How Japan uses development aid to influence the Security Council

How Japan uses development aid to influence the Security Council

Those who believe that rich states use their development and foreign aid budgets to advance strategic interests will find additional support in the latest issue of World Politics. Scholars James Vreeland and Daniel Yew Mao Lim examine Japan’s approach to the Asian Development Bank, a regional institution in which Tokyo has wielded enormous infuence. Japan has the largest voting share and has always selected the bank president. Vreeland and Lim argue that Japan has used this privileged position in part to reward countries serving on the UN Security Council (link is to abstract only; full article behind paywall):

Japan has leveraged its political influence within the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to facilitate favorable loans to countries useful for its broader foreign policy goals at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)…Because of Japan’s checkered history of
imperialism, the ADB provides a convenient mechanism by which to
obscure from both domestic and international audiences favors granted
to elected UNSC members.

Analyzing the bank’s lending patterns, they find that Asian countries serving on (or about to serve on) the Security Council typically get a significant boost in aid. The authors believe the strategic lending through the ADB  has yielded Tokyo both information about and potential influence over Security Council activities:

The dynamic nature of international affairs means that Japan cannot predict just when an elected member may prove useful, so providing assistance through the ADB represents a low-cost insurance policy that places countries in Japan’s debt. Should a significant issue arise, it behooves Japan to have some elected members of the incumbent
UNSC in its pocket.

Whether Japan gets all that much for its trouble is unclear. The authors point out that Asian states serving stints on the Council have always voted with Japan, but given the Council’s tradition of consensus resolutions, this isn’t as remarkable as it sounds. Many of these votes have come on peripheral issues from a Japanese strategic standpoint, including the African conflicts that are the Council’s bread and butter. Moreover, the authors acknowledge that the pattern of lending they have identified may already be ending. China is exerting greater influence in the ADB and contesting traditional Japanese control.