Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama: Good afternoon everybody. Since I understand that the World Bank will be conducting a press briefing for you from 18:00 I will try to finish my briefing around 18:00 if possible.
The G8 Outreach Meeting was kicked off in the form of an Outreach Working Lunch today, which focused on the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) outcomes and global challenges including rising food prices. It was followed by an Outreach Working Session which discussed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other global challenges. Prime Minister Fukuda, as the G8 Chair, is determined to reflect the views of African leaders at the G8 Summit. That is why Prime Minister Fukuda hosted the G8 plus African leaders' meeting on day one of the G8 leaders' meeting. The following leaders took part from the African side: Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission plus Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, and Mr. Robert Zoellick from the World Bank.
Now, on these two occasions, they discussed first the TICAD IV conference outcome; second, the issues pertaining to the rising oil and food prices and climate change; and thirdly, the issues pertaining to the MDGs.
First, on TICAD IV-related discussion, the Prime Minister took the floor to make a short presentation on the Japanese position vis-à-vis the Japanese contribution. He mentioned that in the TICAD IV conference, he made the commitment that Japan would double its total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa by 2012, focusing on infrastructure development, agriculture, health, water and education. His second point was Japan also committed itself to increase, or fully mobilize, its policy tools so that direct investment from the Japanese private sector to Africa may be doubled in five years' time. There are the points made by the Prime Minister and then later he really devoted himself as the Chair of the Meeting rather than a prime minister representing the Japanese Government.
A few more points. He also emphasized that at the TICAD IV meeting, it was agreed to establish a TICAD follow-up mechanism which is tasked to continuously monitor and analyze the implementation of the TICAD process as a whole and the ongoing assessment of its impact upon African development across its many sectors or activities. Fourthly, he also introduced the final outcome of the TICAD IV conference was the adoption of the Yokohama Declaration and the adoption of the Yokohama Action Plan.
Now in response African leaders mentioned the following points. Firstly, they expressed their gratitude to Prime Minister Fukuda for his invitation to attend this Outreach Meeting. Number two, there was a consensus amongst the African leaders that TICAD IV was a resounding success. They also appreciated the two points made by the Prime Minister: the doubling of Japanese ODA to Africa in five years' time - and especially its focus on infrastructure assistance was highly appreciated. Also, in the same manner, the doubling of Japanese private investment to Africa was highly appreciated which will be instrumental in pushing economic growth in Africa. That was so much for the TICAD IV-related discussion.
Then they went on to discuss the issues related to the food prices increase as well as the oil price increase. From the African leaders, references were made that in Africa agriculture is suffering from the very tight demand-supply situation. What they need is increased capacity of food production on the African continent, so in this regard, the idea of doubling the production of rice in Africa in 10 years' time was also proposed by Prime Minister Fukuda at TICAD and was cited as a good example that they would expect the G8 to help the African side. All in all, there was a strong expectation and desire from the African leaders side that the G8 would continue to extend their assistance focusing on agricultural production, capacity increase, and assistance to improve the productivity of African agriculture in general.
Also the African leaders requested that the G8 provide the appropriate technology in assisting African agriculture, including also asking the provision of seeds and fertilizers which would help them prepare for next planting season. In response, the G8 leaders mentioned that they are prepared to continue to assist in the agriculture sector including their support for small-scale farmers who are really in desperate need of such support.
There was a discussion that the emergency response is still necessary and the G8 leaders are willing to continue to do so. Also, there was some discussion that in order to improve the agricultural management as such, the importance of water cycle management was also mentioned. Indeed, it was mentioned that in some parts of Africa, 90% of rainwater simply flows into the ocean without being utilized by human activities. So the idea or concept or water cycle management will be very effective.
Then they went on to discuss climate change. I understand that they did not really discuss the thing which you must be most interested to hear, i.e. whether or not the G8 or MEM should embrace the long-term target or commitment to the mid-term quantified national target as such. There weren't any such discussions; rather the African leaders requested that the G8 leaders support African countries to prevent further desertification in Africa or support African governments to protect forestries and to help African governments to have improved access to new and renewable energy sources. There was a reference to the Japanese initiative called the "Cool Earth Partnership" which Prime Minister Fukuda announced on the occasion of the Davos Conference earlier this year: Japan is prepared to provide, in total, 10 billion US dollars to support developing countries that are willing to introduce environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient technology into the economy, then Japan is willing to provide both technology as well as money. This partnership was also referred to by some African leaders.
