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Rich Countries Sceptical of Global Fund

UN Integrated Regional Information Network, 19 May 2001

The world’s wealthy nations are allegedly holding off donations to a proposed UN global health fund, arguing there are not enough guarantees that the money would be spent correctly, the Associated Press said on Wednesday.

Reporting from the UN conference for Least Developed Countries in Brussels, AP said that many countries remained sceptical about UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposed US $7-10 billion fund to fight the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases. It quoted Poul Nielson, the European Union’s (EU) development commissioner as asking: What will this fund do better than what we are doing now?. If we are just talking about a global AIDS fund, we will not participate. It is too narrow, he added. The EU reportedly wants the fund to include other transmittable diseases and tie it to providing cheaper drugs for poorer countries.

The United States is the only large country to contribute to the global fund so far, pledging US $200 million last week. That contribution was criticised by, among others, the US-based Health Gap Coalition as paltry. The coalition called for Washington to allocate US $2 billion in new money. (See www.healthgap.org)

Annan said on Thursday in Geneva that the proposed war chest to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria would be a major tool for economic growth in the developing world. In a speech to WHO’s World Health Assembly, Annan said that in order to encourage development, the runaway contagion of HIV/AIDS, and other diseases must be contained. Annan said that plans for the fund are progressing. He noted that the fund should be governed by an independent board, made up of stakeholders including governments from both donor and developing countries, NGOs, the private sector and the United Nations. The day-to-day running of the fund should be done through a small secretariat, which would draw on a technical advisory body made up of international experts in the fields of health and development.

Addressing concerns that the proposed fund would pull money away from existing health programmes, Annan stressed that the fund must be additional to existing funds and mechanisms, not just a new way of channelling money that is already earmarked for development.