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Africa: Two Cheers for G8?
Jun 18, 2007 (070618)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"In 2005, at its meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, the [G-8] pledged
to provide 'as close as possible to universal access to treatment'
for all people suffering from AIDS by 2010. That should mean at
least 10 million people in treatment by then ... Yet at the recent
meeting, the G-8 said it was aiming to treat only some five million
patients in Africa by an unspecified date. That sounds like
consigning millions of untreated people to death and disability." -
New York Times
Despite its sober acknowledgment of 5 million expected deaths, The
New York Times headlined its editorial: "Two Cheers on Global
AIDS." The dominant tone of media coverage of the G8 summit outcome
earlier this month expressed a similar "balanced" position,
applauding new pledges by the rich countries, while sometimes
adding the caveat that the pledges were somewhat less than they
appeared to be.
Activists, by contrast, were outraged but unsurprised at the
retreat from earlier commitments, and scornful of the priority
given to public relations over substance. Among the critics was
Stephen Lewis, the eloquent former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in
Africa. Lewis called the G8 statement from the summit
in Germany "intellectually dishonest and riddled with arithmetic
sleight-of-hand." "The betrayal of Africa is almost a matter
of principle for the G8," he added..
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the editorial
cited above, and the text of a June 12 speech by Stephen Lewis.
For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on health issues, see
http://www.africafocus.org/healthexp.php For earlier AfricaFocus
Bulletins on economic issues, see http://www.africafocus.org/econexp.php
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Two Cheers on Global AIDS
New York Times
June 18, 2007
[excerpts: for full editorial visit http://www.nytimes.com]
Now that the Group of 8 industrialized nations has pledged to
commit $60 billion to combat AIDS and other diseases around the
world in coming years - a substantial sum by any reckoning -
Congress and other national legislatures ought to look hard for
additional funds to close a looming gap between the funds
committed and the needs of desperate patients.
We are pleased that President Bush has proposed spending some $30
billion to combat AIDS abroad over a five-year period, from 2009
to 2013, but in truth that represents only a modest increase from
the spending trajectory we were already on. At its recent summit
meeting, the Group of 8 pledged to commit $60 billion to fight
AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria "over the coming years," including
the American contribution.
Although the Group of 8 pledges are welcome, they actually
represent a retreat from previous goals. In 2005, at its meeting in
Gleneagles, Scotland, the group pledged to provide "as close as
possible to universal access to treatment" for all people suffering
from AIDS by 2010. That should mean at least 10 million people in
treatment by then, judging from estimates by United Nations AIDS
experts. Yet at the recent meeting, the G-8 said it was aiming to
treat only some five million patients in Africa by an unspecified
date. That sounds like consigning millions of untreated people to
death and disability.
To its credit, the United States has been by far the largest AIDS
donor in recent years. ... But when measured against the size of
the national economy, the American donations rank only fifth. There
is room to do more.
As Congress wrestles with the fiscal 2008 appropriations bills this
year, it ought to provide the full $1.3 billion being sought by
Congressional health advocates as the American contribution to a
global fund to combat the three diseases - not just $300 million as
proposed by the administration or the $850 million approved by the
House Appropriations Committee. Congress should also set the
nation - and by its example, the world - on course toward universal
access to AIDS treatment by 2010.
Remarks delivered by Stephen Lewis, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World
at the RESULTS Educational Fund annual conference
Washington, DC, June 12, 2007
* Mr. Lewis is the former United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS
in Africa. AIDS-Free World is a new international AIDS advocacy
Let me take a hard look at the issues arising from the G8.
Everyone is aware of the solemn promises that were made at
Gleneagles in July of 2005. They followed in the wake of Tony
Blair's Commission on Africa, with all of the attendant
triumphalism, and it seemed to promise a new dawn for the African
continent. In particular, they promised a breakthrough in
addressing the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.
