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Sunday, April 6, 2008

G8, emerging donors start development talks in Tokyo


Staff writer

Ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries dealing with development issues kicked off a discussion Saturday in Tokyo to seek cooperation from emerging donors such as China, India and Brazil at a time when conventional donor countries are struggling to boost their aid.

The two-day conference opened a day after the 22-nation Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the total amount of official development assistance provided by the member countries in 2007 fell 8.4 percent in real terms to $103.7 billion.

Japan, the world's most generous donor before 2000, slipped to fifth last year among the 22 donors as the country saw its ODA spending drop by 30 percent from 2006 amid tightening spending limits.

This has sent shock waves through the Foreign Ministry as the government seeks to take a leadership role in African development ahead of the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in May in Yokohama and the G8 summit in July in Hokkaido, which also plans to highlight Africa as a key agenda item.

"This will be a crucial year for the world's development assistance activities," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said in his opening speech at the Tokyo meeting, referring to the upcoming TICAD IV and the G8 summit.

"I would like to address the challenges (of poverty reduction and climate change) and show that the G8 countries are committed to strengthening their aid efforts."

Komura said he is determined to reverse Japan's dropoff in overseas aid.

The two-day meeting is the first of the several G8 ministerial gatherings in the leadup to the July summit, which will be attended by the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

Senior officials from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa were also invited to this weekend's meeting.

During Saturday's session, the participants agreed on the importance of cooperation and dialogue between advanced economies and the emerging donors, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

They also shared the view that industrialized nations and the new donors should respect diversity and improve the outcome of the development projects by complementing the efforts of one another, the official said.

Japan has hoped to use the gathering to urge the emerging donors to be more transparent in their aid policies. Some Western nations have criticized China for giving massive financial aid to resource-rich African nations and other developing countries without taking into account the recipients' poor governance or records of human rights abuses.

Global economic uncertainty has alarmed some observers that the industrialized nations may tighten their purse strings despite pledges at the 2005 G8 summit and other occasions to increase aid by a combined $50 billion by 2010 from the 2004 level.

The observers argue it is better to seek cooperation with the emerging donors rather than criticize them.

"We have to listen to China. Let's look to the future what we can do together," OECD DAC Chairman Eckhard Deutscher said on Friday.

Foreign Ministry officials said Japan wants to have the new donors share their own development experiences with countries, especially in Africa, that remain poor.



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