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British Prime Minister Tony Blair Reflects on "Significant Progress" of G8 Summit

Gleneagles, July 8, 2005

Tony Blair has spoken about the agreements made by world leaders during the last few days in Gleneagles.

He spoke as the Summit documents were released.

The PM said a 'common purpose' now existed between the leaders on tackling climate change, with clean energy to be promoted.

All the G8 leaders agreed climate change was happening and 'that human activity is contributing to it, and that it could affect every part of the globe.'

Extra resources would be provided for Africa's peacekeeping forces to prevent conflict, he said, with 'enhanced support' to fight corruption.

Action would also be taken to improve health and education across the continent, with more help to tackle HIV/AIDS and stimulate trade and growth.

Progress had also been made on the Middle East peace process, he said.

Earlier Mr Blair said the agreements reached during the summit 'would not change the world tomorrow - it is a beginning not an end.' But he felt 'siginifcant progress' had been made on the major issues.

Transcript

Prime Minister: Good Afternoon everyone, and thank you for coming to this press briefing at the conclusion of the G8 summit. And I would like, if I might, to begin by thanking all my G8 colleagues and the other leaders from different countries round the world who participated in the summit, and thank them especially for their expressions of solidarity and the strength of their commitment to the British people at what has obviously been a difficult time as a result of the terrorist acts in London yesterday, and I would most sincerely like to thank them for that. They showed great leadership and a very great sense of friendship towards my country, and I was honoured to receive that.

In respect of the G8, as you know we put two major issues right at the forefront of our deliberations: the issue of Africa and the issue of climate change. In respect of Africa you will now be reading the communiqué and you will see the Chairman's remarks as well. It is in the nature of politics that you do not achieve absolutely everything you want to achieve, but nonetheless I believe we have made very substantial progress indeed. As I said to you earlier today, we do not simply by this communiqué make poverty history, but we do show how it can be done, and we do signify the political will to do it.

The passion that we have brought to this has been echoed by a quite remarkable campaign in all parts of our country, but in all parts of the world also. It has been led with a great deal of dignity and with an enormous compassion and decency for the scandal of the thousands of people who die every day preventably in Africa, motivated by a determination to see a stop to it.

About a year ago we established the Commission for Africa, with the purpose of trying to put in place the basic elements of a comprehensive package that would right the wrongs of Africa. That Commission for Africa report has really informed our decisions and our deliberations here at the G8. As you will see, the commitment to the doubling of aid we have achieved, and a doubling of aid not just for Africa, the extra $25 billion, but also, as has been estimated now by the OECD, a doubling of overall aid which gives us an additional $50 billion.

We always recognised however that it wasn't enough simply to increase aid. We also have the Finance Ministers agreement to cancel debt, and I would like to pay tribute to my own colleague and Chancellor, Gordon Brown, for the work that he did in bringing Finance Ministers together on that issue. We also made sure that we developed specific commitments in relation to the other problems that Africa has, in respect of HIV-Aids for example, as close as possible to universal access within the next few years. If we can really do that, and that is the commitment there, what a huge difference that will make to Africa. In respect of malaria, and TB, and polio, specific commitments. In respect of education, again commitments that should allow us to reach the Millennium Development Goals that were set out. In respect of peace-keeping, not merely the training of an additional 20,000 peace keepers for Africa, but an endorsement of the basic principles of the United Nations plan that we have a sufficient force from the Africa Union capable of keeping the peace, and enforcing the peace in circumstances where there has been conflict. And on trade, I think some of us would have liked to have gone further and had a specific end date given now for the ending of all export subsidies. Nonetheless, we have two commitments: one that we should establish a credible end date; and secondly, a commitment to make a success of the next round of negotiations in Hong Kong later this year. And I think from what was said round the table, and what was said by President Bush yesterday, I believe it is possible to get a clear commitment at Hong Kong to a date, and I believe it should be, and will be, 2010, in which we can end such subsidies. There are also commitments on infrastructure, on building trade capacity, because it is not enough for us simply to open up our markets, we also have to make sure that those developing countries have the capacity to make use of those more open markets. And there was also from the African side likewise a firm and strong commitment to good governance, to democracy, to human rights, to respect for the rule of law. We have said throughout, and I say again now, this can never be done on the basis of the old relationship of charity between donor and recipient, it can only be done on the basis of a partnership. The only people that will change Africa ultimately are Africans. And to those people who say all we ever wanted to do was put money into Africa, that has never been the case. Our case is that the money is necessary, but it is never sufficient. In the end it is only vibrant African leadership, capable of giving good governance to its people, that can make the ultimate difference, that will root out corruption, that will entrench democracy and human rights and will make sure that people respect the rule of law.