The two centerpieces of Gleneagles are etched in everyone's memory:
foreign aid (Official Development Assistance) to Africa would
double from $25 billion a year to $50 billion a year by 2010.
Equally, by 2010, the G8 pledged to do everything in its power to
achieve universal access to treatment for those who need it.
Bob Geldoff, in one of his more memorable spasms of hyperbole gave
the G8 "ten out of ten".
Some of us never believed Gleneagles for a moment. The fundamental
dishonesty of the pledges came to light just two months later, in
September of 2005, when the G8 countries at a pledging conference
for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, fell
billions short of their commitments. You have to wonder how western
leaders can be so stunningly cavalier about the lives of millions
of people, the great majority of them in Africa.
Fast forward, then, to 2007 and the G8 Summit just completed in
Germany. In the weeks prior to the Summit itself, quite predictably
a number of groups and institutions took stock of the extent to
which the promises at Gleneagles had been honoured. Every single
assessment found a staggering shortfall.
The first was the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the
OECD, one of the most authoritative vehicle for expert western
analysis. It found that, incredibly enough, Official Development
Assistance had actually declined internationally between 2005 and
2006, and for Africa the verdict was virtual stagnation.
This finding by the DAC, shocking though it seemed, was given the
stamp of accuracy by the very group that was established by Tony
Blair at the time of Gleneagles to monitor progress. It's chaired
by Kofi Annan, and has a membership comprising a number of
celebrated figures from Michel Camdessus to Graça Machel to Bob
Geldoff himself. They did an analysis of the aftermath of
Gleneagles and came to the same conclusion as that of the OECD.
Geldoff on this occasion used the word "grotesque 'to describe the
behaviour of the G8.
Then, in addition to those two definitive commentaries, Bono
weighed in with his advocacy group, 'DATA' whose findings were
every bit as damning as the others.
It seemed implausible to most of the world (and I deliberately
exclude myself because I've put in writing my complete skepticism
of the G8 process)--- that after the absolute commitments of
Gleneagles, everything could go so lamentably off course. But one
learns, painfully, that the betrayal of Africa is almost a matter
of principle for the G8.
With that in mind, no one should have imagined significant progress
in Germany this year. The good intentions that flowed from
President Merkel were no different in tone and content from those
which preceded Gleneagles. People were willing to give her the
benefit of the doubt, in part because of George Bush's
announcement, just ten days before the Summit, that he would
recommend a doubling of his original PEPFAR pledge, from $15Billion
to $30 Billion over the five years from 2009-2013. The pledge was
greeted with the uncritical applause of a compliant media,
completely failing to grasp, as the Global AIDS Alliance
immediately pointed out, that PEPFAR had already reached over $5.4
Billion for 2007, and would probably exceed that sum in 2008. Since
that's the case, it means that the new $30 Billion dollar total,
divided by five years, will amount to a real increase of only
several hundred million each year (if that). Worse, there was no
recognition of the fact that the minimum amount that the President
should have announced --- measured against the United States share
of world GDP --- was $50 Billion over the five year period, and
even then, a shortfall would almost certainly result.
However, the heady use of the deceptive PEPFAR figures (and this is
to say nothing of the continued preposterous 'abstinence' clauses,
and the continued underfunding of the Global Fund), seemed to
proffer hope that the G8 would somehow restore its credibility.
Well, we really have our work cut out for us. What actually
happened in Germany is deeply, deeply troubling, and it's worthy of
every piece of scorn that can be heaped upon it. The G8 communique
is deficient in so many ways: fundamentally, it's intellectually
dishonest and riddled with arithmetic sleight-of-hand. It's hard to
know where to begin, but let me at least take a crack in five
1. The text says: "A vigorous impetus seems necessary to ensure
that Africa will meet the Millennium Development Goals". I shudder
at this piece of shameless dishonesty. They have no intention of
providing such an impetus: without it, the G8 well knows that all
the statistical evidence shows that Africa cannot reach the MDGs
that poverty and disease and conflict are too deeply ingrained to
be reversed by 2015. Why go through this abysmal charade of words
2. The text says "Trade is a key engine of growth for Africa." And
except for some fatuous gobbledegook about how the G8 will help
African exports, the trade section is empty of meaning. Contrast
Germany with what was said at Gleneagles: "An ambitious and
balanced conclusion to the DOHA round is the best way to make trade
work for Africa. The Hong Kong Ministerial in December (2005) will
be a critical step towards a successful outcome of DOHA in 2006.
