Moving toward a cooperative future at the G-8 summit

For France, the raison d'être of the G-8 is to prepare joint responses to our shared challenges.

At the G-8 summit on July 15-17 in St. Petersburg, the first chaired by Russia, I will present four goals: to refocus the rich and the emerging countries on the imperative of addressing global warming; convince them of the urgent need for new funding to overcome poverty and pandemics; support Africa at a time when it is beginning to recover; and combat terrorism as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly by dealing with the Iranian and North Korean issues. Indeed, we must seize the opportunities of globalization in this extraordinary period of global growth that is transforming the future of mankind, while correcting its unacceptable social and ecological excesses.

For France, the raison d'être of the Group of 8, an informal forum for dialogue, is to prepare joint responses to our shared challenges. The G-8's method, based on personal contacts between leaders, is to seek consensus in a spirit of shared responsibility. This is why it has opened up to emerging countries such as India, China, Brazil, and Mexico – without which we can no longer address any major global issues – and to the representatives of poor countries.

Energy must not be a political instrument. In this phase of rapid economic growth, we must deal with it in the framework of a global partnership for sustainable development. If we continue on our current course, increased consumption of fossil fuels will be disastrous for the environment and climate.

In St. Petersburg, I would like us to find ways to improve the functioning of the oil and gas markets; promote dialogue between producers, consumers, and transit countries; accelerate the transition toward the post-oil era, and help emerging countries to plan ecologically responsible growth.

We must strongly promote renewable and alternative energies – including nuclear energy, ensuring we have the strictest safety and nonproliferation guarantees – and energy-saving policies. Each of our countries should set ambitious national goals in these areas by the end of this year.

Global threats require global responses. We shall not solve the problem of global warming if we each go our own way or increase the number of unilateral or partial solutions. This is particularly true for global warming. I am concerned by the weakening of the international regime for climate change. We must reverse this trend. Here, the seven G-8 members party to the Kyoto Protocol have a particular responsibility. They must set an example by respecting their commitments, as Europe and France are doing. It is up to them to show the way forward for the post-2012 period. We seek an ambitious agreement commensurate with the threat posed to humanity, one committing all the G-8 countries, including the United States, as well as emerging countries.

The current ecological crisis demands effective and coordinated global responses. I will call upon my counterparts to commit to the rapid establishment of a United Nations Environment Organization.

Every year AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria cause over 5 million deaths, the vast majority in Africa, and plunge hundreds of thousands of orphans into poverty and violence. We can overcome these diseases. The G-8 is committed to this and must keep its promises: universal access to AIDS treatments by 2010, compliance with the WTO agreement on generics, and funding for the Global Fund to which France is to allocate about $382.2 million in 2007 to fight these pandemics.

We need new sources of financing to fight poverty, taking advantage of the exceptional growth in global wealth. France, with other countries, has introduced a solidarity contribution on airline tickets, with the revenue going, through UNITAID, to purchasing medicines. This is a first experiment. It will have to be extended, for example, to finance education for all, a universal priority. I would like to convince the other G-8 countries of the effectiveness of this modern approach.

To fight pandemics we must strengthen health systems in developing countries. In Europe, health insurance was designed a century ago when incomes were comparable to current levels in Africa. This was a determining factor for social and economic progress. In St. Petersburg, I will propose an initiative to help create such systems in poor countries.

The world remains under threat from avian flu. To prevent and, if necessary, react to a human pandemic, we must intensify preparations by strengthening health-monitoring resources and accelerating the release of the $2 billion in aid pledged by the international community.

As I do every year, I shall impress upon my G-8 colleagues the imperative of a partnership with Africa. Things are moving forward: progress in peace, democracy, and growth, currently over 5 percent a year. Solidarity with Africa is a moral obligation. It is also clearly in the interest of Europe and the rest of the world, given demographic trends. With a future of dignity, young people in Africa will be diverted from the temptation of violence and extremism and have an alternative to immigration. The Euro-African partnership decided this week at the Rabat Conference to work together on this issue of common concern.

The summit will also deal with security issues. Iran's nuclear ambitions are a cause for concern. Europe, with the support of Russia, the United States, and China, has taken the diplomatic approach. We have made a generous offer to Iran which respects its right to civilian nuclear energy, provided it complies with its commitments to nonproliferation. I would like Iran's leaders to accept our outstretched hand for Iran's sake and for peace and stability worldwide. The St. Petersburg summit will send them a message of unity and steadfastness.

Finally, this first G-8 Summit chaired by Russia, the result of a process begun in 1996 on France's initiative, has symbolic importance. Responding to President Putin's invitation means putting aside out-of-date, cold-war arguments and moving toward a future together based on peace and cooperation. It means recognizing Russia's progress and its place in Europe. Hosting the G-8 in St. Petersburg also commits Russia, since a common future implies shared values: democracy, the rule of law, human rights, freedom – everything which contributes to progress and dignity for mankind.

Jacques Chirac is president of France.

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