So I am very pleased at what we have been able to achieve and I hope, as I said to you earlier today, that that clear signal on Africa, not just of intent but of detailed propositions for help, stands in stark contrast to the politics of terror that we saw exhibited yesterday.

The second issue was climate change. Now here let me be very clear as to what we haven't achieved and what we have achieved. We were never going to be able at this G8 to resolve the disagreement over Kyoto, nor to renegotiate a set of targets for countries in place of the Kyoto Protocol, that was never going to happen and I have to be very blunt with you about that. But I tell you my fear on climate change, which is why I put this on the G8 agenda. If it is impossible to bring America into the consensus on tackling the issue of climate change, we will never ensure that the huge emerging economies, particularly those of China and India, who are going to consume more energy than any other part of the world, we will never ensure that they are part of a dialogue, and if we cannot have America as part of the dialogue on climate change, and we can't have India and China as part of the dialogue, there is no possibility of us succeeding in resolving this issue.

What I wanted to do therefore at this summit was establish the following, and I believe we have done this. I wanted an agreement that this was indeed a problem, that climate change is a problem, that human activity is contributing to it, and that we have to tackle it; secondly, that we have to tackle it with urgency; thirdly, that in order to do that we have to slow down, stop and then in time reverse the rising greenhouse gas emissions; and finally, we have to put in place a pathway to a new dialogue when Kyoto expires in 2012. And what we have agreed is a dialogue between the G8 countries and others, but most particularly the five that came to Gleneagles yesterday, and that dialogue will be on how we confront and tackle this problem. It is combined, in addition, with a specific plan of action in respect of all the main issues, and that plan of action and the dialogue together will then be reported on, first of all at a meeting that will be held here in Britain on 1 November, and then in successive G8 Presidencies. And the President of Russia has kindly agreed to put this on the agenda for next year, and there will then be a full report back for the Japanese Presidency in 2008.

So what it isn't, and I don't claim that it is, is a renegotiation of a climate change treaty, or a going back over the disagreement over Kyoto. What it is however is a firm consensus that this problem needs to be tackled, has to be tackled now, together with a dialogue for the future and a plan of action that brings on the one hand the major wealthy economies, including America, and on the other hand the emerging economies of China, and India and other countries together. That I think is something to be proud of.

Finally, there was also a decision, and because of the events yesterday I missed this particular session but it is something that we have been working on for several weeks, there was also a decision to put together a package for the Middle East and for the Palestinian Authority which will involve up to $3 billion over the next few years, and the importance of that is very, very simple. When the disengagement plan happens over the next few weeks, it is essential we build the infrastructure of a state on the Palestinian side, and this money can help us do this, together again with a proper plan of action.

So on Africa, on climate change and on the issue of the Middle East, I think we have made significant progress, and despite obviously being overshadowed by the terrorism that occurred yesterday in London, I think and hope that we did demonstrate that there is a better and more hopeful way of doing politics in the future.

Question: Prime Minister, before the awful events of yesterday, but I suspect even now, people from around the world were watching particularly what you were going to achieve on Africa because of the millions of people who die there needlessly year, after year, after year. Do you think that the agreement you have got will save millions of African lives, and if you do think that, what do you say to those people who said we need the money quicker? And if I could also ask on climate change, President Bush hasn't moved. Are you still committed to Kyoto in the sense of there needing to be measurable and clear targets for emissions as central to dealing with climate change?

Prime Minister: First of all I would like to congratulate the Make Poverty History campaign. I can't think of a campaign that has been so brilliantly organised or struck such a chord with such a large number of people worldwide. The answer to your question is yes I do believe, if it is implemented, and this is a plan that has then to be implemented, you don't simply by issuing the communiqué do the work, the work now has to be done, but if we double aid, if we cancel debt, if we open up our markets, if we allow conflict to be resolved, if we deal with the main killer diseases in Africa, yes we will save thousands of lives every day and millions of lives in the future. Yes we can say that, but it has to be done, that is the point that I would make, it has to be done, and you don't do it just by saying it, but the commitments are there. And one of the reasons why I wanted people to come together today and actually, not just to send a message to the terrorists, but to send a message of commitment, I wanted the communiqué - and this is not normally done - signed by the other leaders, is to say this is what we declare, we are going to be held to this, we are bound by it, we are committed to it and judge us by it.

