Cooperation between different sectors and at different levels, tailored to each country’s conditions, is essential for developing countries to achieve economic, social and national progress. The objective of technical cooperation is to develop human resources that will take on the burden of nation-building in developing countries; in other words, it is a form of assistance that is primarily focused on information and services.

The sectors in which technical cooperation is carried out are truly diverse, ranging from basic human needs such as health and medical care to computing and other sophisticated, advanced technological fields. Japan’s technologies and expertise in such diverse sectors are transferred to key members of society and others who take on the mantle of leadership (known as technical cooperation “equivalents”). These partners are then responsible for disseminating these skills widely among the population of the developing country, thus contributing to national development.

Technical cooperation is typically provided to countries for which direct aid or credit assistance is not an option due to relatively high per capita income levels, or to countries with high levels of accumulated debt that face credit assistance eligibility restrictions. It is an effective means of providing assistance to least developed countries (LDCs) and small island states, where large-scale aid programs are difficult to implement.

In addition, since technical cooperation is a form of assistance that maintains personal contact and human communication at its core, it plays an important role in building mutual understanding at the level of individual citizens in both countries.

Forms of technical cooperation

Technical cooperation in the sense described above includes a wide range of activities, from hosting foreign students in Japan to publishing and exporting technical documentation and other materials in local languages. The organizations implementing technical cooperation programs are also extremely diverse; some initiatives are sponsored by government agencies, some by private companies operating in developing countries, and others by religious institutions as part of their missionary activities.

The technical cooperation programs implemented by the Japanese government range from project-type technical cooperation schemes consisting of three elements – hosting interns in Japan, sending Japanese experts to recipient countries, and providing equipment and materials – to development surveys and sending volunteers from the Japan Overseas Volunteer Organization (JOCV). The government agency responsible for implementing these technical cooperation programs is the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). JICA has also recently expanded its activities into the field of international disaster relief, sending international disaster relief teams when natural disasters occur abroad.

Other technical cooperation initiatives implemented with government funds include the hosting of students from developing countries at government expense, as well as surveys and research projects conducted by various government agencies and public bodies in developing countries.

Private sector technical cooperation programs include those funded independently by private sector aid agencies, companies, or corporate groups, as well as those implemented by non-profit corporations with the help of government subsidies or through contractual arrangements with government agencies.

Another form of technical cooperation also deserves a special mention: technical internship programs implemented by local governments with subsidies provided by the national government. These programs are particularly important because they focus on technical cooperation at the broader national level. Students from developing countries are sent to different parts of Japan, where they have the opportunity not only to receive technical training but also to have direct contact with the Japanese. This deepening of mutual understanding through people-to-people contact will lead to the ultimate goal of international cooperation.