus.

The international community has endeavoured to frame this all-inclusive approach under different names and concepts, including ‘CIMIC’ (civil military cooperation), a ‘whole-of-government approach’ (WGA), a ‘comprehensive approach’ or ‘3D’ (defence, diplomacy and development), to name but a few. Japan is no exception to this international drive to strengthen the security-development nexus; but it approaches the subject from a different angle, reflecting its own unique history and policy environment.

In terms of its security policy, since the end of the Second World War Japan has maintained a rather restrictive position focused on its own self-defence under Article 9 of the Constitution. In response to the country’s historical experience, Japanese policymakers and the general public have shared a strong sense of pacifism and abhorrence of the use of military power.

But in 1992 Japan decided to play a more proactive role in working towards stability in the international community by enacting the International Peace Cooperation Act. Since then, under this law, Japan has actively engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations (PKO) activities through the dispatch of the Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) to Asia (Cambodia, East Timor, Nepal), the Middle East (Golan Heights), the Caribbean (Haiti) and Africa (Mozambique, South Sudan).

Japan has been one of the major contributors to South Sudan’s state-building efforts since before independence

More recently, Japan’s National Security Strategy of 2013 has made it clear that it wishes to play an even more proactive role as a major global player in the international community under the policy of “proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation”. Under this strategy, Japan is willing to “further step up its cooperation with UN PKO and other international peace cooperation activities even more proactively”.

Furthermore, the strategy refers for the first time to the need to strengthen civil-military cooperation by stating that, when participating in PKO, Japan will “endeavour to ensure effective implementation of its operations, through coordination with other activities, including Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects”.

This mention of the need for civil-military cooperation is echoed in ODA policy. The recently-revised International Cooperation Charter of 2015 advocates strengthening coordination between the ODA and PKO (including the participating JSDF unit) to ensure effective resource use.

Collaborative exercises between the JSDF and ODA programmes are often called All-Japan Cooperation (meaning cooperation among Japanese key actors at government level as its core value). One of the most notable examples of such a collaborative effort between JSDF attached to PKO and ODA has been observed in Japan’s contribution of the 350-strong JSDF Engineering Unit to the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), since 2012.

This was made possible by the fact that the original, pre-December 2013 UNMISS mandate included consolidation of peace through long-term state-building and economic development, and through the strong commitment of the Japanese government to support this new-born nation.

Japan has been one of the major contributors to South Sudan’s state-building efforts since before independence, through the implementation of developmental programmes by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). During the relatively peaceful period between 2011 and 2013, many collaborative activities were undertaken between the JSDF Engineering Unit and Japanese ODA programmes (including NGOs and UN agencies that benefitted from Japanese funding), mainly in the field of infrastructure development (including road repair and rehabilitation, and warehouse construction). Similar exercises have been undertaken in East Timor, Iraq and Haiti.

While the scope of civil-military cooperation among Japanese actors is still limited, it nonetheless has the potential to make a unique contribution

What are the key features of this All-Japan Cooperation, the Japanese version of civil-military cooperation?

First, as a precondition, Japan does not engage directly in stabilisation activities, but focuses on engineering activities. This is because the International Peace Cooperation Act of Japan demands strict compliance with Article 9 of the Constitution, and JSDF participation in peacekeeping operations is approved only when agreement on a ceasefire has been reached and maintained among conflicting parties, and when the use of weapons is limited to the minimum necessary to protect its own personnel.

Second, civil-military cooperation is led not by military actors but by civilian actors like JICA and MOFA, who implement ODA programmes. In most collaborative exercises that have taken place, it has been widespread practice for JSDF to provide complementary support to the ODA programmes implemented by civilian actors, not vice versa.

Third, civil-military cooperation has taken place mainly around development-related activities, leaving aside the security and political aspects of peacebuilding. This is not to say that engineering activities are not important; instead, engineering is considered to be one of the most critical elements of peace operations, especially at the mission start-up phase and in challenging environments like South Sudan.

While the scope of civil-military cooperation among Japanese actors is still limited and engineering-focused, it nonetheless has the potential to make a unique contribution to international peacebuilding efforts by providing infrastructural assets and services. Under its current policy of proactive contribution to peace, Japan is expected to expand and deepen its efforts in this field to further strengthen the security-development nexus.


This article is from Friends of Europe’s upcoming discussion paper  ‘Investing in Sustainable Peace and Development’, in which international experts in these fields consider how policymakers can address the security-development nexus to build peaceful and inclusive societies. This discussion paper complements the Friends of Europe Policy Insight debate ‘To achieve Agenda 2030, give peace a chance’, held as part of the 2017 European Development Days.

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