On climate change, I haven't changed my view on Kyoto, or targets, or any of the rest of it. I am a rationalist in politics, and supposing the European Union agrees a whole lot of targets, we see whether we meet them, but supposing we agree them, and supposing a whole lot of other countries round the world agree targets, and meet them, if we don't have America, China, India, taking the action necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce them, then we won't solve climate change. So we have had a situation where for several years there has been a fundamental disagreement in the international community, now I am not over-selling this, what this is is the possibility of re-establishing a consensus. If we can do that, then when we get to the post-Kyoto period we could have a genuine consensus that would involve America and the emerging economies. But it has to be built on, and that is why it is important that Japan has now said in 2008 we will put this central to our agenda for the G8, and then we will see whether the dialogue we are beginning, and it is a formal process of dialogue with the emerging economies and the G8, yield results or not. But I am not, as I say, over-selling this. In respect of Africa, we have a clear plan of action we now have to implement; in respect of climate change, yes we have a plan of action, and it is there, but the crucial thing is you have got to get ...

Question: Is that really ...

Prime Minister: People are agreed to the plan of action on climate change, but the point that I am making as it were in order to put in the proper perspective what we have achieved, the point that I am making is what we haven't done is renegotiate a different treaty, or set a new set of targets or any of the rest of it. What we have done however, which if we work it properly will yield results, is to establish a pathway back into an international consensus. Now I don't put it any higher than that, but I think that is nonetheless important.

Question: Prime Minister, the campaign was called Make Poverty History, and by your own admission, what you have achieved here won't make poverty history. You have also said that you didn't achieve everything you wanted to achieve. So what was it that you didn't achieve on Africa that you would have liked to achieve, and what do you say to many of those people working in this area who are already expressing deep disappointment, that for all the public effort the politicians have failed yet again in their view?

Prime Minister: Well I don't know that they are doing that. I can assure you that I think the majority of campaigners on this issue will see the doubling of aid, it is precisely what the Commission for Africa said. And if we implement this, we will make poverty history, but we have got to implement it, that is what I am saying. And the fact is there are commitments here that are hugely important. Now when I say you don't achieve everything you want to achieve, well that is just the reality. In some parts of this I might have wanted more specific sums of money allocated, I think we have got to go further on debt relief in the future, in respect of trade my preference would have been to have a date there now. But let's just examine where we have come from and where we are. This is a huge advance on anything that has been there before, and in particular over the past few days, including just yesterday, the Japanese Prime Minister announcing an extra $10 billion for aid. Come on! This is progress. Politics doesn't work by counsels of perfection, but it does work by people making strong commitments, and these commitments are strong and if they are delivered, yes they will make poverty history.

Question: Prime Minister you said that after the terrible events in London yesterday there was a need here to show that politics can work. Isn't the truth though that we have got more sort of politics as usual, we have compromise. And we have had commitments in the past from the G8 that have been missed, this time who is going to make sure that you guys stick to those commitments?

Prime Minister: Well again, let's just remember that at Cologne we committed to debt relief and some $60 billion of debt relief flowed as a result. These are commitments people are making, the European Union, Japan, the United States of America have made, and people will hold us to those commitments, they should hold us to those commitments. And the partnership forum between the African countries and the G8 countries will ensure that that is so. I don't want to be in the position of actually under-selling my own package on Africa, I actually think we have done a huge amount, I am simply saying you will always have a situation where people say we need more, and it is true, you always do need more. But let's be clear, to have got to a situation where at a G8 summit you doubled aid overall, and doubled aid for Africa an additional $25 billion, I think we have got to be serious, that is big progress.

Question: You believe that you have made progress here, but isn't it the case that as you said, trade is the issue that would really help Africa get out of poverty, we have no date for ending these subsidies that so damage the African economies, isn't it the case that people will look at this and draw the conclusion that once again the rich world has put its interests ahead of the interests of the poor world?

Prime Minister: I don't think they will, no, because actually what most people were saying coming into the summit was the thing that we had to have was the doubling of aid. Now it is also true that we need to open up our markets, we have given the commitment to do that, we have said that we must set a credible end date, and we have said we must make sure the Hong Kong Ministerial works. And I have said to you that although, for reasons as much of process as anything else, people feel it is in the Doha round, it is in the meeting in Hong Kong in December that the commitments should be given, not at the G8. In other words people say well the G8 isn't the appropriate body to make the end date now, you have got to do that in the proper process of the World Trade Organisation. I think there is every chance of succeeding in that. I think you are wrong too in thinking that people will be disappointed, I think people will see this as a major step forward.

