For the Advancement of Japan's International Cooperation ―After the Terrorist Attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh | Discuss Japan-Japan Foreign Policy Forum
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Diplomacy, No.35  Oct. 18, 2016

For the Advancement of Japan’s International Cooperation ―After the Terrorist Attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Impacts of the Dhaka Terrorist Attack: On the night of July 1st, a restaurant in Dhaka was attacked, and twenty hostages lost their lives. Of these twenty, seven were Japanese. They were all working on the front lines of international cooperation. In a time when ordinary people are being victimized by terrorism, how can we all consider our own safety? This is an important issue to think seriously about not only for our own sake, but also to ensure that the lives of the victims in this attack were not lost in vain.

Kitaoka Shinichi, President, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Kitaoka Shinichi, President, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

The terrorist attack in Dhaka was a huge shock for me, and it is a truly heartbreaking incident. The victims this time were consultants dispatched by JICA to conduct a survey of the urban transit system in Bangladesh, and they were hoping to contribute to the country’s development. I am absolutely indignant at the way these terrorists have eliminated their opportunity to do so. The surveys conducted this time were urgently needed in Bangladesh, and this was also an extremely meaningful project that Japan was able to provide effective cooperation with.

Lofty Goals

All the victims in this incident had contributed to the development of developing countries with lofty aspirations. After attending the wake and funeral of each of the seven people who passed away, I spoke with their families and relatives, as well as the other staff at the companies they were affiliated with. These conversations further reinforced what great people all of them were.

They were two types of Japanese engaged in international projects. Some of these people chose their college majors based on their desire to be a part of international cooperation projects and work on-site from an early stage of their careers. They took on internships or worked for NGOs to build up their experience, studied abroad, and some were even active as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs). Even after they joined the work force, they were treasured by their respective companies and carefully trained as human resources to assist in future international cooperation projects. Although so many Japanese people tend to focus their attention inward to domestic concerns, these young people were different, and I admire the drive they had. The Bangladesh urban transit survey was also an excellent opportunity in terms of cultivating the skills of young participants.

There were also other personnel with long years of experience working for domestic companies such as the former Japanese National Railways or JR seeking to make use of this extensive knowledge and experience. These individuals were starting their second or third career, and were strongly motivated to contribute to the development of developing countries. These people hoped to make use of the experience and skills they acquired during Japan’s period of rapid growth as part of international cooperation projects, and were excellent staff who approached their work with great enthusiasm.

The families of these people also understood that the work was being carried out in the harsh environments of developing countries and could put their loved ones in danger at times, and the support they provided deserves special mention. Many of the victims’ family members told me the following. “Don’t let their vision go to waste.”

International Cooperation Will Continue to Advance

Following this incident, although I have not heard any civilians or government officials calling for restraining overseas expansion, doing this would be promoting terrorism. We must continue our support for developing countries for this reason, and also as a way of respecting the wishes of those who lost their lives in this incident.

The basis for terrorism is the poverty and disparity of the nation or society from which it arises. Last year, the international community agreed on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the slogan “Development that Leaves No One Behind.” Although JICA has engaged in development projects for enrichment and increased availability of health care and education, as well as improvement of infrastructure such as roads and railways for some time now, these activities must be carried out continuously over a longer period of time.

Japan’s cooperation takes a unique approach that involves getting close to developing countries, consulting with people in these countries, and providing support. While respecting their self-supporting efforts (ownership), Japanese cooperation programs assist in training human resources, and this aspect is both praised and needed all over the world.

Safety Measures for the Future

To continue our support activities, thorough revisions and strengthening of our safety measures are a prerequisite. I hope to consider these measures within the framework of the “Council on Safety Measures for International Cooperation Projects” under the supervision of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The reason that safety measures have become so difficult to maintain recently is that due to the rise of violent extremism, terrorist attacks targeting areas seen as soft targets are occurring even in countries not considered especially dangerous. This was the case in this incident as well.

Also, international cooperation projects involve not only JICA staff, technical cooperation experts, and volunteers, but also many others such as civilian consultants, project contractors, municipalities, and colleges. This also makes things more difficult.

The specifics of the response will be determined through meetings of the committee mentioned above, and the following will be some of the main points considered. (1) What methods can be used to accumulate, analyze and share information? (2) How can these be applied to the scope of activity of all the related parties involved in international cooperation projects? (3) How can the necessary hard (protective measures) and soft (practice and training programs) elements be improved?

Going forward, improving the level of safety measures in place for all those involved in international cooperation projects will not be enough. We will also need to improve our intelligence by proactively gathering information about what kind of information those terrorists are likely to have and what kind of actions they are likely to take.

Translated from “Kinkyukikaku: Dakka Shugeki Tero no Shogeki: Kinkyu-kiko / Banguradeshu Dakka Shugeki Tero-jiken wo Ukete— Nihon no Kokusaikyoryoku no Shinten no tameni (Special Feature: Impacts of the Dhaka Terrorist Attack (Part 1 of 3): Urgent Report: For the Advancement of Japan’s International Cooperation ― After the Terrorist Attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh),” Gaiko, Vol. 38 July 2016, pp. 120-123. (Courtesy of Toshi Shuppan) [July 2016]