|SOMMET D'EVIAN 2003|
I am here today with Jean-Michel Severino, chief executive of the Agence française de Développement, the French Development Agency. It was the AFD which, under his management, and along with his entire team, organised the present gathering, which has brought together all the agencies in the member countries of the G8 specialising in development, and the representatives of all the international organisations which deal in one way or another, and especially on the financial level, in addition to the major agencies attached to the United Nations and a number of other bodies.
I should just like to explain briefly for you the positioning of this meeting in the ongoing timetable, which began before it and will continue afterwards, for development in Africa. This meeting relates in fact to the New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD. You will be aware that France, at the initiative of the President of the Republic, Mr. Chirac, has placed particular emphasis on a determination to encourage the whole of the international community to develop powerfully and with a sense of urgency its efforts in favour of Africa's de-velopment. The President of the Republic has in fact also taken action to ensure that France can provide an ex-ample in this domain and itself allocate an expanding role for this goal in its resources and in its efforts.
These are a few of the main stages in this approach:
There are the statements of President Chirac made at Monterrey early in 2002, the G8 Summit held in Canada at Kananaskis, which underscored the determination of the industrialised countries in the G8 to prioritise development in Africa. There have been various meetings following on from the Kananaskis Summit of Heads of State and Government. This year, we have before us a date of the highest importance - the Summit meeting of Heads of State and Government of the G8 countries, to be held in Evian next 1-2 June.
A series of contacts and meetings are planned in the run-up to this gathering. The first such meeting is that which brought together yesterday and today the major national agencies and international institutions in-volved in development.
On 24 April, there is to be a meeting in France - since France is chair of the G8 in 2003 - a meeting of government ministers with responsibility for overseas cooperation and development. The precise labels vary from country to country, but the basic reality is the same in all eight G8 states. This is a meeting I have already, some weeks ago, invited my opposite numbers in the G8 to attend.
And lastly, there is the work to be done at the summit itself, which will take place in Evian.
Alongside these meetings, on an ongoing basis, the personal representatives of the heads of state and gov-ernment of the G8 are working, conferring and assisting the various meetings, as well as preparing the way for the work to be done by the G8.
What this means therefore is a very major mobilisation of resources at all levels, and centred on NEPAD, in favour of African development.
We attach great importance to this project, which is an African project, and which defines a method - it is not a catalogue listing a series of programmes and individual projects, it is at the present time an approach which needs to be translated into reality, into concrete facts. There is on all sides, among the industrialised countries wishing to provide crucial aid for the development of Africa, and among Africans themselves, a determination to move on to real action as quickly as possible.
This is at all events the conclusion we have drawn from the discussions held on this topic here in Paris, less than two weeks ago at the African-French Summit at which all the countries on the African continent met with the President of the French Republic and where, naturally, this subject was raised.
I will not say much more on this in what is general presentation.
I now turn to Jean-Michel Sévérino, the organiser of this meeting, and congratulate him on the high qual-ity of that organisation and the success achieved thanks to the content of the debates which have taken place. He probably has one or two remarks to add to what I have just said and we shall then both be at your disposal to answer your questions.
I omitted to mention a few moments ago that one of the points developed and discussed at length, and in fact the subheading of the meeting - it was announced as a "Meeting for support and the NEPAD initiative" with a subheading "Towards a continental infrastructure policy" - one of the points debated related to infrastructures, capital projects and programmes, major capital investments, and so on. This is a sensitive subject given that all of us have in mind the experience of 15 or 20 years ago, when a number of such grand projects ended in failure. At the time, cast your minds back, the talk was of "white elephants", projects involving the implementation, independently of the context in which these infrastructures were to be created, of a number capital programmes for very major infrastructure resources which were extremely costly and whose results have been far inferior to the hopes one might have had for them.
After this period, and these failed attempts, the infrastructures concerned ended up entering a kind of hi-bernation, becoming a somewhat taboo subject, with the priorities of the actors in the development and coopera-tion domain being more focused on ways to combat poverty through education, public health, issues of good governance, the strengthening of institutions - all these being topics that are certainly of great importance. There is now however a complete, or almost complete, mistrust of infrastructure projects. We now find ourselves in a period in which attitudes have evolved as a result of past experience and in which we are realising that we need to find the right balance between the period characterised by "major capital programmes or nothing", devoid of proper accompaniment and generally failing to achieve good results, and a period in which no further attention at all would be paid to infrastructures. One need only go out into the field to see that the development of agricul-tural production in any given region cannot ignore completely the need for the availability of at least the mini-mum in terms of highway systems, roads, even basic ones, if farm produce is to be carried to its destination or the various necessary supplies delivered. If production is to be exported, it must be possible to take a range of goods to seaports or airports.
The idea today is to take stock of the views of all those concerned, views which were not identical at the outset, and to see how it might be possible to arrive at coherent and balanced conclusions on the necessary infra-structures requested by Africans. It is my personal belief that they are requested on good grounds, but they must not be seen in isolation from the surrounding social, educational, legal and institutional context as a whole.
This is therefore an interesting meeting in that it demonstrates the will of the various actors in the devel-opment field to take a fresh look at this issue with a concern to find concrete, pragmatic solutions and avoid being locked into old stereotypes and the possibly somewhat dogmatic reactions which may in the past have been associated with this topic.
I wished to give particular emphasis to this point, an important one at this meeting.
Source: Official G8 Evian Summit website
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