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G8 on Africa: Promises and Intellectual Property Protection

June 13th, 2007

The leaders of the industrialized G8 countries met in Germany on 6-8 June 2007, to deliberate issues relating to cross border investment, intellectual property rights, energy, climate change and development, particularly in Africa. The G8 countries consist of the USA, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan. Although climate and trade policy issues were unresolved, the G8 did issue a joint declaration on “growth and responsibility” for Africa. The G8 has promised $60 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in Africa. President Bush has committed $30 billion of that headline figure over five years, a bit more than what Congress had already targeted in recent years.

G8 members are certainly aware of the desperate situation in Sub-Saharan Africa with HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB killing millions of people. Civil society has been a strong advocate for increased finding for these and other neglected diseases. One key barrier to disease treatment in Africa is access to affordable medicines, especially for children. Yet the G8 has committed to increasing intellectual property protection in Africa, a policy that makes little sense; more money is pledged, but access to medicines will be limited by the higher prices associated with increased Intellectual Property protection.

The G8 pledge of $60 billion in funding made headline news and was trumpeted as a promise fulfilled.

“But, the reality is that as the tide of HIV/AIDS rapidly rises, we are not even treading water,” said Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance. “This is not a plan for victory in the fight against AIDS. Looking at the details, it’s clear that this plan is for a modest funding increase. It is far below what is needed to get ahead of the AIDS virus and meet new international commitments, including providing services for children. … According to the U.N., the $60 billion total will be only only one-third of what is needed over the next five years to combat AIDS, malaria and TB. Together, these diseases kill about 16,000 people each day. The U.N. estimates that $192 billion is needed to address AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria together from 2008 to 2012, and even more would be needed to improve health systems. Of this $192 billion, $134 billion is needed for AIDS, $37 billion to fight TB (including extremely drug-resistant TB), and $21 billion to address malaria, a major killer of children and expectant mothers. … To give the world a chance to reach basic goals, the G8 should speed up the delivery of this $60 billion by 2010, not spread it out over five years,” said Zeitz.”

A further problem is that it will be difficult to hold the G8 countries accountable because no specific timetable for the flow of money has been established, and there is no detailed information about individual countries’ contribution. Activists are concerned that since the G8 countries failed to meet their 2005 commitments, these recent pledges may also fall short. With the need much greater than the pledges made, any shortfall is of critical importance. One may legitimately ask whether the G8 is serious about pushing back the spread of HIV/AIDS and the misery caused by preventable diseases throughout the continent of Africa?

In the same way that the G8 leaders suffer from a lack of credibility in honoring their promises, so do African leaders who are recipients of the funding. Sadly, some HIV/AIDS funding has been embezzled during its distribution and there is corruption on the part of some Africa governments who receive AIDS funds. Civil society, especially faith based groups, need to monitor HIV/AIDS funding. The HIV/AIDS pandemic calls for a comprehensive approach; honoring funding promises; creating greater access to medicines and the accountability of funds by African recipients.

To take action on HIV/AIDS, please go to: ICCR; UN AIDS

Citations from: Global AIDS Alliance

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