Keynote Address: Millennium Development Goals and Issues
in the International Community
By Mr. Hajime Furuta,
Director-General, Economic Cooperation Bureau
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan
At International Symposium "Towards Achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Focusing on Asia "
October 9, 2002
I am very much impressed by the superb timeliness of holding this symposium in Tokyo on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the presence of Mr. Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), immediately following the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's October 1st press conference on the progress made in achieving the MDGs, in which he issued a worldwide appeal emphasizing the importance of achieving them and urging nations to make greater efforts. On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I would like to express my gratitude for giving me this opportunity to congratulate the opening of the symposium, and also to address Japan's efforts in achieving the MDGs.
Amid growing globalization, the international community has been continuously addressing a wide range of developmental issues. Japan recognizes the important role the United Nations Development Programme has played in assisting developing countries, and has built an extremely close and cooperative relationship with UNDP, exemplified most recently in assistance to Afghanistan and in the NERICA (New Rice for Africa) project. Based on this cordial relationship, Japan wishes to work in closer collaboration with UNDP in dealing with developmental issues in developing economies and achieving our common goals, including the MDGs in particular.
These goals, which were adopted at the United Nations Millennium Summit in the year 2000, are the key to ensuring the basic conditions for human prosperity in the future. Close cooperation among beneficiary countries, donor countries and international organizations is urgently required in an effort to attaining these goals. In the face of this necessity, UNDP, with its extensive knowledge and experience in assisting development programs, is shouldering the important responsibility of leading the campaign to promote the MDGs in the United Nations and monitoring the progress that would be made. Japan has high regard for UNDP activities in this area, especially in its assistance to the production of country assessment reports on the MDGs, and supports the idea that UNDP should play the central role in monitoring the progress. With a view to supporting this role of UNDP, the Foreign Ministry is at present in the process of obtaining the budget for matters including joint research with UNDP on monitoring the progress with respect to the MDGs.
On our part, Japan has already been involved in various activities, with a view to achieving the MDGs as one of the importantn pillars of its development cooperation program. Allow me to present a few examples of our efforts.
First of all, we believe that areas of basic human needs such as education, health care, water and agriculture are essential toward achievement of the MDGs.
In the field of education, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced the "Basic Education for Growth Initiative" last June and pledged support of more than $2 billion over the next five years for education in low-income countries.
In the area of health care, Japan is committed to remain as a key player and has announced its intention to contribute $200 million to the Global Fund to Fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, in addition to the continuous implementation of the Infectious Diseases Initiative, for which Japan pledged $3 billion over the next five years at the G8 Summit in Okinawa in 2000.
With regard to water, Japan is determined to provide assistance for the development of safe and stable water supply and sanitation facilities. In the past five years, Japan has extended assistance to more than 40 million people by helping to supply drinking water and build sanitary sewage systems, and it intends to continue extending assistance in this area. Most recently, in Johannesburg, Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, the Foreign Minister of Japan, and Mr. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, jointly announced "the Clean Water for People Initiative" as a new partnership in water and sanitation. The Third World Water Forum and ministerial meetings will be held in Kyoto, Shiga, and Osaka next March, and they are expected to contribute to the progress in international deliberations on water issues.
In agriculture, we hope to initiate a "green revolution" in the true sense of the term in Africa, where poverty is more extensive than anywhere else in the world. Japan plans to offer full support to UNDP in the development and dissemination of NERICA, the hybrid rice I mentioned earlier.
Second, we must secure development financing and promote trade in order to help achieving the MDGs.
In official development assistance (ODA), from the early 1990s, through the year 2000, Japan has made the largest contributions to aid programs of any country in the world and intends to play such a pivotal role. Furthermore, it is important to mobilize any kind of development funds in addition to ODA, such as domestic funds in developing countries, private funds including foreign direct investment and trade, while further promoting trade in order to secure an adequate supply of development financing.
As part of this effort, the Koizumi Plan was issued last August. It expands the commitment Japan made at the 10th UNCTAD General Assembly and the Plan announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to provide training for 4,500 persons in the area of trade over a period of five years. In addition, Japan has improved market access for products from the least developed countries (LDCs) and, as a result, has provided duty-free and quota-free access to nearly 100 percent of LDCs' mining and industrial products. In the future, Japan will continue to increase duty-free, quota-free market access to all products of LDCs.
The third point is that MDGs cannot be achieved simply by supplying human and financial resources. Ownership in developing countries and partnerships in the international community that supports them are also necessary.
In this area, Japan has been promoting the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process since the 1990s with a view to realizing ownership and partnerships in Africa. This process represents Japan's continuing commitment to Africa's problems and its determination to work in cooperation with Africa in the international community.
With regard to Asia, the theme of this symposium, this year Japan introduced the Initiative for Development in East Asia (IDEA).
Because assistance programs led by the World Bank and IMF in the 1980s have been deemed not very successful, such awareness has grown that assistance focused on social sectors covering such fields as education and health care should be the principal means of eradicating poverty.
On the other hand, Japan believes that economic growth is also essential to eradicate poverty and has placed emphases not only on social-sector support, but also on assistance that contributes to economic growth, such as infrastructure development. The development assistance Japan has provided based on this approach has been targeted toward East Asia. We believe that the dramatic economic growth of 6 percent in the region during the past ten years and the decrease in the number of people earning less than one dollar a day (the line demarcating "absolute poverty,") to roughly half the number of ten years ago, the both facts constitute objective proof that this approach to development has contributed in no small way to both economic growth in the region and progress in realizing the MDGs.
Based on this perception, in January this year, Japan reexamined the development approach that has been taken to sustainable development in East Asia and the methods used to ensure the effectiveness of ODA, as well as the proposed Initiative for Development in East Asia(IDEA) to encourage discussions on development as an issue of common concern to the region. In the ministerial meeting held in Tokyo last August, it was agreed that, in view of the diversity in the region with respect to income level, level of growth as a market economy, social conditions, and condition of the environment, it is necessary to continue providing assistance and advancing cooperation to meet different development needs. Based on this awareness, Japan plans to cooperate actively not only by providing bilateral assistance to meet specific needs and requests, but also to encourage intra-regional and South-South cooperation.
At the same time, the ministers agreed that the knowledge and experience gained in a development process in East Asia where the balance between economic growth and poverty reduction was achieved should be shared actively with the rest of the world and foster closer international cooperation on this issue . We believe that the East Asian development approach could be an alternative to be considered for Africa and other regions that suffer from dire poverty and urgently need to take action to achieve the MDGs. In other words, we think that it is possible for such countries to pursue development of the basic requirements defined in the MDGs and at the same time clear the path for development founded on sustainable economic growth, based on the principles of ownership and global partnership.
Finally, I earnestly hope that this symposium will expand the scope and depth of the deliberations for achievement of the MDGs, and contribute greatly to planning strategy, as well as to development of a stronger partnership between UNDP and Japan.
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