Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cash for whales

The fact that the Solomon Islands received funds from Japan to vote in support of a resumption of commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is not really "news". The support of Japan to small countries joining the IWC has long been suspected, and documented by NGOs. Otherwise, why would countries like Mongolia or Mali [to name only two landlocked countries who joined the IWC to support Japan] would bother to attend meetings of the IWC, let alone pay for it?

What is news is the genuine recognition at the highest level, by a Prime Minister, of such financial transactions.

As recently as last week, the Japanese Government has organized a meeting in Japan to recruit more countries to join their pro-whaling club. According to news report, Angola, Cambodia, Congo (Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ghana, Laos, Malawi, Micronesia, Palau, Tanzania and Vanuatu all attended.

The saddest thing with this story is not Japan's recruitment campaign as such [let's not be naive, that's what one expects from rich and powerful governments; remember for example Bush's "coalition of the willing" in the run-up to their war on Iraq?], but the fact that poor countries aren't given much choice with the current unfair multilateral trade regime.

Japan is chairing the G8 this year, and Prime Minister Fukuda has put Development (especially African Development) high on the agenda. In this context, a good way for Japan to show that they are willing to find true solutions and opportunities for developing countries, could be a commitment to stop using the whaling issue as a conditionality of foreign aid, and to secure the highest levels of transparency and accountability in their ODA transactions.

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