E.U. Ministers Approve Global Health Action Plan, Set Development Aid Spending Targets
Foreign and development ministers from the European Union on Tuesday approved a global health action plan to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and agreed to increase development aid in the "hope of shaming other rich donors into giving more," Reuters AlertNet reports (Moller, Reuters AlertNet, 5/24). The European Commission last month adopted the "Programme for Action: Accelerated Action on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in the Context of Poverty Reduction," which suggests E.U. governments in their 2007-2013 budgetary discussions agree to help fill the financing gap of efforts to fight the three diseases, which the United Nations estimates will be $14.9 billion annually by 2007. The proposal says the expanded program should include the distribution of insecticide-treated nets and condoms at no cost, increased access to counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of affordable drugs, research and education programs. The proposal also calls on E.U. governments to help launch political dialogue about the stigma, discrimination and human rights issues facing people living with the diseases, as well as address specific concerns of vulnerable groups, such as orphans and children (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/24).
The E.U. ministers also set international development aid spending targets to help meet the goal of spending 0.7% of their gross national incomes on aid in 10 years, Reuters AlertNet reports. Meeting the interim targets set by the ministers would increase development aid to $25 billion annually beginning in 2010. The 15 oldest E.U. member states agreed to spend at least 0.51% of their GNI on development aid by 2010 and at least 0.7% by 2015. The 10 newest members -- mostly from Eastern Europe -- pledged to spend at least 0.17% of their GNI by 2010 to reach a target of 0.33% by 2015. Only four E.U. member nations -- Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxembourg -- already have met 2015 spending targets. Germany, Italy and Portugal issued statements following the meeting "pointing to difficulties" with their national budgets and highlighting E.U. regulations that limit members' abilities to borrow, according to Reuters AlertNet. However, Luxembourg's Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid Minister Jean-Louis Schiltz said the statements should not be seen as "escape clause[s]," Reuters AlertNet reports. "Some member states have expressed difficulties. ... (But) the main thing is that, despite those difficulties, those countries have committed themselves," he added. E.U. heads of state are expected to endorse the action plan at a summit next month, Reuters AlertNet reports.
European Development Commissioner Louis Michel said the agreements reached on Tuesday might "pressure other rich donors," such as Japan and the United States, which "lag far behind the most generous E.U. members," to contribute more in development aid, Reuters AlertNet reports. "If we lead the way, if we show that we are committed and ambitious to this extent, then other international partners will be obliged, I think, to follow suit and mobilize additional resources," he said (Reuters AlertNet, 5/24). British International Development Secretary Hilary Benn called the spending agreement a "major breakthrough in the fight against world poverty" (Dombey/Beattie, Financial Times, 5/24). British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said that the move is a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a huge difference," but it must be followed through at international meetings on aid, debt relief and fair trade. The spending targets also "surprised and delighted aid agencies around the world," according to London's Guardian. "It's really fantastic; it could have been better, but it's a very generous deal that lays down the gauntlet to the United States and Japan," an unnamed Oxfam spokesperson said, adding, "We were desperate for such an injection of cash into the poker game, and they are all playing" (White/Elliot, Guardian, 5/25).