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Statement by Keizo Obuchi to G8 Summit Discussion Group

Date Posted: 2000-03-17

I would like to begin by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to participate in this meeting today.

In October last year, I had an opportunity to hear the opinions of experts from a variety of fields on what perspectives we should consider in our approach to the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit. Soon after, Japan officially assumed the G8 Presidency and has begun the process of consultation among the G8. First of all today I would like to provide you with a brief summary of the elements for the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit that I am currently considering at this stage of discussion among G8 members. Then I would like to solicit the frank, unreserved opinions of all of you present here today.

Overview

The Kyushu-Okinawa Summit is held in a landmark year, not only because the year 2000 is a millennium year, but also because the year 2000 marks a quarter century since the Summit was first held. The Kyushu-Okinawa Summit will provide a forum for taking stock of the role the Summit has played and discussing the role that it will play into the 21st century.

I am determined to convey a hopeful, powerful message from the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit to the effect that each and every individual will be able to enjoy greater prosperity, attain greater peace of mind and live in a world of greater stability in the 21st century. In doing so, I would like to take into account the voices of Asian countries expressed at such occasions as my visit to Bangkok for the UNCTAD meeting.

In the quarter century since the inaugural Summit, the basic principles of market economy, democracy and human rights shared collectively by G8 members have permeated widely throughout the world, and it is upon such foundations that humankind has enjoyed great prosperity. It is my firm belief that these foundations will remain unshakable as we move forward into the 21st century.

IT revolution

At the same time, one of the significant changes in the human environment in recent history is the information technology (IT) revolution and the process of globalisation in which IT plays a pivotal role. While the positive effects of IT on the economy are clearly visible, for example, in the United States on the one hand, on the other we are also required to provide a telling response to IT-related problems such as high-tech crime. The so-called "digital divide" is another problem that has recently surfaced. This "divide" is creating the disparity among developed and developing countries, and disparities within our own society. For example, while North America accounts for nearly 60% of the total global Internet population, Africa is believed to account for less than 1%. We are therefore concerned that the digital divide in information will serve to further aggravate economic disparities. The IT revolution is a phenomenon that has advanced out of private-sector initiative, and while the issue has never been squarely addressed in the Summit, I would like to engage in frank and unreserved discussion in Okinawa on this wave of information technology that will bring great changes in the makeup of our economies and societies, addressing various related issues, including the roles of governments.

Development

There is deep concern that the problems faced by developing countries which have been left behind in the wake of globalisation and the advancement of the information society will increase in severity. It is therefore of paramount importance that we somehow integrate developing countries into the globalised economy and society. The countries of Asia accomplished rapid growth in what came to be known as the "Asian miracle," in their efforts to adapt themselves to globalisation. At the same time, with the further increase in population below the poverty line following the Asian economic crisis, there is an ever greater need to provide countries with social safety nets. I shall address the issue of development in Okinawa in a comprehensive manner, including these issues.

Health

In discussions related to development the G8 have once again acknowledged that the issue of infectious diseases is of great importance. Although great strides have been achieved in the battle against such diseases as polio, the problem of HIV/AIDS is one that continues to increase, with an estimated 33 million people infected worldwide, and every year it is estimated that more than 300 million people contract malaria. Also, it is thought that tuberculosis, once thought of as a disease that had been conquered, is now the primary cause of fatalities among patients who have contracted HIV in developing countries. Tuberculosis is reappearing in the countries of the G8 and around the world. On such issues surrounding infectious diseases, the G8 will have to discuss toward the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit.

Culture

In discussions on increasing the prosperity of people as we move into the 21st century, economics and technology are not the only issues at hand, and I believe that discussions on culture should take place. On the occasion of the Cologne Summit I stated my opinion that in a world where globalisation continues to progress apace, we should also attach importance to cultural diversity. In Okinawa also, based on the anxieties of those countries who fear that their culture is being eradicated by the onslaught of globalisation, I intend to urge that the G8 be an important vehicle for expounding the importance of cultural diversity as a source of dynamism.

Others

I have highlighted several of the issues that we face at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, but of course, the themes for discussion at the Summit will not be limited to those I have already mentioned. For example, with increasing globalisation, the problem of crime that transcends national borders has become an issue of tremendous importance for the G8 to deal with. On the other hand, the issue of ageing societies has been recognized by the G8 countries as a theme of gravity and a point of particular interest is the question of the ways in which the participation of the elderly in the socio-economy can be promoted.

In addition, as witnessed in the previous year with the issue of Kosovo, interest in conflict prevention is increasing. I have christened the 21st century as "the century of peace" and I would like the close cooperation of the G8 nations in creating a 21st century that is one without conflict, and stable in peace.

Conclusion

At the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit vigorous discussion will take place that will encompass the themes I have already mentioned. In order that in the 21st century all the people of the world can realize their common hopes for a better future, I wish that a bright and strong message be conveyed to the world from Okinawa. To this end, I am requesting the frank opinions from those people who are preeminent in knowledge and experience in their respective fields.

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