Question: Prime Minister, a couple of questions. One, can you give us a sense of which countries opposed the setting of a date for the scrapping of export subsidies; and secondly, can you give us also a sense of the conditions that have been attached to the extra aid for Africa?

Prime Minister: Well on the first, look there is no point in going into individual countries' positions, although I think there was a general feeling, I happen to think it was just as well you put the date in, but there was a general sense that it was better to leave this to the Doha process. I would have to say, however, what we did do was commit to having such a date, and what's more to commit to ensuring that the Hong Kong Ministerial debate was a success, and I think if you put those things together, look my judgment is you will get a date at the meeting at the end of the year. In respect of aid, well it depends, it is a deal in the sense that we are saying we are going to make this very substantial additional commitment if African countries are prepared also to show the leadership and commitment to good governance. Now some of the commitments that we make, for example helping in respect of HIV-Aids, or trying to make sure that people are cured from these killer diseases, some of those are obviously things that you want to do in any event. But I think it is very clear that countries want to make sure that any aid they are giving is being used for the benefit of their people, and that is something the African leaders were quite willing to accept, because they want, and I think you have got to understand that for African leaders at the moment, they know that it is important for them to demonstrate their commitment to running their countries properly, and I found that commitment very, very powerful there today.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, I am going back home and I am going to run a live programme talking to the people about the outcomes of this meeting. And one question that they will be asking is, particularly the consumers, they would ask the aid that is coming, is it attached to anything that will make water more difficult for me to access through privatisation for instance? Are there any strings that are attached to it that will make it more difficult for me to access medicine? That would be one question. Another question the farmers will ask me is, well if they have not agreed on any date yet to stop the subsidies, what is the cost of opportunity for us, what is the loss that we are going to incur, how are we going to make it up?

Prime Minister: On the first, you can tell your consumers that no, it won't be coming attached with those types of strings at all. The only qualification will be that the money that is supposed to go to produce better water and better relief from disease, actually goes to relieve that poverty and that illness. That is the only qualification and that is a right qualification that people would accept. In respect of the rest, I think you should read the text. We have made a commitment to ending all export subsidies and we have said we should set a credible end date. All I am saying is that in my view it will be set at the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting in a few months time through the Doha trade round. But incidentally, one other thing that is important is that during the course of this process we also then make sure we are removing some of the tariff barriers between African nations, which are also a problem, and in addition to that, that we are using some of the additional aid to build the infrastructure necessary to carry the farmers' produce from where it is being produced to ports and to market, because that is important too.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, how many peace keepers will Africa totally have? There were 75,000 allocated last year. Also I would like to give you a little bit of relief here. America has a President, you have a Queen, what did she tell you all yesterday, or two nights ago, what were her words of admonishment?

Prime Minister: Well you have a President, and we have a Queen, and we have a convention that what the one says to the other isn't repeated. So I am afraid that is the answer to that. And in respect of the first point, I think you will find in the document the figure of 75,000 there.

Question: That was last year.

Prime Minister: Well it is here with a commitment to train an additional 20,000 peace keepers straight away.

Question: Prime Minister, one has to congratulate you for what you have done so far with the African issue, that is very impressive. Now we don't know if you have a monitoring system, or if you spoke to the leaders and told the African leaders that from now onwards you will be watching their backs to make sure that they keep to this commitment. Is there anything like that?

Prime Minister: It is very much making sure that each side keep to their commitments, and I think it is interesting that you say what you do. You know as you have often recognised in Africa Today, it is only ultimately African leadership and African people that will raise their own standards, it is our job to try and help in partnership, but it is important that those cannons of economic responsibility are obeyed by African countries, yes.

Question: Prime Minister, relating to the bombing yesterday in London, can you tell us what mechanism are you trying to put in place to engage those who are actually seen to consider what is happening in Iraq as injustice to lead them to actually create the kind of mayhem they did yesterday in London, ie the young men and women who are perceived to be involved in these kind of activities? Secondly, we are a little bit disappointed that the African leaders are not here, because we would have liked to ask them several questions related to what is going to happen in Africa.

Prime Minister: Well I am sure you will get a chance to ask African leaders, I don't know in quite what forum, but I know some of them will be giving interviews and making statements. And in respect of the first part, I think it is just important for people to realise the values that we espouse are values that cross all races and religious divides, and those people who would inflict the politics of terror on people have no support in any democratic way at all, which is why they engage in terrorism.

