British PM Blair, Musician Bono Call on Countries, Corporations To Fulfill Pledges to Africa, Including HIV/AIDS Commitments
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish musician Bono on Friday at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, called on international corporations and donor countries to fulfill their commitments to Africa, including HIV/AIDS pledges, the AP/Sydney Morning Herald reports. "I think it's important that the momentum" surrounding African development efforts is "redoubled" for the next meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which is scheduled for June in Germany, Blair said, adding, "There are good things that have happened, both on debt cancellation and a lot of work done on HIV and AIDS" (AP/Sydney Morning Herald, 1/27). G8 leaders in July 2005 at the close of their summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, agreed to an immediate doubling of aid to Africa to $50 billion annually in order to fight poverty and disease on the continent. The final summit comminique officially endorsed a debt relief plan, which canceled at least $40 billion in debt owed by the world's 18 poorest nations. The communique also included an agreement on providing universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, according to Blair (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8/05). In addition, Bono said that although corruption is one of the biggest issues facing Africa, there also has been corruption "north of the equator" in terms of a failure to quickly cancel debt owed by many African countries. He added that debt cancellation should be the focus of the G8 summit in Germany. "As we go into Germany, this is where we find out if we are making progress, and if we fail, it is corruption of the highest order," Bono said. South African President Thabo Mbeki, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates also participated in panel discussion (AP/Sydney Morning Herald, 1/27). Mbeki said that there is a need to use available HIV/AIDS funding more efficiently. "Let's not add new programs and new projects," he said, adding, "[W]e've identified enough of those and agreed on enough of those. Let's remove the things that block implementation" (Xinhua/People's Daily, 1/27). Sirleaf Johnson said that Africans "shouldn't be so poor," adding, "Get rid of the debt and that frees us to get to our objective." Gates said that he is "incredibly hopeful" that efforts to improve the health of Africans are successful and that the continent's economic situation improves (AP/Sydney Morning Herald, 1/27). Blair at the forum also urged leaders to relaunch talks concerning the World Trade Organization-endorsed Doha Declaration, which is aimed at lowering trade barriers to promote economic development in poorer nations. "I think there is every chance the (talks) will get underway again," Blair said, adding, "If it succeeds, it'll be great. If it fails, it'll be catastrophic" (Xinhua/People's Daily, 1/27).
The GAVI Alliance, a partnership aimed at providing increased access to immunizations in developing countries, on Friday at the World Economic Forum announced plans to commit $500 million over three years to strengthen health care infrastructures and train additional health workers in developing nations. The GAVI initiative aims to counter the migration of health workers where its training and immunization programs have been most effective, the Los Angeles Times reports. GAVI, which was launched in 2000 with a grant from the Gates Foundation, also will provide training and support to deliver new vaccines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, according to Gates. Julian Lob-Levyt, executive secretary of GAVI, called the lack of health care workers in sub-Saharan Africa a "capacity crisis," adding, "Instead of just training sophisticated doctors and nurses, we will train paramedics" to administer vaccines. It would be more cost effective to provide training and support to health care workers, who likely would remain in their home countries, where their skills are in higher demand, Lob-Levyt said (Piller, Los Angeles Times, 1/27).