Bob Geldof―Failure not an option for Japan at G-8 summit
In 2002, at the African epicentre of the global Aids pandemic, only 50, 000 affected people could find the medicines they needed to let them live a little longer so that they may raise their children. Because this was Africa the victims were amongst the poorest people in the planet. Yet incredibly they were expected to pay for their expensive daily treatments.
What these people didn’t know and what perhaps they will never know is that because of a powerful Asian country called Japan these innocent, impoverished human beings would soon be able to live a normal, healthy life free from the fear of dying before their children were capable adults.
When the richest economies last gathered in Japan at Okinawa in 2000, Japan had put in place a programme that would revolutionise the condition of Aids affected people everywhere. This was the birth of one of the most powerful health programmes ever seen on the face of the earth. It soon became known as the Global Fund for Aids, TB and Malaria. Because of this and another revolutionary health programme in 2008 roughly 2.4 million people are treated daily, for free, in Africa allowing them and their families the lives the rest of us take for granted. Without Japan’s world leadership this incredible act of co-operative global citizenship could never have happened. Every Japanese person should feel an intense pride in their county’s magnificent achievement.
What is bizarre for us who work in this area is just how few Japanese people are actually aware of their triumph. We outsiders think we understand your natural culture of quiet modesty and self-effacement but this single act of sympathy, conscience, generosity and political and economic goodwill has largely been forgotten and it must not be, for the poor of Africa need Japan more than ever this year.
We are well aware the Japan feels that its economy is struggling. That is also true for most of the world save fro the emerging Asian economies. But Japan is still a giant. It is the second largest global economy and still enjoyed modest 1.5% growth this year. Because you are the world’s no.2 this amounts to huge new productivity and income. And yet, despite this growth, Japan’s help to the poorest on the planet has continued to decline! And your aid overall is now one of the meanest in the planet. What is more, your protectionist measures which prevent the poor from trading with you have increased. This is shameful and embarrassing especially in a year when Japan once again hosts the world’s 7 largest economies. This week’s TICAD conference was a chance to change course. But despite some progress not enough has been done. There is a lot more to do for Africa between now and the critical summit in Hokaido in July when the whole world will be watching Japan. Right now your government seem reluctant to once again assume world leadership at the G8 as hey did so magnificently in 2000.
Let us be clear. The globalisation process, which has so benefited Japan, implies economic interdependence. It will be very difficult for Japan to source its critical raw material resources without co-operation from Africa. And Japan has much to give Africa in return. In fact we would argue Africa NEEDS Japan and vice versa.
After the Second World War Japan had within 5 years re-built itself once again into a nation and society that looked outwards. Within 10 years it had a world-beating economy, within 15 years it was successfully exporting its model of development to its south-east Asian neighbours allowing them to boom and pull their own people out of a disabling extreme poverty. And now Africa is beginning to follow this model, but it needs encouragement and help.
It is certainly getting that from the great emerging new economies of China and India who invest billions in African business opportunities while extracting the raw materials they need to power their accelerating economies. Japan needs to do the same and for precisely the same reasons. America however is also extracting vast amounts of material from Africa and their private sector is increasingly viewing Africa as the next great emerging market.
However both sides view each other as competitors and this is potentially unhealthy. Africa needs a disinterested partner who can play the role of ‘referee’ between these two rivals. A disinterested friend to both China and America. One who can negotiate openly without any agenda of its own. It is not possible for Europe to assume this role simply on the basis of its own colonial past with Africa and the mutual lack of understanding between the two close continents. That leaves only one country with the ability, will and motivation. There is only one-Japan.
For Africa to correctly negotiate its inevitable entry into the world economy at its own pace and without undue interference it must invest in poverty reduction programmes of agriculture, health, and education. These should be the topics for your G8. Not to come up with brave, new ambitious programmes like Japan’s previous triumph at Okinawa would be an act of historic global incompetence and irresponsibility.
Poverty is an empirical problem. It is soluble. Japan has already proved that since the war. Cooperation not competition must be the political paradigm of the 21st century. Or else watch out for the new global disorder. None of us can afford that. And beyond the compelling political and economic imperatives to act now, there is also the moral. We simply cannot allow more of our fellow humans to die in the degradation of avoidable poverty while it is so unnecessary. Japan can act to stop that in a few weeks. For the powerful there is always the burden of responsibility and cost. But the price of both of these burdens is small compared to the enormous benefits to the world, to the poor and to Africa. And Japan, which has so much to teach the world besides its incredible goods and economic activity, must now reach out as it has before to the weak, hungry, sick and poor of Africa.
Mr. Fukuda, the real “doubling” of aid to Africa will mean an increase to $3.6 billion in 2012. With Japanese GDP standing at 4.3 trillion, this is still smaller than any of the G5. But it is a tiny gift to the poor from a friendly giant.
Japan of all countries knows that to remain a world power you must first help the weak. To remain a world leader first you must lead. The world expects nothing less from the government and people of Japan when once again we give you the responsibility and opportunity to lead us in July.
We know you will not fail us. Indeed,we hope you understand you must not fail us.