Then they went on to discuss the importance of trade and investment for Africa. It was also acknowledged that trade and investment will be vital for sustained African economic growth. In this respect, the G8 leaders also mentioned that it is critically important for the international community to reach an early conclusion of the WTO Doha Round trade negotiations.
They also discussed the rising petroleum prices. On this, it was pointed out from the African side that, number one, the dialogue between oil producers and oil consumers continues to be very important and relevant in dealing with this issue. Number two, in this regard, they will very much expect the G8 leaders to show stronger leadership in conducting this kind of dialogue with OPEC oil-producing countries.
Then on MDGs, in general, from the African side, there was a point made by some of the African leaders that there have been several commitments made by the G8 leaders at the past G8 summits. Having said that, African leaders have a feeling that the monitoring of those commitments - to what extent those commitments have been achieved, honored or implemented, whether their implementation is sufficient enough or being implemented in an expeditious manner or not - that these things need to be monitored. That was the point made by the African leaders side.
Now, in response, the G8 leaders made the following comments. Number one, there are various fora where these issues can be discussed. These fora are open for discussion to all the African leaders. Therefore, in any case, why don't we focus on the implementation of the commitments in our own discussion with African leaders and also amongst the G8 leaders themselves? So there was a suggestion that this specific issue of monitoring the commitments made by the G8 leaders may be picked up in the next summit to be hosted by the Italian Government; that kind of comment was made. On the other hand, the point was also made that the African Partnership Forum (AFP) has been instituted since the Evian Summit in 2003. The 10th round of the APF meeting was hosted by Japan in Tokyo this past April, so this forum can also be utilized.
Then from the G8 leaders side, the discussion moved on to the importance of good governance. Number one, good governance is making steady progress in Africa, generally speaking. Number two, Zimbabwe is an exception. Zimbabwe is a problem and the G8 leaders do not accept the legitimacy of the Mugabe government. Number three, the Zimbabwe issue itself is a big minus for the whole African continent. Some of the G8 leaders voiced their view that the sanctions should be strengthened against Zimbabwe. I emphasize some of the G8 leaders; others mentioned we should seek an early resolution of this issue.
Another point was made about the AU's efforts. We understand that at Sharm El Sheikh, the AU meeting was held for two days during 30 June to 1 July. The G8 leaders were unanimous in supporting the AU resolution and also the G8 leaders would support the mediation role of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to resolve this issue. Also some of the G8 leaders voiced their hope that the issue must be resolved sooner.
In response, African leaders mentioned as follows. Number one, African leaders did not ask the G8 leaders to do anything. On the other hand, and number two, they explained the essence of the AU resolution on Zimbabwe, the role to be played by SADC on that matter. Number three, some African leaders mentioned that we should bare in mind that there is a possibility that Mr. Mugabe will retire in a few years' time and putting pressure on Zimbabwe might lead to internal conflict in Zimbabwe. There is such a danger so we should be very discrete and careful. Another point is in the March elections, the members of parliament were elected. The problem is of course that no executive government has been formed so the AU's message to Zimbabwe is to form a united government to rule the nation. So much for Zimbabwe. The point is that there wasn't any sort of conclusion as such. Our understanding is that the G8 leaders learned the views of some African leaders so they will continue to discuss the issue of Zimbabwe tomorrow among themselves.
Finally, a few more points on MDGs. The G8 leaders were in unison in voicing their concern. On one hand, if things go as usual, it will be very difficult for the African countries to achieve the MDGs in 2015. African leaders also do share the same concern. Therefore, through the discussion this afternoon, there was a consensus among all the participants that we have got to do something to improve the situation and help African countries to achieve the MDGs by 2015. In this regard, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded the participants that he will be hosting the UN MDG Review Conference in New York on 25 September and that he very much looked forward to the renewed commitments brought from the donor community. That was the message given by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
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Q: Was there any discussion about an agreement on an accountability mechanism for aid promised at Gleneagles, and since Gleneagles, for health issues related to Africa, specifically health issues related to Africa?
Mr. Kodama: To the best of my knowledge, there wasn't any such specific discussion on that matter.
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Q: Were there any discussions specifically on the possibility of a unity government or more specifically, did President Mbeki give the G8 leaders any kind of indication of how likely it is that a unity government will be formed? You mentioned the fact that there were discussions - that is generally known - but what is also apparent is that both sides have major obstacles to each other's proposals on a unity government. I am sure the G8 leaders must have been very curious to know whether this is a realistic possibility. Did Mr. Mbeki give them any reassurances?
Mr. Kodama: On that question, I have to tell you that we have an adopted rule that we are not allowed to give a description of who said this and who said that, so I cannot really tell you whether or not President Mbeki made such a comment. I can only confirm that from the African leaders side, a point was made that the AU has sent out a message that Zimbabwe should now strive to form a unity government. That much I think I can tell you.
