Sep 2nd, 2009 4:18 PM UTC
By Mikiko Imai
Mikiko Imai, ONE’s policy analyst from Japan, writes on the recent Japanese general election:
Mikiko Imai, ONE’s policy analyst from Japan, writes on the recent Japanese general election:
This past weekend, the Democratic Party of Japan won the Lower House election by a landslide. This historic victory by the main opposition party will end more than half a century of almost uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. The president of the Democratic Party, Yukio Hatoyama, will be appointed as Japan’s new prime minister by mid-September.
Many in Japan are predicting that this unprecedented political upheaval will change the way Japan is run. Before the election, the Democratic Party pledged that once in power, it would scrutinise the government’s budget.
So what will this mean for Japan’s international development policies? Despite concerted lobbying efforts by our Japanese NGO friends, international development was not a major focus of any of the parties in this election. Politicians were mainly concerned with Japan’s domestic problems, specifically the dire state of the economy. But in today’s interconnected world, no long term solution for Japan’s revival will be viable unless the poorest parts of the world are fully considered – their economic growth can be part of the long term solution for Japan.
Japan can’t afford to decrease its development assistance budget, which funds programmes that are truly working. I hope that Mr. Hatoyama and his new coalition government will take this into consideration when he goes over Japan’s government budgets!
Jul 10th, 2008 11:33 AM UTC
By Mikiko Imai
The G8 Summit closed yesterday and I’m already back in Tokyo which feels a bit strange. The final day was once again busy but interesting… The G8 Chair’s summary was released by Prime Minister Fukuda of Japan, and leaders of the G8 held their press conferences. Meanwhile, we delivered our final verdict on the Summit – Bob Geldof was our unofficial ‘spokesperson’ for the day and he really worked hard to get the message out, being interviewed by journalists from as far afield as Russia and the Middle East as well as the more usual suspects.
The media centre thinned out early evening – leaders had headed back home, and many journalists and organisations followed suit. Others were headed for beers, including us! The NGOs had a small get-together at the canteen nearby – it was such a relief to stop for a moment and bond over drinks and food with our friends and colleagues.
Some were celebrating victories, while others were outraged by the result. We can however all claim at least one important albeit small victory – the media coverage of civil society opinions and activities at the G8 this year has been very high, which we didn’t really anticipate. Especially in Japan, where advocacy is still a new concept and NGOs have struggled to be recognized as a credible voice. Hokkaido has been different in this respect – major media outlets have all carried stories and news articles on these ‘outside’ opinions daily. It’s not without problems of course – the Japanese government has refused entry of at least 19 activists into the country – but this year highlighted that NGOs are now established as an integral part of the G8 Summit process and that our voices really do matter.
ONE’s final verdict was that the “G8 post small gains to the poorest, but little that’s new.” While there was some progress, much more needs to be done if the G8 countries are serious about achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), an internationally agreed set of goals that if delivered could save millions of lives.
Jul 10th, 2008 10:42 AM UTC
By Ben Hubbard
African development was again the subject of G8 discussions as world leaders gathered in Toyako, Hokkaido in northern Japan from July 7-9 for the 2008 G8 Summit. While the G8 was confronted with multiple global challenges, including climate change and a weakening global economy, the 2008 Hokkaido Summit marked an important “mid point” moment in the fight against poverty. The Hokkaido Summit came at the critical halfway point to both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the G8 Gleneagles promises to Africa. The G8 are dangerously behind on their landmark commitments to the region, having delivered only $3 billion of the promised $25 billion in additional assistance to Africa by 2010, according to the 2008 DATA Report.
After difficult negotiations, the G8 summit yielded small gains for the poorest. The bulk of G8 agreements on development and Africa and food security reiterated previous pledges rather than outlining new measures to get the group back on track. The G8 did announce plans for a new effort to tackle the global food crisis, though more details are needed to ensure its effectiveness and delivery. They highlighted the UN High-level meeting on the MDGs in September as an important opportunity to review progress and identify actions needed to overcome remaining challenges.
At a time when G8 credibility is at risk due to slow progress in delivering on commitments, there was a strong call for greater accountability in the G8 Communique. The G8 agreed to track progress against previous commitments in health, education, water and agriculture, as well as its compliance with anti-corruption measures.
Overall, the US, UK and Germany provided strong leadership in negotiations and have significantly increased their funding for Africa in recent years.
After the jump, the following brief overview of outcomes for Africa from the 2008 G8 Summit.
