Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister of Japan
on the Occasion of "From Okinawa to Toyako: Dealing with Communicable Diseases as Global Human Security Threats"
May 23, 2008, Tokyo, Japan
I would like to begin my remarks today by extending my sincere thanks to the participants in this Symposium, who have gathered here from every corner of the globe. It is a pleasure to be able to address you today and I welcome you warmly to Japan. I would also like to express my deep respect to Executive Director Dr. Michel Kazatchkine of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as the other participants from the Global Fund, and also to former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, now serving as the Chair of the Friends of the Global Fund, Japan (FGFJ), and FGFJ Director Tadashi Yamamoto, who has worked so tirelessly to convene today's symposium.
It was exactly eight years ago that then-Prime Minister Mori invited African heads of state and government to the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit--a first in the history of the G8 summit. Furthermore, combating infectious diseases was taken up as one of the summit's major agenda items--again a first in G8 summit history. This became a G8 Initiative and ultimately led to the birth of the Global Fund, as you are all well aware. Japan is of course delighted to have played a role in the Fund's creation. Now, eight years later, Japan is again hosting the G8 summit. I find it especially significant that this symposium on the three major infectious diseases is being held here in Japan during this milestone year in which we are also hosting the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV). We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to host such an important forum.
The Importance of Countermeasures for Infectious Diseases and the Global Fund
Ladies and gentlemen,
From the fight against the plague that decimated populations in the Middle Ages to the struggles against new strains of influenza ravaging the globe time and again in the 20th century, it is no exaggeration to say that the history of mankind has been a history of the fight against infectious diseases. Today, HIV/AIDS is poised to inflict an even heavier toll than even the plague in the Middle Ages, becoming the most damaging infectious disease in human history. If we look at the three major infectious diseases collectively, some five million lives are being lost annually around the globe.
Amidst these tragedies, it is the African region that has been most seriously affected, with 80% of the people dying from AIDS and malaria concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.
The three infectious diseases also cause serious challenges to developed countries. They pay no heed to whether a nation is developed or developing as they spread, making it essential to take actions at the global level.
It is none other than the Global Fund that has played a key role in this ongoing war on infectious diseases. I understand that the Global Fund has not only saved the lives of some 2.5 million people in 136 countries but also has become the world's largest financing body to developing countries for programs to combat infectious diseases. The Global Fund has adopted a participatory approach, in which all stakeholders, such as donor countries, recipient countries, international agencies, private corporations, private foundations, and civil society, are jointly engaged in decision-making and the formulation and implementation of programs.
Japan highly commends the Global Fund for such participatory approach to international cooperation setting the Fund apart from its contemporaries as ahead of the times.
Supporting all the people around the world battling AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria and endeavoring to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) lead to the attainment of human security, which Japan values greatly. From this viewpoint, I am pleased to announce that Japan will be contributing 560 million dollars to the Global Fund in the coming years. We expect that this contribution will enable the Global Fund to continue and expand its activities, resulting in great many lives being saved.
International Health Cooperation
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are still far short of achieving the health-related MDGs. Maternal and newborn health issues are particularly challenging, with 500,000 pregnant women and ten million newborns dying annually. If we look at the goal of halting by 2015 and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, there is a clear danger of not achieving this goal in the African region in particular. Yet without good health among the people, economic and social development in Africa will remain extremely difficult to achieve.
In continuing our battle with the three major infectious diseases, it will be important for us to reinforce health systems in developing countries comprehensively as we take actions against individual infectious diseases. For example, without affordable systems for purchasing and shipping safe medicines, patients will be unable to access them. Moreover, it is not enough to construct hospitals and local health centers. We must make sure that they are also properly maintained and managed. Furthermore, we must dismantle prejudices towards infected people while fostering in the public sufficient knowledge about prevention, treatment, care, and support in order to ensure that persons needing care will receive it as early as possible. It is also imperative that doctors, nurses, and other medical human resources be cultivated and that those human resources contribute to health care within their home countries.
If we look back on Japan's experiences, we find that public health care laid the basis for postwar reconstruction. Based on its experience, Japan would like to take various initiatives, such as enhancing health care systems, as well as taking direct actions to tackle individual infectious diseases. Among other measures, Japan hopes to cultivate human resources and conduct awareness-raising on maternal and child health. In doing so, we intend to pursue the participatory approach, which I cited earlier as one of the hallmarks of the Global Fund.
This year, we stand at the halfway point in the timeframe for achieving the MDGs. In January I participated in the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where I expressed my strong wish to focus on health as one of the priority issues at the upcoming G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, from the perspective of "human security." In addition, TICAD IV will convene in Yokohama next week, under the theme "Toward a Vibrant Africa." Health issues will certainly be discussed at some length on that occasion.
As you all are aware, for African countries and other developing nations, one of the most critical challenges on development is to address health issues, including infectious diseases. It is also in line with my own vision of making Japan a "Peace Fostering Nation" to assist with such efforts by developing countries. A nation actively engaged in global issues, contributing to the peace and the development of the world--this is exactly the kind of Japan that I hope to foster.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I close my remarks today I would like to reiterate my deep respect for the people devoted to international health cooperation, including those involved in the Global Fund. I hope that today's Symposium serves as a valuable opportunity for us as we reinforce our international partnerships in the areas of infectious disease and health cooperation. Thank you for your kind attention.
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