KYOTO — NGO representatives clashed with officials from the Group of Eight countries at a meeting here Thursday, charging that this year’s summit could be a major step backward for climate change, development and aid to Africa due to poor leadership on the part of Japan.
“Despite the great expectations placed on the Japanese leadership with regards to global issues centering on the environment and development, we see little sign of progress toward a successful conclusion of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako summit,” said a statement by nearly 160 NGO representatives from 20 different countries.
“The lack of ambitious policy proposals from the Japanese presidency is the cause of our great concern that the leaders gathering at Toyako may end up not producing any positive outcomes,” it said.
In the statement handed to the G8 “sherpas,” who coordinate G8 policies for their respective countries, the NGOs called on Japan to take the lead by using the summit to announce a midterm global goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 25 percent to 40 percent compared with 1990 levels. The NGOs called on Japan to keep promises of development assistance to Africa made at past summits to meet the United Nations-mandated Millennium Development Goals, which call for halving poverty worldwide by 2015.
The NGOs criticized recent declines of official development assistance, particularly on the part of Japan, which has cut ODA by 24 percent in the last year.
The upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development was also a subject of concern.
“The preparatory discussion toward TICAD, tasked by the government of Japan to inform the G8 discussions on Africa, seems to ignore the existing international agreements and commitments (made so far by G8 members) and thus shows no road map toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa,” the NGOs said.
The intense criticism of the G8 countries and especially Japan’s leadership was strongly opposed by the sherpas, who said the purpose of the summit is to build toward comprehensive international agreements on climate change that include all major greenhouse gas emitters in developed and developing countries and to build on previous development agreements.
“I think Japan is doing a brilliant job. This year’s summit will take further steps beyond the steps that were taken at the summit in Germany last year,” said Bernd Pfaffenbach, the German G8 sherpa.
“I reject the notion that we’re moving backward. We have to build consensus on a global scale and that takes time,” said Giampiero Massolo, the Italian sherpa.
Peace and human rights activists at the meeting were not given the same amount of time as the other NGOs to formally present their cases.
They were allowed to make a few comments about the rights of indigenous people. In particular, they called on the G8 to recognize the rights of Hokkaido’s Ainu.