The World Bank estimates that implementing the negotiations could
lift 140 million people out of poverty."
DOHA has totally disappeared from this year's G8 communiqu‚. But
the rub is that it should never have been in Gleneagles. The G8
knew in July of 2005 that DOHA was dead. But they were prepared to
toy with the rhetoric of 140 million people to fatten their text.
Where Africa is concerned, the G8 is a consortium of fabrication.
3. After describing the carnage of the pandemic which, they point
out, apart from the suffering is "causing massive impacts on the
economic and social development of the countries concerned", they
make their infamous commitment of $60 billion "over the coming
Now what in heaven's name is that supposed to mean? In the
inelegant language of diplomacy gone wrong, those are called
"weasel words". They're meant to convey everything and nothing. No
group of counties, let alone countries with the manipulative
sophistication of the G8, would use that language unless they were
looking for a way out. Some commentators are working on the
assumption that the language really means the same five years
encompassed by the new PEPFAR initiative. I have a message for the
trusting naivet‚ which that suggestion reveals: if they meant five
years, they would have said five years.
The promise of Gleneagles was an extra $25 Billion a year by 2010,
with increases every year thereafter, not $60 Billion "over the
coming years." Worse, most of the $60 Billion isn't even new money:
it encompasses the $30 Billion just announced by George Bush, plus
additional Billions already announced by other G8 countries. To be
sure, the original pledge for 2010 is again repeated, but we
already know the worth of those words. According to UNAIDS, we'll
need $18 Billion this year, $22 Billion next year, $30 billion by
2010, with the dollar figures rising after that. The shortfall is
astronomic. What in the world will happen to the millions of
Africans, struggling with AIDS, for whom the resources are the
difference between life and death, let alone the millions upon
millions of orphans for whom any kind of life is compromised?
Allow me a juxtaposition. According to all estimates, including
those of the Congressional Research Service of the United States,
enhanced by data from the other troop contributors, the G8
countries are spending at least $120 Billion each year to fight the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same countries can't even
guarantee a paltry total of $60 Billion over an unknown number of
years to fight a pandemic that has taken 25 million lives and has
40 million people in its grip. I keep asking, what has happened to
the world's moral anchor?
4. All of this is crucial, of course, because what hangs in the
balance is universal access to treatment by the year 2010. What is
ominously instructive in this instance is to compare the language
of 2005 with that of 2007.
In Gleneagles, the text read: "Implement a package for HIV
prevention, treatment and care, with the aim of as close as
possible to universal access to treatment for all those who need it
by 2010." In Germany, the text reads "The G8 countries will scale
up their efforts to contribute towards the goal of universal access
Two years ago, we were getting 'as close as possible' to universal
access; now we're 'scaling up our efforts to contribute' to
universal access. Language is everything. The current language is
frighteningly ambiguous. And it's not helped by throwing the figure
of five million people into the text, when it has become clear,
according to UNAIDS, that the numbers requiring treatment by 2010
will be significantly higher.
It is simply unconscionable for the G8 to be so recklessly cavalier
about human life. They have it within their grasp to guarantee full
universal access by 2010; if they wanted it to happen, it would
happen. They similarly have it within their capacity to guarantee
every penny required by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis
and Malaria, but instead they merely acknowledge the financial
targets which the Global Fund has recently set.
In a highly provocative fashion, the G8 is challenging all of us:
we, collectively, have to find a way to force the G8's hand, to
pummel them into sanity. In the annals of social change, it's rare
that advocacy has confronted such an adversary.
