Commission on Africa Holds First Meeting in London, Will Examine HIV/AIDS Epidemic
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission on Africa, which will examine HIV/AIDS and other challenges facing the continent and ways to resolve those issues, on Tuesday held its first meeting in London, Reuters reports (Chambers, Reuters, 5/4). 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. Blair, who chairs the commission, said that the group will examine a wide range of subjects, including economic issues, education, conflict resolution, health, environment, HIV/AIDS, governance and culture (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/1). The delegates at the meeting agreed on the themes they would address, including conflict resolution, peace keeping, economic growth and improved governance (Drudge, VOANews, 5/4). Although the week's meeting "yielded few concrete goals," Blair said the commission will examine these themes together in an attempt to create a comprehensive framework for addressing them, according to Reuters (Reuters, 5/4). Blair at a news conference following the meeting was joined by several commissioners, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, former U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R), British Minister of Finance Gordon Brown and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa (Johnson, Associated Press, 5/4). The British government has committed to increase Africa's development aid to about $1.8 billion by 2006 (Xinhua News, 5/4).
Commission member Bob Geldof, a musician who has been working in Africa for 20 years, told Blair and Brown that it would be a "badge of personal shame" if they left office without spurring "significant improvement" in Africa, according to London's Times (Times, 5/4). Blair said that the commission could be a "powerful agitator for change" in Africa, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 5/4). "The commission needs to prove itself against the backdrop of many worthy declarations, summit communiques and reports," Henry Northover of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development said, adding, "There is a long history of too little money chasing too many donor priorities and promises" (Moore/Seager, Guardian, 5/5). Phil Bloomer of Oxfam said that the commission will succeed only if it "results in real action from rich countries," including "doubling aid to Africa to fight HIV/AIDS and get kids into school, plus serious reform of unfair world trade rules" (Wynne-Jones, Daily Mirror, 5/5).