Secretariat Overseeing Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to Begin Talks
The board of advisers that will oversee the operation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a U.N.-backed fund that aims to collect $7 billion to $10 billion dollars a year to fight the three diseases in the developing world, on Thursday will begin talks in Brussels, as they try to meet a deadline to have the fund operational by the first of the year, the Boston Globe reports. Although operations are scheduled to start early next year, it does not appear likely that the first grants will be administered until some time next spring, more than a year after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed the fund, because of "bureaucratic entanglements" and conflicting donor wishes. Planning has also been slowed by Japan's and the European Union's insistence that the secretariat work out of Brussels, away from the U.N. campus in Geneva, where organizers had planned to establish offices, the Globe reports.
Working Through 'Contentious' Issues
The secretariat, headed by former Ugandan health minister Crispus Kiyonga, must address several "contentious" issues before the fund can be operational. The board has not yet determined whether nongovernmental groups will have any input in the fund's operation or whether the fund's operations will be carried out in public. Most of the meetings thus far have been carried out in private with little input from NGOs and other groups "on the front lines." One NGO consultation meeting was held in Brussels on Nov. 12, but groups were given just three working days notice, not enough time to obtain the visas to attend the meeting. The Globe reports that it is also unclear whether the money in the fund -- about $2.5 billion -- will be distributed only to governments and how the money can be spent. Speaking earlier this month in Washington, D.C., Kiyonga said he did not know "why the world wants us to run so fast," calling the expectations to have the fund up and running by the end of the year "unrealistic."
The Impact of Sept. 11
Donations to the fund have also dropped off since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. From June to Sept. 11, the fund received $1.5 billion in donations, including $200 million from the United States. From Sept. 11 to today, only $2,000 has been contributed to the fund. During that same period, an estimated 1,020,000 people worldwide have died of AIDS, malaria or TB, the Globe reports. The drop in donations has led Congress to call for an increase of the U.S. contribution to $1 billion with an emergency appropriation. Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) said, "Since Sept. 11, our focus has been on security, but this is about security. It's security for the United States, it's security in the world." She noted that the U.S. government has been appropriating billions of dollars to shore up national security in the wake of Sept. 11, and "another $1 billion to help eradicate and prevent these crippling diseases is cost-effective." Leaders in the developing world have also criticized the drop in donations. At a meeting last week to discuss the fund in Malawi, Justin Malewezi, the country's vice president, said that the decrease was "as incomprehensible as it is immoral," noting that 10 people died of the three diseases every minute. "It is scandalous because we have the knowledge, the technology and the resources to address the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but we have not yet mobilized sufficient political will. ... Without serious action now, tens of millions more will die. Every single death is an indictment on our consciences," he added (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 11/18).