World Finance Ministers Pledge To Reduce Poverty, Fight HIV/AIDS; Critics Worry Lack of Money Will Hinder Efforts
World finance ministers on Sunday at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank pledged to strengthen their country's efforts to reduce poverty by improving education, relieving debt and fighting HIV/AIDS in developing countries, the AP/Boston Globe reports. However, critics expressed concern that the meetings "did not back up the warm words with cold cash," according to the AP/Globe. The final session of the meetings focused on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which include cutting poverty in half by 2015, increasing efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS and educating 100 million children who are currently not attending school, the AP/Globe reports (Crutsinger, AP/Boston Globe, 4/26). World Bank officials on Friday released the agency's annual World Development Indicators report, which says that more than 60 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS -- 70% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa (AFX International Focus, 4/25). World Bank President James Wolfensohn said he was pleased that progress had been made at the meetings, the AP/Globe reports. He added that more wealthy countries are realizing that the $900 billion spent each year on military budgets cannot ensure international safety as long as only $50 billion is spent annually on foreign aid, according to the AP/Globe. "This imbalance is just so obviously ludicrous," Wolfensohn said, adding, "We need to focus on the causes of conflict and the causes of instability" (AP/Boston Globe, 4/26). In an International Herald Tribune opinion piece published on Saturday, Wolfensohn said that global poverty is a "force of instability," citing the prevalence of HIV in developing nations (Wolfensohn, International Herald Tribune, 4/24).
Education Helps Prevent HIV, Report Says
World Bank's efforts to support education could "prove critical to preventing the spread of AIDS and HIV," according to an Oxfam International report released during the meetings, the New York Times reports. Oxfam examined data from the United Nations and the World Bank and estimated that if all children worldwide received a complete primary education, seven million cases of HIV could be prevented over the next 10 years. Max Lawson, a consultant for Oxfam who worked on the report, said, "We knew there was a correlation between the level of education and [HIV] prevalence rates, but we had no idea how important education was to any prevention program." World Bank's Education For All program is designed to encourage wealthy nations to finance primary education projects in poorer countries. According to Wolfensohn, poorer countries have developed "very good plans that are well-integrated and well-supported," the Times reports. However, he said he was "quite embarrassed" that many wealthy nations have declined to contribute more money to such projects, according to the Times (Becker, New York Times, 4/24).
Canadian Generic Drug Bill Model for Other Nations, World Bank Says
World Bank officials on Saturday urged Canada's International Cooperation Minister Aileen Carroll to promote as a model for other nations -- including Britain, Germany and the Netherlands -- a bill (C-9) currently in Parliament that would facilitate the sales of generic drugs, including antiretroviral drugs, to developing countries, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/24). The legislation, which originally was introduced in the House of Commons in November 2003, would amend the country's patent laws to allow drug makers to manufacture and export generic versions of patented drugs to developing countries. Under the measure, about 50 countries would be eligible to receive generic drugs at a fraction of the prices charged in Canada. The bill also calls for special markings on and packaging for the generic drugs sold as part of the program to prevent them from being sold on the black market or reimported to Canada. In addition, the bill has a "right of first refusal" clause that would provide a patent-holding drug maker 30 days to determine if it will fulfill contracts with the same terms negotiated by a generic drug maker. However, Canadian lawmakers on Tuesday introduced to Parliament amendments to the bill that would effectively remove the right of first refusal provisions (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/21).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Monday reported on the World Bank and IMF meetings and the benefits of education for girls in developing countries, including a lower risk of HIV/AIDS (Schalch, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/26). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.