Former South African President Mandela, World Leaders Launch Alliance To Tackle Global Issues, Including HIV/AIDS
Former South African President Nelson Mandela and several world leaders on Wednesday in Johannesburg, South Africa, announced the formation of a private alliance dedicated to tackling global issues, including pandemics like HIV/AIDS and malaria, London's Guardian reports (McGreal, Guardian, 7/19).
The alliance, called the "Elders," was unveiled during events to mark Mandela's 89th birthday. The alliance includes former President Jimmy Carter; former Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Ela Bhatt, an Indian women's rights advocate; former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland; Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese envoy to the United Nations who worked in Africa; Graca Machel, Mandela's wife and a longtime campaigner for children's rights; former Irish President Mary Robinson; Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus; and Myanmarese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was invited to join the group in Johannesburg but is held under house arrest by the country's military government (Jacobson, AP/Yahoo! News, 7/18).
According to Mandela, the Elders will be effective by "working objectively and without any personal or vested interest" on problems where others are not successful because of "political, economic and geographic constraints" (Guardian, 7/19). Mandela added that because Elders' members no longer hold public office, they "can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken." None of the issues to be addressed by the group has been chosen. In addition, not all of the Elders' members, who eventually will number about 12, have been selected. "The Elders won't get involved in delivering bed nets for malaria prevention," Carter said, adding, "The issue is to fill vacuums -- to address major issues that aren't being adequately addressed" (Wines, New York Times, 7/18).
Mandela Health and Human Rights Award Announced by Kaiser Family Foundation
Former South African Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and Kenyan environmental advocate Wangari Maathai were awarded the 2007 Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights by the Kaiser Family Foundation on July 19 in South Africa, Business Day reports (Ensore, Business Day, 7/20). Chaskalson was recognized for his lifelong contribution to establishing a rights culture in South Africa -- demonstrated by his role in drafting the new constitution for post apartheid the country, which included the right to health care among its provisions. Maathai was recognized for her contribution to women's empowerment in Kenya and internationally. Established in 1992 by Kaiser at the behest of Mandela, the award honors individuals for outstanding dedication to improving the health and life chances of disadvantaged populations in South Africa and internationally. Recipients are selected in conjunction with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and with the approval of Mandela (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 7/20). At a ceremony to announce the award, Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman noted that a recent antenatal survey released by the South African government showed a decrease for the first time in HIV prevalence among young women. Altman said future surveys will confirm whether this represents a turning point in the epidemic, adding that "it is welcome news and suggests the need for reinvigorated efforts in prevention and treatment and in sustaining the youth prevention programs that seem to be making such a difference." South African Deputy President Phumzile MlamboNgucka presented the awards and emphasized the link between human rights and health (Business Day, 7/20).