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Q: Was there a figure given in relation to support for agriculture?
Mr. Kodama: I do not think there was a specific figure given with respect to exactly how much money or ODA should be channeled to the agriculture sector. However, if I may just give you this as a footnote, in the last TICAD IV conference, there were many discussions in which the OECD countries' ODA to the agriculture sector has been really small, and also the investment into the agriculture sector has been rather low. These reasons I think somehow worsened the troubles confronting African countries in terms of a tighter demand-supply situation of agricultural produce.
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Q: I would like to find out whether the commitment of Italy and Canada in particular came on board and for this time, will the entire G8 Group be committed to the guarantee that the G8 will live up to the expectation?
Mr. Kodama: Please wait until tomorrow. By the end of tomorrow's G8 sessions the G8 leaders will decide on exactly what kind of commitments they are going to make in relation to our continued assistance to Africa.
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Q: What was the response of the G8 when the African side said that Mugabe may soon retire?
Mr. Kodama: I don't know what the G8 leaders' response was to such a statement. I am sorry, I don't know it.
Q: Apart from the request from the African leaders side that Africa's capacity to produce food should be assisted, was there any commitment or pronouncement from the G8 members on a short-term approach for arresting hunger, which is already everywhere?
Mr. Kodama: A couple of points were made by the G8 leaders. Maybe I skipped a little bit on the content. Again, the G8 leaders certainly identified the responses in the short term and then mid term and long term, and also emergency assistance, so as far as the emergency assistance is concerned, of course they are committed to continue to provide emergency food aid, bilaterally or through the WFP (World Food Programme) and others. Regarding short-term assistance, including Japan, we are willing to extend grant assistance by which the smaller farmers, by using such money, could purchase seeds and fertilizers to prepare for the next planting season, and for mid-term or longer-term responses, certainly the assistance to improve the irrigation system and to improve the production capacity of agriculture. Japan also has been supporting the production of a hybrid rice species, NERICA rice (New Rice for Africa) which is a sort of hybridization between Asian species and African species.
I can also add that there was no reference made by the African leaders to any internal disturbances, protest movements or demonstrations as such to complain about the food shortages. There was no such sort of references.
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Q: I would like to know, in view of today's discussion, if there has been any agreement on taking any specific measures or actions to expedite the transfer of clean technology to Africa?
Mr. Kodama: My understanding on the nature of today's discussion is that the leaders freely discussed the issues pertaining to African development. And then, as I introduced earlier, both sides, G8 as well as African leaders, shared their views. So that was the purpose of the discussion. I don't think there has been any agreement as such on this issue.
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Q: This may be a bit of repetition. There are two issues which everybody is talking about. One is the amount of aid which goes from the G8 countries to Africa and the other is the effectiveness of the implementation. So just to clarify today, was there no discussion at all of increasing the amount of commitments which have been made in the past? And on the second point, the African nations question, the implementations progress, are you saying that that is going to be decided tomorrow but nothing is going to be decided today? Is that correct?
Mr. Kodama: My understanding on the nature of today's discussion pertaining to the G8 commitments is that in a way it involves both. Maybe some of the African leaders want to emphasize that while appreciating the G8 leaders' commitments to help Africa in the past G8 summits, they want to point out that they would like to see these commitments being fully implemented. In doing so, I believe they also sent their message that they want to see no backtracking on the part of the G8 leaders and their commitments.
Q: Was there any discussion?
Mr. Kodama: No, there was no such discussion, I don't think so. This is a venue for both African leaders and the G8 to really have a candid exchange of views on whatever issues are of interest.
They did a stocktaking, so it is entirely up to the leaders.
Q: You mentioned that the G8 leaders suggested to the African leaders that they should take these issues to other fora. Which are they?
Mr. Kodama: As for the MDGs, the UN conference will be held and also the African Partnership Forum has been in place for quite some years. I think there are quite a few fora where we would continue discussing the issue of African development and again I think TICAD is yet another very important forum. I emphasize that at this TICAD conference in Yokohama, the leaders agreed to set up this monitoring mechanism. Also there is a follow-up mechanism so there will be an annual ministerial meeting which will monitor the implementation of the Yokohama Action Plan. The Yokohama Action Plan includes not only the Japanese commitment, but also the EU commitment, the World Bank, UN agencies: their commitments are all incorporated in that Action Plan. So I believe the TICAD process will continue to play a very meaningful role in monitoring our commitments.
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Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan