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Summit of the G8

Summit of the G8

Press Conference given by President Chirac at the Conclusion of the G8 Summit (excerpts). Okinawa, Japan, July 23, 2000. Source: French Embassy, Washington D.C.

French President Chirac - (...) This summit has been marked by the attendance, for the first time, of President Putin. We listened to what he had to say and confirmed our determination to help him in the task of building a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Russia, open to the market economy and open to the world.

Information Society

The first of the themes we explored was the information society. For the first time in the G8 we had an in-depth discussion of these subjects, which were, as you will recall, debated by the European Union and covered in its prospective programme at the Lisbon Summit, when it decided on its E-Europe programme.

What is interesting is to see that the Eight were in complete agreement on three points. The first was that the information revolution offers an opportunity for individual societies and for the world. Secondly, we must guard against the dangers and possible aberrations of this information society, both at national and international level, but of course without hampering the activities of the private sector. In essence, the concept adopted here was the one already affirmed by France: coregulation. Thirdly, we are naturally aware of the dangers of creating what has been called a digital divide between nations or, within each nation, between citizens who, for material reasons or because of their educational background, haven’t got access to these technologies. We are very much aware of the dangers that this may represent and so are determined to do everything we can to ensure that access to communication technology is open to all, particularly when it comes to the developing nations. This calls for substantial efforts to promote the spread of technologies, training and also, quite simply, education. This was why we also highlighted the problems of education and, personally, I stressed the degree to which education was obviously important in development, but that here we needed, in the case of the developing countries, to lay particular emphasis on the necessity for efforts in the education of girls, who - for many reasons associated with specific constraints in those countries - are more often than boys excluded from education. Indeed experts tell us that, roughly speaking, some two thirds of children not in education are girls.


The second theme was development. We took note of the report we had requested from the multilateral development banks last year. A few weeks before we had also received the UN Development Plan 2000 report, a useful complement to the 1999 report. These two documents are of great importance in forming an opinion on the world development situation. The 2000 report underlines the scale of world poverty: for example, half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day.

Incidentally, this report distinguishes between the countries that are poor because their economies are incapable, as things now stand, of reducing their poverty, which are essentially in Africa and Asia, Southern Asia, and the countries whose problem is the redistribution of wealth, which are, in the main, at the moment - and this isn’t a personal judgement, I’m quoting from the report - Latin American countries.

We therefore stressed the importance of intensifying our efforts to combat poverty, for instance by speeding up the debt cancellation programme for the most heavily indebted countries, and made the formal commitment - and I hope, in fact I believe, it will be honoured - to reach the decisions on initiating the procedure for at least 20 countries by the end of the year, which would be in line with the spirit of the Cologne commitment. But this presupposes a sharp acceleration in the whole of the administrative machinery upon which these results depend.

This led us on to the subject of official development assistance. The Canadian Premier, M. Jean Chrétien, proposed that we should all commit ourselves to increasing ODA by 5-10%, taking advantage of the benefits of growth which enables us to be more generous today than we’ve been in the past. I’m sorry this decision couldn’t be accepted, but even so it marks what I believe is a turning point in our appreciation of the issues, since this is the first year in which ODA hasn’t been reduced. However, over five years it has nevertheless fallen by 20%. I would remind you of what I think you already know: in absolute terms France is in second place after Japan as regards ODA and, in relative terms, i.e. by comparison with its gross domestic product, France is the leading G8 nation. Although I feel that the total is inadequate, I want to emphasize that we’re not at the bottom of the class.


We went on to talk about the problems of health, deciding to adopt and support the excellent proposal made by the World Health Organisation. As you know, this proposal concerns the fight against what the WHO calls the three diseases of poverty: AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In the case of AIDS - and Africa is the primary victim here - we expressed our approval and support of the agreement reached between the pharmaceutical companies - the leading world manufacturers of these medicines - and UNAIDS. We declared that we could not countenance a system in which patients receive treatment in the North but not in the South - it’s a bit of a caricature, but one could call it one in which the medicines were in the North and the patients in the South. I recalled, and the principle was accepted, our proposal of a quadripartite meeting to speed up the distribution of the necessary therapies to combat AIDS in the poor countries.


Lastly, we discussed the major societal themes on the agenda. The first was crime, in particular cybercrime but also crime in general, and particularly financial crime. The day before yesterday, I had the opportunity to tell you what we have decided in this field, and I won’t return to it now. But what I can say is that since France launched the subject at the Lyon Summit it has, nevertheless, made considerable progress and far fewer reservations are being voiced now than then. It’s a field in which we’re moving forward, and France is determined - if I may make so bold - to set the pace in the battle against crime, especially money laundering which generates many, many tragedies: drugs, terrorism, the illicit procurement of weapons in order to wage wars dating from a bygone age, and so on.


The environment was, of course, another theme. I pressed the need to control greenhouse gas emissions. I indicated the importance attached by France, in its capacity as the country holding the European Union presidency, to the Hague Conference. I said that, even though there could be a problem with the US Congress, it was vital for us to be able to confirm the reduction commitments we’d made, as set out in the Protocol; there could be no question of modifying those Protocol commitments. It took lengthy, painstaking discussions between our Sherpas, essentially conducted by France, to arrive at this result. But we won the day.

