British Prime Minister Establishes Commission on Africa To Examine Problems Facing Continent, Including HIV/AIDS
British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday announced the establishment of a commission on Africa, which will examine HIV/AIDS and other challenges facing the continent and ways to resolve those issues, BBC News reports (BBC News, 2/26). The commission, which includes politicians, economists and advocates from Africa and developed nations, has one year to develop a report that will aim to put Africa in the forefront of the international agenda during Britain's year as chair of the G8 and during the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union, according to London's Independent. During a press conference in London, Blair, who will chair the commission, said that the group will examine a wide range of areas, including economic issues, education, conflict resolution, health, environment, HIV/AIDS, governance and culture. The commission aims to produce "a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Africa and policies toward Africa -- what has worked, what has not worked and what more can and should be done," Blair said. The goal of the commission is "to regalvanize the international community to act," he added, saying that it is "easier to get people to take action if a report is published just before a summit" (Vallely, Independent, 2/27).
Blair said that forming the commission was "necessary" because the U.N. Millennium Development Goals that countries set out to meet by 2015 "are going to be difficult to reach." The British Overseas Aid Group, a coalition of groups that includes ActionAid, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Oxfam and Save the Children, applauded the commission's creation but cautioned the group about complacency. Save the Children Director-General Mike Aaronson said, "Mr. Blair's initiative is welcome. Africa is crippled by poverty and is a long way from reaching the U.N.'s anti-poverty goals. But this must be more than just another report on Africa with yet more targets, plans or strategies that fail to deliver. It must be judged on the concrete action it produces" (Charter, Times, 2/27). Bob Geldof, a musician who has been working in Africa for 20 years, came up with the idea for the commission following his last trip to Ethiopia. Geldof, who will serve as one of the commissioners, said, "I'm really excited at the prospect that this report will have genuine political clout." In addition to Geldof, the other commissioners include Gordon Brown, British chancellor of the exchequer; Michel Camdessus, former director of the International Monetary Fund; former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-Kan.), who chaired the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs; South African Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel; K.Y. Amoako, Kenyan secretary to the Economic Commission for Africa; Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; and British Department for International Development Secretary Hilary Benn (Independent, 2/27) .
Geldof Opinion Piece
The Commission for Africa "must aggregate all current and forward thinking, all extant and as yet unpublished reports, into its framework; it must take the many tributaries of ideas and allow them to flow into the more powerful flood of the commission," Geldof writes in an opinion piece in London's Guardian. Geldof says that the commission must "avoid the deadening jargon and acronyms behind which we hide the reality of failure" and produce a report that people "want to read." People must understand the report and discuss its findings "in order to demand that when it is delivered to the top table at our G8, its findings be acted upon," he says, concluding, "That is the one, key difference from all other reports" (Geldof, Guardian, 2/27).