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Rich nations falter on Africa – Bono

June 29, 2006

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The world’s richest countries are
falling short on pledges made last year to provide Africa with
life-saving AIDS drugs, expanded trade and increased aid, said
rocker-activist Bono.

Bono and fellow Irish rocker Bob Geldof have used their
fame to fuel a campaign for Africa, organizing concerts last
year to press leaders of rich countries at a meeting in
Scotland to wipe out poverty.

“They started out to climb an Everest but over the past
year they got lost at base camp,” Bono told Reuters in an
interview after the release of a report by his lobby group
Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa group, or DATA.

“I’d like to think that the DATA report is a kind of a GPS
system for how to get back on track and back up the mountain,”
said Bono, who formed DATA with Geldof.

The report said wealthy countries had delivered on their
promise to cancel the debts of 19 poor countries, most of them
in Africa, with 44 countries eligible under World Bank and
International Monetary Fund programs.

“Overall, there is one cheer on debt, half a cheer on AIDS
and boos and wolf-whistles for what is happening on trade,”
Bono said.

The report said relief from burdensome debt payments in
Cameroon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia has already
swelled spending on education, health and AIDS.

In London, Geldof said politicians needed to be kept
accountable, pointing to the DATA report.

“Here’s the evidence, here’s the empirical proof, here’s
the political arm, do this thing. We’re really serious,” he
told Reuters. “You’ve got us wrong if you think we’re going
away. We ain’t going away.”

MORE NEEDED TO FIGHT AIDS

The report said much more was needed to provide access to
drug therapy to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Globally, AIDS funding has grown to $8.3 billion in 2005
from $300 million in the late 1990′s. In Africa, the number of
people being treated rose to 800,000 last year from 100,000 in
2003.

DATA said, however, that donors were spending half of what
was needed to meet the goal of getting AIDS treatment to at
least four million Africans by 2010.

The report commended the United States for leadership on
AIDS programs in Africa, and Britain and France for their
contributions to a Geneva-based global fund for AIDS.

Canada, Italy, Japan and Germany were laggards, it said.

“Breaking your promise is always bad but breaking a promise
to people whose life depends on it is unforgivable,” said Bono,
who recently traveled to Africa.

The report castigated the G8 for failure to reach a trade
deal that would open markets for African products.

As trade negotiators haggled over details of farm products,
which Africa wants to export, in talks in Geneva on Thursday,
DATA said wealthy countries lacked ambition and urgency.

“It’s like they’re playing a macho game,” said Bono, who
argues that farm subsidies and other trade barriers in the
large U.S. and European markets hurt African producers.

“We have to do better in communicating that French or
American small farmers are not the problem here and that these
giant subsidies are in general for big corporations,” he said.

The DATA report said the G8 was collectively off target in
2005 on their promises to double aid to Africa by $50 billion
by 2010. Only France was on track for its 2010 goal, the report
said.

To keep its aid promises, the report said wealthy countries
should have increased aid by $3.6 billion last year, but spent
$1.6 billion.

Bono urged more progress by the next summit.

“Next year when we get to Germany and we’re not back on
track we won’t be talking pop concerts … we will be
demonstrating in very different ways,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London)


Source: reuters



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