Jul 9th, 2008 11:34 AM UTC
By Mikiko Imai
Day 2 of the G8 Summit, and it was a key day for the G8 as well as for ONE. A very early start saw, our friend Bob Geldof and a couple of my ONE colleagues meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK, President George W. Bush of the U.S., Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, as well as top level government officials from other G8 countries to give a last push to agree something big and meaningful for the problems in African and other developing countries. This was our last chance – an agreement on it was due to be reached by the afternoon.
In the afternoon, the ONE team, other NGOs, media, and Bob (in between his busy afternoon of media interviews) all waited with great anticipation for the G8 Summit statements to start coming forward. Apparently, this year was unusual in that the statements were being released to us topic by topic. The first came in the early afternoon, and it was an agreement on the World Economy, followed by a statement on the Environment.
Then, at around 5pm, the agreement on Development and Africa and the statement on Global Food Security were finally released. It was war against time after that – a number of possible outcomes had already been anticipated, and we had been sharing our positions according to different scenarios with our NGO colleagues by then. So when the agreement was finally out, our team all went silent for a few minutes to read the agreements – word by word, then a quick chat with our NGO colleagues, followed by a relatively brief but meaningful conference call with our colleagues in London and in (very early) Washington to finalise our position. We had to get the press release on our reaction out quickly to the media, so that they could include it with their news article on the agreement.
An hour later, when I finished going around the media centre handing out the press release, I finally took a deep breath. As a first timer to the G8 Summit, the whole intensity of it was very new to me.
The outcomes were mixed. A few countries are showing genuine commitment and leadership – the US, UK and Germany, but others are letting the side down. There were a few new stepping stones that we hope will make it even more likely they will deliver on their important promises – a commitment to provide critically needed health workers; 100 million anti-malaria bednets which should save hundreds of thousand of lives; and acceptance that as a group they must be more accountable, highlighting education and water as focus areas. (You can read our press release on the G8 outcomes here).
I have to say, it was personally one of the most interesting days that I’ve had. I felt a real buzz in me to be at the core of where the information of today’s global news was being gathered and honored to represent ONE. It’s just such a shame that none of us felt a true buzz regarding the G8 summit agreement itself…
Jul 7th, 2008 11:36 AM UTC
By Mikiko Imai
The G8 Summit kicked-off today in rainy Toyako and first on the agenda, happily for us, was Africa. The G8 leaders, 7 African leaders and heads of the African Union, UN and the World Bank met for a working lunch and into the afternoon.
We know that African leaders spoke to the G8 leaders about the importance of keeping their commitments, especially for increasing devleopment assistance to Africa. But, as yet, no clear announcements have been made. We expect some outputs from the G8 on Africa and Development tomorrow as well as a statement on the food crisis – I am keeping my fingers firmly crossed for positive outcomes.
Our own ONE campaigning kicked-off in style too. This morning, Max Lawson and Takumo Yamada from Oxfam and our own Olly Buston packed the room for a media briefing on the G8 and Africa. Olly talked about the G8 countries’ mixed performances on aid – and highlighted the importance of boosting investment in health and agriculture. “The G8 promised at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 in Scotland to boost aid to Africa by a further $25 billion by 2010. But so far the G8 has boosted development assistance to Africa by only $3 billion – It’s fair to say the progress so far has been desperately slow,” he said to an audience of international reporters.
Our other highlight of the day was Bob Geldof’s arrival in Hokkaido in the late afternoon. Even after a long journey from London to Tokyo, another flight to the northern island of Hokkaido and a two hours drive once he landed, his mind was completely focused on the G8 and African issues. Expect to hear a lot more from him tomorrow.
Jul 6th, 2008 11:38 AM UTC
By Mikiko Imai
Ahead of the 2008 G8 Summit which starts tomorrow, the leaders of Canada, Italy, Russia and U.S. all arrived today in the northern island of Hokkaido. But they weren’t the only ones. Hokkaido is hosting NGOs and civil society organizations that have been gathering in the past couple of days from all over the world. Yesterday, some of these NGOs and several thousand citizens staged a demonstration march in the center of Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, to promote their hopes for world peace and greater equality. Check out the people from Oxfam Japan above, wearing large G8-leader masks and yukatas (cotton kimonos) requesting the G8 nations to tackle international problems in earnest.
I also landed in Hokkaido today, and headed straight to the International Media Centre (IMC) of the G8 Summit. The IMC is in Rusutu, a good two hours drive away from the main airport in Hokkaido. I knew I was close when I started seeing rows of security vans and guards in the middle of Japanese countryside. Apparently Japan has spent $280m on security for the G8… Our team set ourselves up in the main hall of the IMC. The place was only 75% full, but during the course of the day and evening, more and more journalists, camera/video men, and NGO guys like us arrived and catching up with each other in their different languages.
