G8 Summit To Address Aid to Africa; Leaders Urged Not To Backtrack on Pledges to Continent
Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations at their summit in Hokkaido, Japan, this week are expected to endorse a plan that will provide detailed assessments of how well the member countries are meeting their pledges to help fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases in Africa, the Washington Post reports (Abramowitz, Washington Post, 7/7).
Although aid to Africa was a focus of the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, where leaders pledged to double aid to the continent to $25 billion by 2010, advocates have accused some G8 nations -- particularly Canada, France and Italy -- of falling short on their contributions (Foster, AP/Yahoo! News, 7/7). Last month, the group DATA reported that donors are "off track" in delivering on their commitments and that "with every 'off track' year that passes, fully delivering the commitments by 2010 becomes more difficult" (Washington Post, 7/7). The Africa Progress Panel also released a report last month that said G8 commitments will fall $40 billion short of their targets under current spending plans (Financial Times, 7/7). Kazuo Kodama, spokesperson for the Japanese Foreign Ministry, said, "I don't understand the criticism," adding, "The G8 leaders are very aware of the commitments they have made to African leaders" (AP/Yahoo! News, 7/7).
Oliver Buston, a spokesperson for ONE, said, "There are good plans being developed. We also know when efforts are made, great results can be achieved. But the problem is these plans are not being backed by serious financing." Buston added, "It is as if the G8 has built a car but they have not put any fuel in it. It is time for that to change" (Financial Times, 7/7). Wole Olaleye, a Pan Africa Policy researcher with ActionAid International, said the threat of the G8 backtracking on its HIV/AIDS commitments is real. According to Olaleye, "G8 funds have made a difference -- the number on treatment has increased dramatically and this is enabling millions more people to keep working, thriving and looking after their families." Olaleye added, "However, the need remains enormous: three-quarters of people who need HIV/AIDS treatment are still not receiving it. Almost 90% of HIV-positive pregnant women are still unable to get drugs that could prevent the virus being passed on to their child" (Ooko, Xinhuanet, 7/5).
President Bush on Sunday arrived in Japan and said that developing a monitoring mechanism on aid to Africa is one of his priorities at the summit. He also suggested that Japan supports the idea. U.S. officials have said that the country is on target to meet its goal of $8.7 billion in development aid for sub-Saharan Africa by 2010, and independent groups have confirmed the projections, according to the Post. Although the U.S. is "under pressure from other G8 countries to set more ambitious targets" on other issues such as global warming, "Bush and his aides have been planning for months to turn the tables on their allies by pressuring them on aid to Africa," the Post reports (Washington Post, 7/7). "Now is the time for the comfortable nations to step up and do something about" aid to Africa, Bush said (AP/Yahoo! News, 7/7).
During the summit, G8 leaders also intend to include a clause in a set of health-related guidelines that would ease travel restrictions on HIV-positive people, according to sources close to the negotiations. The Kyodo News reports that the U.S. and other nations that have strict visa requirements for HIV-positive visitors have "expressed cautious positions"; however, the reference that leaders will "support ongoing work to review travel restrictions for HIV-positive people" is expected to fuel change. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June called for appropriate legislative revisions to eliminate such restrictions (Kyodo News, 7/6).
NPR's "Weekend Edition" on Saturday included comments from Bush and Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, on plans to increase HIV/AIDS funding to Africa (Wilson, "Weekend Edition," NPR, 7/6).
VOA News on Friday featured an interview with Marcel Van Soest, the executive director of the World AIDS Campaign, which is calling on G8 countries to follow through on earlier commitments (DeCapua, VOA News, 7/4).