(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) TOKYO, April 11_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: ADDING DETAILS)
Major donors and international agencies will assist Africa to comprehensively address climate change issues through mitigation and adaptation measures, and support the continent's participation in a post-2012 emissions cut framework, an action plan draft for the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development said.
In addition to the five-year road map, African nations and their development partners will also commit themselves at TICAD to promote "self-sustained" economic growth, ensure human security and set up a three-tier follow-up mechanism to monitor progress, according to a declaration draft also obtained by Kyodo News on Friday.
Moreover, African members are also considering having TICAD issue a separate document to highlight concerns over soaring food prices as this is a "critical and very contemporary issue that nobody can seriously ignore," Ghanaian Ambassador Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah told Kyodo News separately the same day.
Other commitments in the drafts include scaling up financial and technical assistance for region-wide infrastructure -- especially highway projects -- utilizing official development assistance to help attract foreign investment, improving maternal and child health, expanding post-basic education and promoting peace consolidation.
But the drafts of the Yokohama Declaration and its accompanying Yokohama Action Plan, named after the city where the conference will be held May 28-30, have yet to include more concrete implementation measures such as numerical targets for increasing financial aid and specific goals for achievement.
TICAD members have reached basic consensus on the declaration draft at a ministerial preparatory meeting in Gabon in late March, but the action plan is still being discussed between the Japanese Foreign Ministry and U.N. agencies involved, officials said.
Addressing climate change, an issue that will be in the center of the spotlight for the first time since the TICAD process was launched in 1993, was one of the few categories in the draft action plan to include some details.
Describing climate change as Africa's "urgent challenge," the draft said, "All the countries in the world, African countries included, need to act together, cooperating to establish an effective framework for addressing climate change after the year 2012, in which the goal is to dramatically decrease greenhouse gases, cutting emissions in half by the year 2050."
The measures include supporting "active participation" by African nations in the formulation of the international framework after the current Kyoto Protocol expires, and promoting the Clean Development Mechanism which supports emissions-cut projects in developing nations.
Japan, other donor nations and international agencies will also assist Africa with natural disaster prevention plans and early warning systems such as for droughts and floods, which have increased in intensity and frequency due to climate change, according to the draft.
Technology transfer to combat desertification and research on possible use of bio-fuels in Africa will also be provided.
The focus on climate change, which will also be a key issue at the Group of Eight summit in Japan in July, is in line with recent analyses that the African continent is most vulnerable to its negative effects.
The Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected in November that by 2020, between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress and that in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent.
The Yokohama Declaration draft noted the "sharp rise in food price" and "increasing severe effects of climate change" as among the "serious challenges" faced by Africa.
To help increase agricultural productivity, the draft plan placed emphasis on developing irrigation schemes, assisting water resources management in arid and semi-arid areas, and providing technologies especially to boost rice production in both rainfed lands and irrigated fields.
Agricultural development has long been a key component in the TICAD process and Japan has particularly pushed to facilitate rice cultivation with the New Rice for Africa, better known as NERICA which is a hybrid of Asian and African rice strains.
"Improving the productivity of agriculture will lead to improvement of income for the majority of Africans and there were many voices asking for more help in this field," Masato Kitera, director general for African Affairs and chief of the TICAD secretariat at the Foreign Ministry, said Thursday of recent discussions at the Africa Partnership Forum in Tokyo.
"At the upcoming TICAD, we will make efforts to bring new elements, new arguments in this field of agriculture," he said, adding that food aid agencies are feeling the impact of soaring crop prices.
Amid declining development aid levels from major donors as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last week, whether new pledges will be announced by Japan and the others at TICAD is expected to be a focus of attention.
At this stage, the draft included no such pledges and only said that TICAD participants "stressed the importance for the G-8 countries to honor the commitments already made" for African development.
Without explicitly mentioning emerging donors like China and India, it also noted the need for "all Africa's development partners" to work toward a greater coordination.
"For the time being, the action plan is only a skeleton. The meat will come later," said Kitera, who is also personal representative of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda for Africa, promising "all the meat" will be presented at the conference.
"There will be lines (saying) the Africans will do this, Japan will do that, the World Bank will seek this," he added. "So, it will be a complete set of actions by TICAD, the partners and other organizations."
A Japanese ministry official stressed that Tokyo hopes to include specific numerical targets in the documents to "show concretely what kinds of contributions can be made." However, he remained ambiguous on whether that would include new aid pledges.
As for the follow-up mechanism, the three-tier structure will involve setting up a secretariat for information gathering, a joint monitoring committee to produce annual progress reports, and holding ministerial meetings to deepen discussions, according to the draft.
The official said TICAD participants have agreed to hold another meeting on April 27, a day ahead of the conference, at the ministerial level for final discussions on the action plan.
But expectations are low that the action plan will be as influential as the Tokyo Agenda for Action adopted at the 1998 TICAD meeting, which set specific targets and required actions by both Africa and development partners. The agenda later became the basis of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2000.
The hosting of its fourth TICAD conference this year will come as Japan, which has seen its foreign aid drop by 30 percent in 2007, struggles to maintain its influence in Africa in the face of rapidly expanding aid and investment on the continent from emerging donors, especially China.
Representatives of some 50 African nations, including about 45 heads of state and government, major donors, as well as regional and international organizations are expected to attend the TICAD in May. Japan, the United Nations, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank co-organize the event once every five years.