History of JANIC

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The history of JANIC is relatively short. Through the initiative of eleven NGO leaders in 1987, JANIC started with a small office staffed by a few volunteers in order to serve the Japanese NGO community engaged in international development cooperation, and to act as a clearinghouse of information regarding Japanese NGOs. In the past decades, in addition to the mission mentioned above, JANIC has started to emerge as an institution that fosters the growth and development of an active civil society in Japan.

The Early Beginnings

JANIC was founded in October 1987 with the initiative of eleven NGO leaders. It aimed to foster the growth of the Japanese NGO community engaged in international cooperation by 1) promoting networking among NGOs; 2) strengthen the institutional capacity of NGOs; 3) raising the number of supporters of NGO activities in society; 4) promoting dialogue between NGOs and other sectors such as governmental and business entities; 5) and promoting collaborative relations with like-minded foreign NGOs in both developing and developed countries.

In the early years, when financial sources were scarce, almost all the projects were carried out with designated grants from private foundations and also with entrusted funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Some of the very early projects were the publication of the Directory of NGOs in Japan funded by MoFA and the survey of NGO workers, focusing on their educational and professional background and their working conditions.

JANIC also initiated a study on the relationship between NGOs and official development assistance (ODA) from an international perspective; and based on the findings, JANIC made recommendations to the MoFA. In 1991, JANIC organized the first National NGO conference, which let to the creation of the National Liaison Committee of NGOs.

Reaching Out to the Public and Staff Development for NGOs

After three years of preparatory activities using grants from a foundation, in 1990 JANIC opened the Resource Center on NGO activities and international development issues. Also, JANIC began to offer a public seminar on NGOs and a recruitment guidance seminar for NGOs. Moreover, JANIC has conducted a series of global citizenship seminars in collaboration with the local government agency in various cities.

In 1991, JANIC started an accounting course for NGO workers, and held the International Workshop on Human Resource Development for NGOs in 1992. This workshop lead to a series of staff training programs by JANIC in the following years, including leadership training programs and mid-level staff training programs overseas. Also, to respond to the emergency situation of Kurdish refugees in early 1991, JANIC initiated the establishment of a joint committee composed of 18 NGOs to extend emergency assistance to the refugees. This led to the creation of the Japanese Joint NGO Committee for International Emergency Relief in 1992 that conducted a food assistance program to the Tigray people in Ethiopia suffering from an impending famine.

Organizational Strengthening and NGO Sector Development

Information dissemination activities had continued to expand, and the NGO Resource Center was renamed to NGO-Citizens Information Center in 1994, where an average of 1500 people visit annually. More recently, the Center has started to make use of the Internet and opened a website for international cooperation topics. JANIC hopes to make links not only among NGOs including foreign ones but also among citizens, foundations and companies concerned with international cooperation.

Staff training has become more systematic. JANIC conducted several accounting courses for NGOs all over the country, including Hokkaido in the north and Okinawa in the south. In 1996, a new course was introduced for entry-level staff and volunteers. JANIC also conducted overseas training programs for NGO workers engaged in environment protection. Also, with the generous support of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), since 1989, JANIC had continued to serve as the secretariat for NGO workers who receive intensive language training at its facility. Also, JANIC took an active part during the Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. It initiated fundraising and distributed the funds collected to its member organizations operating at the sites. Furthermore, it served as a spokesman for its member organizations to the mass media and to society in general.

In order to improve its financial base, in 1994, JANIC shifted its priority from a project-based funding policy to the expansion of its sustaining members (both individual and corporate) and general fundraising for JANIC's institutional support. The number of corporate members including non-profit organizations and foundations, increased from 23 in 1993 to 78 in 2009.

In the mid of 1990s, JANIC had proceeded to the next step; which is advocacy activities. Since 1995, by promoting a bill for Citizens Organizations which proposes to grant legal status to citizen groups and organizations, JANIC plays a leading role in lobbying national diet members for improvement in the substance of the bill. Another important development initiated by JANIC is the creation of the NGOs-MoFA Regular Dialogue in 1996. The representatives of NGOs meet with officials of MoFA every three months to discuss the issues related to both NGOs and MoFA, such as government support schemes for NGOs and the participants of NGOs in the ODA process.

Committing to the Global Issues and Strengthening the Network with Other Sectors

In 2001, JANIC obtained legal status as a Non-Profit Organization. JANIC started to commit to more varieties of activities such as development of a relationship with other actors and sectors, and advocating for global issues. In 2002, JANIC organized the first nation-wide conference for network NGOs which were located in provincial areas and concerned with international development, to discuss and share their experiences and promote a better understanding of each other. This conference has been held almost every year to advance cooperation among network NGOs since then. In 2004, JANIC initiated the NGO-Trade Union International Collaboration Forum, where development issues were discussed to deepen the relationship with trade unions. In 2008, to establish a new network with the private sector, JANIC launched the NGO Network for CSR Promotion to discuss issues on CSR and international development matters and foster cooperation between NGOs and the business sector. These forums and networks have gained the active participation and cooperation of NGOs, trade unions and the business sector. Through these works, JANIC has expanded the scope of activities and encouraged Japanese NGOs to build new relations with other sectors.

In order to strengthen the activities of advocacy and the connection with other network NGOs globally, JANIC became a member of the G8 NGO Platform Network which is a network comprised by the main network NGOs in each G8 countries. The G8 NGO Platform Network has published a joint statement on every occasion of key international conferences such as the G8 summit. At the time when Japan hosted the G8 summit in 2008, 141 Japanese NGOs got together and organized the 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum which actively engaged in advocacy works and opened up fresh possibilities for constructive relations with the government. JANIC took on an important role as the secretariat. This NGO forum empowered and encouraged Japanese NGOs to go on to the next stage. JANIC now focus on MDGs and aid effectiveness issues; these are not widely recognized in public even though it is a key term in international cooperation and development.

JANIC has continuously committed to strengthen the capacity of NGOs, both managerial and issue-focused, through the provision of training and materials. To improve NGOs' accountability, JANIC had set up the NGO Accountability Committee in 2002. The discussion in this committee resulted in developing the “Accountability Self-Check 2008”, a self-assessment framework which any   NGO is able to use to check the current condition of accountability measures of their organization. Upon completing the assessment under the given rules, a Self-Check Mark logo will be issued to the organizations so that they can  receive public acknowledgement for their effort in ensuring accountability.This JANIC’s initiative is included on Database of civil society self-regulatory initiatives run by One World Trust.

In order to help NGOs financially, JANIC started the NGO Support Donation system in which NGOs are categorized in several groups according to activity fields such as education, heath, rural development, and a potential donor can chose a specific category that they want to support. This system, available on JANIC’s website, made it easier to donate for those who wish to contribute to a particular issue but do not know which NGO is best-suited.

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