Mr Godsiff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always a pleasant duty to attend this sort of social and intellectual gathering. Such events not only provide me with opportunities to renew existing friendships but also open the way for new encounters. Moreover, the lively and stimulating conversations on such occasions are often a source of inspiration and new ideas. No wonder I have been looking forward to this annual reception, and I am most grateful to the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group for its warm hospitality and excellent arrangements.
Seven months have already passed since I took up my post in London. There is one thing I have learned here. That is, unless the audience is exceptionally enraptured by what a speaker is saying, the shorter a speech is, the better! This is an important lesson in particular in the British intellectual community, which is blessed with an abundance of eloquent speakers. Today I will restrict myself to making just two points.
This evening we are meeting at a time when the general election has only just been held. May I first offer my warm congratulations to all the re-elected members of the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group on the success of their campaigns? I would also like to commend the Parliamentary Group for all the efforts it has made to date in nurturing close and harmonious relations between our two countries and peoples. I look forward to continuing to work together with you to strengthen our ties still further. This is the first point.
Now let me refer to an issue that commands public attention these days and seems quite topical in the coming months. This year has been called the "Year of Africa". Africa is one of the two key issues for discussion among the G8 leaders in Gleneagles in July. It will also be in focus at the United Nations summit in New York in September, where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be reviewed.
It is Japan's belief that world peace and prosperity cannot be ensured without addressing the issue of African poverty. Indeed, both the UK and Japan share the same sense of urgency regarding this issue. I highly value the political leadership shown by the UK through its active public diplomacy in drawing global attention to this issue and mobilising resources to this end.
Japan's initiative on Africa dates back to 1993, when the Japanese Government organised the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development, known as TICAD I. Its aim was to register the issue of African development high on the international agenda. Since then Japan has hosted two more TICADs. The keywords emphasised in the TICAD process were "ownership" by Africans and "partnership" between donors and recipients. We encourage Africans to sit in the driver's seat, while we sit in the back seat; the donors' role is only to extend a helping hand when required and not to be a backseat driver. I am pleased to tell you that Japan will host TICAD IV in this spirit in 2008.
Japan's ODA for Africa represents only 9% of Japan's bilateral aid. Yet, Japan is serious in its desire to help Africa. As Prime Minister Koizumi declared at the Asia-Africa Summit held in Bandung last month, Japan will double its aid to Africa over the next three years.
Japan's aid programmes for Africa have three pillars. The first pillar is peace building at the post-conflict stage. Peace and security as well as good governance are essential for development. Here, great importance is being placed on capacity and institution building. The second pillar comprises assistance in health, education and water. In this regard, the African Village Initiative, which assists rural community development by addressing the specific needs of communities, is currently under preparation. The third pillar embraces projects to facilitate economic growth, for instance through enhanced productivity in agriculture, the development of small businesses and the improvement of infrastructure. This is important as charities and assistance in the social sector alone cannot create expansion of the economy. It is our goal that Africa should eventually take off, achieving self-sustainable economic growth. It is not our intention that Africa should continue to receive aid without any end in sight.
In addressing the African issue, Japan will maintain close consultation and co-ordinat ion on policy matters with the UK, as we have done to date. Indeed, we have deepened our policy collaboration on ODA over the past few years. Japan and the UK both adhere to the lofty values of freedom and democracy, and have shared interests in a wide range of issues, including Africa. Why not work together in a spirit of global partnership?