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President of the European Commission
G8 summit in Toyako,
I am pleased to be able to tackle the MDG issue early this week. We are at the midpoint in the midpoint year of the MDG process. What we have learned so far is that we can reach the MDG targets. They are not a dream. Since 1999, there are 29 million more African children in school. We have to now push ahead – for we know what can be done. There are many more children in Africa who have the right to education.
The G8 is determined to use this Summit to build momentum for MDGs - for the Accra conference, for the NEPAD and MDG events at the UN in September, and for the Doha meeting in November. Thanks in large part to the unstinting efforts of Ban Ki-Moon, 2008 is clearly Year of the MDGs, and we are fully supportive. But it is also clear that the MDGs are a credibility test for the G8 and indeed for the wider international community. In order to pass that test, the G8 leaders must of course reaffirm existing commitments, from Gleneagles, from Heiligendamm. But I think we are ready to do more than that. We must show a sometimes sceptical public that we will find a way to deliver those commitments, including by interim points, such as 2010. And we also have to respond to new challenges, such as food prices.
Inside the G8, the European Community fully accepts its responsibilities as a major aid player, and is determined to deliver. We and our Member States already deliver 60% of total international overseas development assistance (ODA). We reaffirmed in last month's European Council, our commitment to reach a collective ODA target of 0.56% GNI by 2010 and 0.7% by 2015. These commitments should see EU ODA double to over 66 bn euros by 2010.
At least half the collective increase will be allocated to Africa, which will be a major downpayment to our Gleneagles target of $25 bns to Africa – indeed the EU is on track to provide more than 90% of the G8's $25 bns pledge.
But it would be wrong for me not to acknowledge that, like all other members of the international community, we are currently struggling with aid volumes, which I have to acknowledge is the wrong signal at the wrong time. I am strongly pushing all EU Member States to establish indicative timetables to illustrate how they will meet their agreed targets. We can do better, and we must do better.
The European Council also adopted an EU Agenda for Action on MDGs, which identifies - in clear time frames - specific milestones and actions in all the MDG areas. If we keep to our aid pledges, we can deliver a large part of our MDG targets by 2010. Example: by getting 25 million more primary aged children into school. Or cutting by a fifth the proportion of children under five who are under weight. Or saving 4 million more children's lives a year through universal access to reproductive health. Or providing 75 million more bednets in Africa. All of this by 2010.
The last point I wanted to make is that development remains the top overarching priority, and it touches on each and every one of our subjects this week. Climate change is one area, where both in our EU-Africa Partnership and in the Global Climate Change Alliance, we are promoting the development angle of the climate change debate.
Food prices are another obvious area of linkage. The impact of high food prices is particularly severe for the world's poorest populations, and may indeed even put at risk our progress towards the MDGs. So although the EU has already put together some 550 million euros of additional short term measures for 2008, we need to do more. African leaders back in 2003 already identified that agricultural growth would be essential to reach the MDGs. Ban Ki Moon's MDG Steering Group for Africa, of which I am a proud member, calls for the quadrupling [$1-2 billions to $8 billions] of external financing for African agriculture by 2010.
Our idea is to use unspent Community funds in a creative and positive way. I am announcing today our intention to establish a 1 billion euro facility to support agriculture in developing countries. This will aim to generate a strong and rapid agricultural supply response. For example, promoting agricultural production by improving poor farmers' access to inputs such as better fertilizers and seeds.
MDGs are back in the spotlight this year, and rightly so. We in the G8, and particularly the EU members, are determined to keep them fully in the public gaze, for that is how we will succeed in mobilising the political support they need.