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Japan PM and McNamara on population 31Jan 1994

THE EARTH TIMES

JANUARY 31, 1994

Japanese premier pledges more aid for population, development

Experts give support for Cairo Meeting in September

By Ashali Varma

TOKYO –Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa of Japan said here on Jan 26 that his country’s commitment to population and sustainable development issues would be stepped up.

“Japan is determined to further strengthen its efforts,” the prime minister told a gathering of eminent persons here.  But he did not spell out specifics concerning additional financial resources. Japan’s current global development assistance is reported to exceed $12 billion each year, which would put it behind only the United States in terms of overall foreign aid.  Japan provided $45.4 million to the United Nations Population Fund in 1993, making it UNFPA’s biggest donor.  (The Netherlands, which gave $28.3, was UNFPA’s second biggest donor.)

Hosokawa’s remarks were made on the opening day of a two-day conference at the newly constructed building of the United Nations University.  The conference was organized by UNFPA as part of ongoing preparations for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which is scheduled to be held in Cairo in September.

Speaking before a large audience of diplomats, reporters, foreign ministry officials, and representatives of non-governmental agencies, the Japanese prime minister recalled some of the accomplishments of the 1992 Earth Summit –specifically, Agenda 21, the so-called “blueprint” for global sustainable development.

“Agenda 21 adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in June 1992, emphasizes how closely population, sustainable development and global environment are related,” Hosokawa said.  “It calls on the international community to address the population problem.” He also emphasized the need for every country to integrate both its micro-and macro-level policies into its economic and social development plans.

“If we do not take effective measures against the population problem now,” the prime minister said, “we will be leaving a legacy of trouble for future generations.”  He pointed out that since 1986, Japan has been the largest contributor to the United Nations Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Among those who spoke on the opening day of the conference was Robert S. McNamara, the former World Bank president.  After elaborating on the population “crisis” and emphasizing the need for a renewed program to reduce rates of population growth, McNamara said:” As two of the world’s strongest powers, Japan and the US must carry a major share of the political risk, the financial cost, and the security risk of achieving our common goals in the global community.  That will mean a much larger role for Japan.”

Elaborating further, McNamara said that while the US spends over 0.5 percent of its GNP toward maintenance of international peace, assistance to developing nations and preservation of the global environment, Japan with a far higher income per capita than the other OECD nations, spends less that 2 percent.

He added: “I understand that Japan is considering raising its financial contribution to $500 million per year.  That is commendable.  But I may shock you when I suggest that amount should rise to $1 billion per annum by the end of the decade.” Nafis Sadik, Secretary General of the Internal Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) –and executive director of UNFPA –said: “There is no time or reason for ideological debates.  Sustainable development requires global partnership and a renewed sense of our common humanity.”

She added, “The ICPD also comes at a pivotal point between the UNCED in 1992 and the Social Summit and the Women’s Conference next year.  The aim of ICPD is to make a significant contribution to the cause of sustainable development.  Our future, and the future of our children and grandchildren, will largely depend on the concerted actions we commit ourselves to implement in the coming years.”

Delegates were disappointed by the last minute cancellation of Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway but her statement was read by Ambassador Terji Johannessen. The Brundtland statement said, “Tokyo is special to me for a number of reasons, not the least because it was here, seven years ago, that the World Commission on Environment and Development, which I had the honor to chair, adopted its report ‘Our Common Future.”’

Her statement recalled how even then population issues were among the most challenging difficult.  The South stressed that the relationship between population and the environment depended not only on demographic numbers, but also on consumption patterns.  She reflected on the fact that the Rio decision on population represented a step backwards.

Brundtland said: “We now have to commit ourselves to go to Cairo in order to rectify the situation.  I am determined to go to Cairo myself because I believe that the decisions to be taken are potentially more important, more profoundly affecting the future life on earth, than any other meeting on the international agenda in 1994.”

On Japan’s role she said, “It is also important that Japan has planned to increase its contributions for development assistance by 40 to 50 percent over the next five years.  Other countries need to follow the example.  We need to overcome the present aid fatigue.  Norway maintains a high level of development aid.  It is in excess of 1 percent of our GDP.”

In an interview with The Earth Times Dr. Maher Mahran, Egypt’s State Minister of Population and Family Welfare, summed up the importance of the meeting in Tokyo: “Japan is one of the G-7 nations and politically it’s important that it strongly support ICPD. The experts present here from all over the world have a committed involvement in all the crucial elements of population and development: This group will focus on and prioritize the recommendations, not only on the issue at stake but by allocating responsibilities.  Everybody should know what the political, moral and financial obligations are, and this is happening at the moment.”