Mr. Secretary General,
In September, leaders from the entire world will meet here to evaluate the progress of development since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration in 2000.
Although there are some reasons for hope, such as a significant decrease in the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in the world, the challenges obviously remain formidable. Without a strong commitment, the Millennium Development Goals will not be reached by 2015. Take for example the AIDS pandemic, which kills 3 million people a year, continues to spread and currently infects nearly 40 million people in the world. Today, life expectancy at birth has dropped below 40 years in nine African countries.
Should we throw in the towel even though unequal distribution of the fruits of development on this scale is clearly unviable? Should the shared conclusion that each country is primarily responsible for its own development drive us to inactivity?
I definitely don't think so. On the contrary, we must immediately move up a notch. We need to shift into higher gear and examine the available options to make sure everybody benefits from growth and
Growth of trade is undeniably a very powerful engine of development. In this area, France intends to make sure the Doha negotiations fully factor in the needs of the developing countries. It will particularly endeavor to ensure that the particular concerns of the least developed countries, especially in Africa, are correctly treated.
As you know, France and its European partners have already made considerable efforts to reduce export subsidies and have launched the "Everything But Arms" initiative for the least developed countries. We will continue to assume full responsibility in the years ahead and want all stakeholders to contribute their stone to the edifice in order to make sure everybody benefits from the multilateral trade system. We particularly want all developed countries but also the emerging countries to grant the least developed countries duty- and quota-free access for their exports.
While absolutely necessary, it is however clear that a trade regime benefiting poor countries is not enough. Last week, the G8 finance ministers including myself, reached an agreement to forgive the multilateral debt of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries towards the international financial institutions. As in 1996, when the HIPC initiative was launched, France played a crucial role in the conclusion of this agreement.
We particularly stressed the need to finance these measures with additional resources in order to preserve the IMF's commitment capacity towards poor countries and to maintain the intervention capacity of the World Bank and the African development bank. Only then can this agreement be fully beneficial for the poorest countries. France will pay a special attention to ensuring that this spirit is
This said, however desirable it is to forgive the debt of the poorest and the most indebted countries, forgiveness cannot be the main lever of development finance. This is why France wants the September summit to be an opportunity to increase both the volume and the quality of official development assistance. I welcome the collective commitment of the EU Member States to boost official development assistance to 0.56% of GNI by 2010, i.e. an increase by more than 30 billion euros. This is a major step forward. France is determined to raise its own official development assistance to 0.5%
in 2007 and 0.7% in 2012, including 0.15% for the least developed countries, in line with the UN recommendations.
France will also make sure two-thirds of its bilateral assistance continues to go to Africa, the priority zone on which all efforts need to be focused. Lastly, further to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness adopted in March, France will be very keen to ensure that the progress indicators for harmonization, managing for results and alignment are up to scratch.
As you can see, much remains to be done in the area of official development assistance. But who can be blind to the fact that the Millennium Development Goals remain highly uncertain even with a significant improvement of the level and quality of ODA from next year onwards?
The representatives from the developing countries who are here today are fully aware that this assistance is excessively volatile, always uncertain and frequently called into question when rich countries experience budgetary difficulties. Unless stable long-term finance is provided, development projects with high recurrent costs - especially in the area of education
or health - cannot be completed successfully.
Moreover, everybody agrees that the magnitude of the issues makes it wholly justifiable and necessary for well-off people in all countries - not only in the richest countries - to participate in the shared effort, even if individual levies will obviously have to be adjusted to the contribution capacity of the individuals and countries in question.
We therefore need new sources of additional funds. They would have to be more stable and foreseeable. Such resources are essential to finance the long-term strategies driving sustainable development.
The studies conducted by many bodies during the last eighteen months show that there are technically feasible and economically realistic solutions. Several key options have been analyzed extensively by the group composed of Algeria, Brazil, Chile, Germany, France and Spain.
Building on these studies, we are now observing a growing international commitment to include these innovative financing mechanisms with the existing instruments needed to finance development. This commitment was sparked last September by the United Nations itself.
France is convinced that international solidarity levies are one of the most promising solutions for the developing countries and for the international aid architecture. In view of the need for immediate action and for proof that this is a workable approach, France, Brazil, Chile and Germany are therefore calling for the rapid implementation of a pilot solidarity levy based on airline tickets.
In order to ensure a fair mechanism, the level of this levy could be different for different classes of travel or even reflect a country's wealth and a distinction could be made between domestic and international flights.
The proceeds would be allocated through existing institutions in order to avoid needless bureaucracy. Subject to the sovereignty of the participating countries, these funds could be earmarked to finance the most urgent human development programs, such as vaccination campaigns and the pooled purchase of AIDS treatments. For purely illustrative purposes, if all countries participated, a levy of 5 euros per passenger
for instance with a surcharge of 20 euros for instance for business class would generate about 10 billion euros a year, i.e. almost one-quarter of the estimated funding shortfall for the Millennium Development Goals.
Why are we targeting the air sector in particular?
· First, because - the cyclical difficulties of certain airlines aside - this sector benefits considerably from the globalization of trade and pays low tax rates. With expected annual growth of about 5% per year over the next decade, a fixed low-rate levy and exemption for passengers in transit will not handicap airlines, even if some countries do not join the initiative at first.
· Secondly, because air passengers are rarely among the poorest citizens in our respective countries, which is consistent with our wish to establish a global solidarity mechanism.
· And lastly, because the practical and legal feasibility of a solidarity levy on airline tickets has been proven. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, are already charging a levy of this
Just one year ago, the very idea of an international levy was taboo and considered inappropriate. Today, many international forums - such as the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the G8 and the European Union - have added this issue to their agenda. Many countries in both the northern and the southern hemisphere have already pledged support while others are planning to support us in the near future. France invites all countries to support, in the run-up to the September Summit, the creation of a solidarity levy based on airline tickets.
This year we have a unique opportunity to affirm the reality of our global partnership for development, which is one of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals. Aware of the need to grasp this opportunity, France will use every means at its disposal to make sure previously ignored solutions are implemented. It intends to remain true to its stated principles and to its ambition to achieve global solidarity by advocating a realistic, general instrument to provide the poorest countries with more effective assistance.