Question: Prime Minister, may I ask you about the terrorist attack of yesterday. Could you assess for us what went wrong that permitted that the terrorists launched with success the terrorist attacks of yesterday, what is your personal view?

Prime Minister: My opinion is that those people who kill the innocent and cause such bloodshed, that they are responsible and they are solely responsible.

Question: Could you just clarify something that I think I heard you say, that this time you had asked your fellow leaders to sign the outcome of this summit, can you confirm that? And if that is the case, which I think would be unprecedented, is it because you wouldn't otherwise trust them to carry out the commitments?

Prime Minister: No, I think that is an unworthy thought. But it is because I wanted to symbolise the strength of our commitment. But you can go back over the previous G8 communiqués, but this covers every single part of the issue of Africa. And when I say that not everything is going to be put right by a simple communiqué, I think that is just a statement of common sense, but you have been handling these issues for a long period of time, and I can't remember a summit before in which we either agreed and gave commitments, and there were commitments coming in, as I say, right up until yesterday to double aid for Africa, or make the other commitments, specific commitments, across the range of the diseases, peace keeping, trade, that are there in those terms. And all I am saying is that this doesn't end poverty of itself, but what it does is give us the hope that it can be, and if we implement it, that is what will happen.

Question: You have Prime Minister praised the anti-poverty campaigners for the vigour of their campaign on behalf of the poor in Africa, but I am just reading one of their press releases, they are the number crunchers, and they have been looking at the $50 billion that you have been talking about, and it says here it is too little and too late, because all it represents is between $15 - 20 billion more than would have otherwise been given by the year 2010. And then the second question is I understand that Britain has the majority of offshore banks that encourages these African dictators who steal money from Africa, to deposit them in British banks, and if you had rules, and regulations and laws that prevent them from doing so, then the aid that you are giving, and the money from extractive industries from Africa that are coming to these bank accounts, would otherwise go to developing education, health, fight Aids, build infrastructure so that for me, I don't have to be here, I will be there then.

Prime Minister: First of all, I don't know who has given you the information on the second part, we have actually got some of the strongest rules in the UK against corruption and have been prepared to freeze the assets of people who have been engaged in corruption. We also as part of this initiative got the transparency initiative that actually allows us, as more companies sign up to it, to see exactly what people are paying in various different African countries and what they are paying it for. As for the first point, I don't think you will find that is the view of most campaigners, and I just want to say one thing to you, if anyone had said 6 months ago, or even 4 months ago when we published the Commission for Africa, that we were going to get this level of commitment, and you can argue forever about the aid figures and exactly how it is made up, the reason that we put the OECD imprimatur on it was precisely in order to make it clear that this is not just our estimate. But on any basis, this is a huge uplift in aid. Now let's celebrate that and go out and make the most of it and make sure that when that aid then flows, and yes it is going to start flowing now, but true it is, it will build up over the next few years, but when it flows, and as it is used, let's make sure it is used in order to liberate people and help them and make their lives better.

But you know we have got a situation here in the world today where for the first time, not just everybody outside the G8, but the countries of the G8 have come together with a range of commitments right across the board on all issues to do with Africa. Now for the first time we have got the possibility of that partnership, let's use it, and let's make sure it makes a difference in the countries in which we are going to use this money. And in the end let's realise too that it is not just going to be about money, though that is important, or even opening up markets, though that is important too, or cancelling debt, though that is absolutely vital, it is also going to be about African leaders themselves prepared to take responsibility for their own countries. They have come here today and they have also too made the commitments to good governance, to democracy, to the rule of law. Now we have got a possibility of making this work, so let's go out there and make it work. And you will always get people who tell you it is not enough. Look, I spend my whole time in politics with people saying, whatever you achieve, it is never enough, but actually in the end what you realise is that that is usually said by people who aren't actually getting their hands dirty trying to achieve anything. This is the basis upon which we can move forward, if we implement these commitments, if we actually make sure that there is universal access, right, to HIV-Aids treatment by 2010, if we actually do that, that is millions of lives that are going to be saved. If we actually put the money we say we are going to put through aid and give primary education to young people in Africa, think of the change that will be. If we actually establish the peace-keeping force that we have got there, plus the money necessary to do it, it is a huge thing for preventing conflict in Africa. So let's just realise, politics is about getting things done, step by step, progress by progress, and this is big progress and we should be proud of it.

Source: G8 Gleneagles official website


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