5. There remains, however, one other aspect of the communique that
requires further elaboration. The text offers obligatory obeisance
to the vulnerability of women. And the language is pointed and
But nowhere --- and this is frankly astonishing --- nowhere is
there mention of the prospective international agency for women,
actively under discussion at the United Nations, as a vehicle to
make a significant dent on the pandemic. Why? In the final
analysis, probably because it would cost money. The deliberate
omission of the most significant initiative on behalf of women to
emerge in the multilateral system an initiative proposed with
representation from five of the G8 countries, shows the pro forma
quality of the paragraphs addressing the desperate dilemma of women
And that reality lies at the heart of what we're dealing with. For
some inexplicable reason, the G8 is not prepared to provide the
resources to subdue the pandemic in Africa. That leaves all of us
as advocates with a difficult question of strategy.
There's no use denying that we failed in Germany. At Gleneagles we
were left with the illusion of progress; post-Germany no illusions
remain. All of the concerted eleventh hour lobbying, all of the
celebrity pressure at the highest levels failed to move the G8 to
decent and tenable positions. That's the simple reality of it.
So what do we do? Well, let me first suggest what we don't do. We
don't issue the kind of congratulatory statement that came from
UNAIDS in the immediate wake of the G8 in Germany: "UNAIDS
welcomes G8 leaders affirmation of their commitment to work towards
the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and
support by 2010, and UNAIDS also applauds --- [applauds!] --- the
G8 announcement of a projected $US 60 billion in investment ". It
just doesn't ring true, and everyone knows it. It smacks of
currying favour, of appeasement, of polishing disappointment with
the anxious gloss of the supplicant. For several years now, I've
felt that the UN always overdoes this sort of thing: strewing rose
petals in the path of the donors to keep them happy. It doesn't
work. It has to stop. It's based on the mistaken assumption that if
you bend over backwards, it will improve your posture. It's time to
For all of us, in this grand coalition of civil society, it's
necessary, I think, to take a much tougher road. And to choose our
targets carefully. There is hope in the offing.
It seems to me that there are five countries we should target.
First, Japan, because they host the next G8 and because they show
the possibility of approximating their financial promises. Second,
Germany, because President Merkel provided twitches of
enlightenment, albeit the dollars were deficient. Third, France,
because the appointment of Bernard Kouchner as Foreign Minister
augers well for humanitarian imperatives. Fourth, the United
Kingdom, because Gordon Brown has shown more conscience and
commitment on the issues of poverty, disease and Africa than the
rest of the G8 leadership put together. And finally, the United
States, because a decisive election is coming, and whether or not
there is a change in Administration, there must be a dramatic new
impetus in public policy.
That's why the work of RESULTS is indispensable. You understand the
meaning of the grass-roots and grass-roots communication. You
recognize, almost intuitively, that advocacy is a full-time job
it never ends and what is needed is a powerful social movement to
provide awareness on the one hand, and political pressure on the
other. Nor should that pressure be directed solely at the ultimate
leader, or the putative Presidential candidates, of whichever
party. We've tried that, and we can continue to gnaw at that
particular political bone. But we must also apply pressure at every
political level in every country, building a formidable coalition
in the process.
You have people of tremendous experience to draw upon. You have all
of the Millennium Development Goals to keep you on fire. You have
millions of lives, hanging by a thread, begging for your
The problem with the G8, it seems to me, is its congenital divorce
from reality. We're part of an era where human life is devalued.
Just look at Iraq, just look at Darfur, just look at HIV/AIDS. The
international community has lost its bearings. When that happens,
the human dimension slides into obscurity. The grandmother who
buries her children, the orphan who weeps through the night, the
women scarred forever by sexual violence, they recede into the
mists of statistical calculation. We dehumanize them, their faces
blurred, their identities lost.
It's a terrible thing we do to the uprooted and disinherited of the
earth. Together, we must bring it to an end.
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