The big interest in the IMC today, at least for the Japanese and American journalists, was the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Fukuda and President Bush. We were glued to the small TV screen listening to the live coverage of the press conference, being held at Toyako. I was happy to hear President Bush passionately say that there is too much suffering in Africa and that G8 must take firm actions to help Africa fight HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. I do hope that he and other G8 leaders follow through with this and make a firm, deliverable commitment this year… Well, I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on it in the days to come.
Jul 5th, 2008 12:15 PM UTC
By Chris Scott
Mikiko Imai works for ONE in Japan. She’ll be reporting in throughout this week on the 2008 G8 Summit in Toyako.
I’ve just come back from an afternoon tea party on maternal health issues hosted by the wives of two G8 leaders – Mrs. Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister and Mrs. Kiyoko Fukuda, wife of the Japanese Prime Minister. Mrs. Brown, a Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance, flew in a day earlier than her husband (who’s coming to Japan for the G8, just in case anyone’s wondering…) to talk about maternal health alongside Mrs. Fukuda.
In Mrs. Brown’s speech, she talked about the devastating situation surrounding expectant mothers, babies and infant children in developing countries and how neglected this issue is – the global goal to reduce the number of mothers dying in childbirth by three-quarters by 2015 has made absolutely no progress. She cited the global shortage of 4 million health workers and appealed for the G8 to answer to the calls to secure the investments in women’s health care needed to save lives at the forthcoming Summit in Hokkaido.
Mrs. Fukuda talked about how Japan had managed to overcome high levels of maternal mortality in the recent past and raised the success of the Boshi-Techo (Mother and Child Health Handbook), a book that allows pregnant women and mothers to track their pregnancy and baby’s growth. This initiative started 60 years ago when Japan had a devastatingly high maternity death rate and has had remarkable success since.
After hearing the speeches, there was a traditional English tea (it was at the British Embassy…) and a chance to view an exhibition of beautiful but disturbing quilts made in memory to mothers lost from all over the world. Every piece of quilt had a personal story to it. One quilt depicted a pregnant woman bleeding to death – her name was Khatiza Mai from Pakistan and she had no health care during her pregnancy. As I left the embassy complex, in the middle of sunny Tokyo, I tried to imagine myself in her situation. It was hard – I was born in a modern hospital. Apparently in many developing countries families say goodbye to a woman when she goes into labour – how long will it be before all women are free not to see childbirth as a potential death sentence? I hope the G8 will make progress this week…
-Mikiko Imai (more…)
Jun 30th, 2008 11:21 AM UTC
By Josh Lozman
Today, the Financial Times published an article based on a draft G8 communiqué obtained by the newspaper . The draft communiqué for the Hokkaido Summit mentions the development assistance goals for Africa made in Gleneagles in 2005, but drops mention of the specific target, approximately $25 billion. The communiqué recommits the G8 to working towards the goal of universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, but drops mention of doing so by the original promised date of 2010.
ONE just published its 2008 DATA Report that monitors G8 commitments to Africa from Gleneagles. One of our headline findings is that the G8 have only delivered 14% of their promised development assistance increases. The G8 committed to $21.8 billion (the $25b was an approximation that was made before clarifications by the countries), but now, half way to the 2010 target date, they have only collectively delivered $3 billion of this promise. On AIDS: despite great progress (nearly 30% of Africans in need of HIV/AIDS treatment now are receiving them), there are still nearly 5 million people on the continent that are in need of treatment in order to stay alive.
No wonder then that the G8 wants to hide from their earlier promises. This is hard work. Their slow delivery until now has made the road to delivering the promises a bit steeper, but these are the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world’s history. The G8 as a whole is spending 0.07% of their GNI on development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. This is NOT a big budget item. If the G8 want to honor their commitment to Africa, they can. The road to doing so is shown here in this.
We can’t hide the numbers of people waiting for life-saving HIV medications and we can’t hide the millions of children waiting for the opportunity to go to school. The G8 shouldn’t hide the commitments they made in 2005 and recommitted to in 2006 in Russia and in 2007 in Germany.
The G8 will be tackling a host of issues critical to all of us: a global financial crisis, climate change, the food crisis, an economic downturn, and the role the G8 will play in the growth of Africa. On all these issues, the G8’s ability to keep their promises will determine whether they will be a relevant and trustworthy body in the 21st century.
The FT reported that what they obtained is a draft communiqué. Rather than backtracking, the G8 must at the very least include a recommitment to their promises to Africa. What they should be doing is taking a step forward by setting annual timetables for meeting their overall development assistance commitments and specifying a timetable for meeting their health commitments from the Heiligendamm Summit. One week from today, the G8 Summit starts in Japan. We will find out shortly if the G8 will stand by their word.
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