Obviously, we also talked at length about the other problems associated with the increasingly serious damage to the general environment - it’s in the nature of things and comes with globalization; it’s one of the dangers of a globalization which isn’t controlled and humanized, along with crime and exclusion, the dangers caused by pollution, the accumulation of waste and over-exploitation of the sea, soil and forests. In particular, I stressed the importance of relaunching international efforts, through and of course with the agreement of the Brazilian Government, to protect the Amazon forest, and we secured general agreement. But this isn’t the only country where forests are at threat. Equally tragic problems are created by the fires in Southeast Asia, in Borneo, in a number of countries where fires of very doubtful and suspect origin have raged and which are seeing the destruction of the forests which are so vital to our planet’s ecological balance.

Food Safety

There were, of course, lengthy discussions on food safety, which I won’t go back over here as you can read about them in the communiqué. We have nonetheless made some progress by reaching agreement on a slightly sounder international mechanism for the various measures set out in the communiqué. What was important for us, however, was for the mechanism to involve some input from civil society. We had a bit of difficulty getting across our ideas on this subject which, according to some of our partners, ought to be left to the sole judgement of scientists. In the end, there was acceptance of the need for participation by civil society. Further progress still needs to be made, but we have taken a step in the right direction.

Maritime Transport

Similarly, we discussed the safety of maritime transport and here I have to say that our partners were unanimous in supporting our proposals, just as our European Union partners had supported us - in the case of Europe - vis-à-vis strengthening the International Maritime Organisation and improving and modernizing the international oil pollution compensation fund, known as IOPCF.


To put it plainly, I believe that the G8 has demonstrated its value as a force for generating impetus and for analysis in the framework of the leading international organizations, which it isn’t seeking to supplant. I believe that one of the conclusions to be drawn from this summit could be said to be the realization that globalization is both ineluctable and potentially a rich source of progress and the creator of activities, resources, jobs and wealth. But it also presents risks, as I have said, of increasing the exclusion of individuals and of countries, risks in the area of crime and for the environment, and we have to be aware of these dangers and have the will, the determination to control and humanize this globalization. I believe that today these things are of far more active concern, or more clearly perceived than would have been possible even last year.

So that’s what I wanted to say. I have spoken for rather a long time, but I just wanted to give you this report, and I’m ready to answer your questions.


Human Genome

Q. - As regards the human genome, there are reports of a wide gap between your own position and that of President Clinton. Can you explain this difference?

French President Chirac - There were no problems or difficulties or differences regarding the genome. I should remind you that we all, officially or unofficially, approved the declaration made by President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair on this subject.

So there were no difficulties. There were no differences within the Eight.



Q. - Just now, on the subject of the human genome, you said that there were no differences of opinion. On the other hand, we heard that as regards GMOs, the few differences there were couldn’t be overcome. Is this how you saw it?

French President Chirac - Yes, you’re right. I would say that there are two schools of thought as regards GMOs. There is the American school in the broad sense of the term, as set out in the arguments put forward by Jean Chrétien and also by Bill Clinton, to the effect that, first of all, GM0s don’t endanger human health or the environment and, secondly, that they offer a solution to food shortages, especially in developing countries. And then there is the other school of thought, I would call it the European and Japanese school, which naturally doesn’t claim that GM0s are inherently dangerous, but considers that their potential effects on health and the environment are such that the precautionary principle has to be applied and scientific certainty achieved before the technology is generally adopted. Each side took a first step - especially, I would say, those advocating the first argument, who moved towards a better understanding of the other’s position, but, admittedly, there’s still a divergence of views in this field.


I should like to say one last word on a subject you haven’t raised in your questions. This morning, Mr Mori told us that for an hour we should, in a way, take stock of what we’ve been doing so as to see what vision we have of the G8 in the future.

(...) I believe that we should take five very brief principles as our guidelines. The first is that we are an impetus-generating organization, but never an administrative one - that would be very dangerous and might legitimately be contested. Secondly, we must always act in support of the international institutions, which alone have legitimacy - foremost among them is of course the UN. The third principle is that our joint initiatives have to be confined to questions of general policy or general actions. We mustn’t incur the risk of trying to deal with and solve specific technical or geographical problems. The fourth principle is that we must resist the temptation to deal with political matters. This isn’t the appropriate body for that. The fifth and last principle is the one I began with: we must involve others to a greater extent. This isn’t to say that we should broaden our existing membership, that isn’t a current concern, but we must show far greater consideration for developing nations, emerging countries, other industrialized countries, the whole international community. And showing far greater consideration means consulting them, stepping up our dialogue with them.

These are, to my mind, the principles on which the G8’s vision of tomorrow must be based. I appreciated Mr Mori’s proposal to discuss this, and was happy to note that these principles were basically, even genuinely approved by all our partners.

Thank you./.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).