NGOs Question G-8 Pledge to Fight AIDS
June 4, 2003
The goodwill declarations of the Group of Eight leaders meeting in France have left many nongovernmental organizations frustrated at the contrast between the billions of dollars promised and the lack of concrete action taken on decisive issues, such as easing access to low-cost drugs for the poorest countries.Adapted from:
"The good news of the summit is that billions are now on the table, but the objectives set in Okinawa Prefecture in 2000 are far from being reached and the situation has since deteriorated," said Bernard Pecoul, a representative of Doctors Without Borders. He referred to an earlier G-8 pledge to reduce the number of young people infected by HIV by 25 percent and mortality due to TB and malaria by 50 percent.
The leaders reaffirmed their support for the UN's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which is already short more than $4 billion that it needs to carry out its 2003-4 program. President George W. Bush's pledge to launch a $15 billion plan to fight AIDS prompted European Union leaders to increase their contributions to the Global Fund. French President Jacques Chirac said France would triple its own contributions to $150 million in 2004, and he said the European Union was ready to contribute $1 billion.
Observers, however, said the fundraising competition has overshadowed the World Trade Organization's commitment in Doha to grant developing countries the right to produce generic versions of patented drugs. "Compared to first drafts, the G-8 health plan has been watered down. All the essential issues have been circumvented to protect the interests of U.S. firms," Pecoul said. "It's nonsense to spend billions of dollars to help developing countries buy drugs if they will pay four times the price they would cost if they were produced locally."
In Evian, the G-8 leaders welcomed "the voluntary commitments of pharmaceutical companies to provide essential medicines at discounted prices to developing countries," but postponed any agreement on the patent issue until the September WTO summit in Cancun, Mexico.
Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)
06.04.03; Jean Serror