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G20 Summit Opens In Seoul; Development Plan Announcement Expected

“The world’s biggest rich and emerging powers escalated a war of words over trade and currencies Thursday, as leaders opened a G20 summit [in Seoul, South Korea] struggling to iron out distortions that threaten global growth,” Agence France-Presse reports in an article examining some of the major disputes (Chan-Kyong, 11/11). 

Also on the agenda are G20 “plans to endorse the ‘Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth,’ which includes an emphasis on infrastructure investment as a means to attain sustainable growth in poorer countries,” Reuters reports. “The blueprint identifies nine areas where action is needed to ease development bottlenecks, including skills training, increased access to finance, expanded investment and improvements to the physical fabric of developing countries,” according to the news service (Wheatley, 11/11).

The development plan is intended to become a “workable guideline to strengthening cooperation between developed and emerging economies,” Ahn Ho-young, South Korea’s ambassador at large for the G20, said in a press briefing, Yonhap News Agency reports. “The plans are designed to be outcome orientated, monitorable and be measurable to allow for checkups on progress,” he said. This new approach to development is designed to complement rather than replace existing aid programs, such as Official Development Assistance efforts (Lee, 11/11).

According to Reuters, the draft communique “says the continued provision of soft loans will remain essential for most poor countries. It also reaffirms G20 members’ aid pledges.” It says developing countries must be engaged as “partners, respecting national ownership of a country’s policies as the most important determinant of its successful development,” the news service writes.

The G20 also plans to establish a high-level group to come up with recommendations aimed at mobilizing funds for infrastructure in developing countries. “World Bank President Robert Zoellick estimates the financing need at $900 billion a year. Actual investment is about half of that, Zoellick said in Singapore on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.

Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said the plan has the potential “to change the way in which we address development.” According to Gurria, “The great leap forward here is that this is no longer a question of aid. It’s a question of development.” The article includes reactions from development advocates who “reacted more cautiously” to the plans (Wheatley, 11/11).

The New York Times writes that though G20 “leaders will mention development in the final communiques,” they are likely to be “unsupported by pledges of additional money.” The newspaper continues: “Efforts by South Korea to make development issues a big part of the agenda largely failed as big countries hunkered down to wrangle over other issues, like falling interest rates.” The article examines why the Obama administration’s “development efforts have been slowed down,” noting “the economic crisis” as well as several “bureaucratic headaches,” such as the delayed appointment of a USAID administrator and the overdue release of the State Department’s development review.

The article also looks at the $22 billion food security initiative, noting that “many donors have been shifting old aid pledges into the new fund, and counting them twice,” and it highlights the specific funding challenges for the U.S. “Obama promised $3.5 billion over three years in L’Aquila [2009 G8 meeting] for the farmer initiative; so far he has received $813 million from Congress in the 2010 fiscal year. For the 2011 fiscal year, the White House asked for $1.6 billion; Congress has yet to act on that request,” the New York Times reports (Cooper, 11/10).

Business Executives Call For G20 To Focus On Health

Business executives attending the G20 business summit in have called on the G20 “to adopt global health care as a permanent agenda at all future summits,” the International Business Times reports (Ghosh, 11/10).

The two-day business summit, which ended on Thursday, “brought together the heads of some 120 of the world’s leading companies from 34 developed and developing countries,” Xinhua notes (11/11).

At the meeting, Cynthia Carroll, CEO of the mining company Anglo American, “cited how her firm, which operates in 40 countries, including many developing countries, has seen first-hand the impact of ill, untreated workers on business. … Carroll estimated that in 2000, a full 25 percent of her southern African workforce were HIV-infected, creating a significant burden on the company’s finances. Specifically, the overall cost impact of HIV/AIDS was estimated to be equivalent to 3.4 percent of the company’s payroll. By 2002, Anglo-American resolved to provide free HIV testing and treatment to its African workers,” the International Business Times reports.

“AIDS sickness and deaths were reduced dramatically,” Carroll said. “Morale improved and our shareholders supported our measures. Investing in health care has improved our businesses.”

Yasuchika Hasegawa, president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., also spoke at the forum. Haswegawa highlighted the “‘Takeda Initiative’ which has committed to spending 1-billion yen (or more than $10 million) over ten years to help strengthen health care systems throughout the developing world and has challenged other companies to join in this effort,” according to the International Business Times. 

“The emerging markets represent the future of business growth around the world,” she added. “It will require collective action to deal with a problem of this magnitude; we can’t leave it to governments alone. Companies need to get involved; it’s in our collective long-term interest” (11/10).

At the meeting, Anglo American, “announced that it has pledged US$3 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the next three years,” according to a press release from the Global Fund. “Earlier this year, Takeda Pharmaceutical pledged US$10 million to the Global Fund for the next ten years,” the release notes (11/11).

U.N. Secretary-General Calls For Donors To Expand Aid Commitments To Achieve MDGs

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for donor countries to increase aid and follow through on commitments in order to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, the Korea Times reports.

“On the occasion of the G20 Seoul Summit, Ban joined South African President Jacob Zuma, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez and other high profile dignitaries for a National Assembly forum on revitalizing efforts to achieve the MDGs,” the news service writes. “Promises made must be promises kept,” Ban said. “We need your strong support.”

“I believe that with strong political leadership, good policies targeted toward the right people and areas, smart investment and adequate financial resources, I am sure this is doable; this is achievable,” Ban said of achieving the goals by the 2015 deadline (Kim 11/11).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.