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G8 Summit : after 7 years of leading international AIDS advocacy, will Chirac let Bush wreck all his efforts ?

05 - 29 - 2003

« I have been actively campaigning for the creation of the Global Fund since 1997. The Fund should rapidly reach the crucial amount of ten billion dollars », Jacques Chirac said at the 2001 G8 summit [1]. « As people in Africa mobilize to fight AIDS, the G8 countries must rally to the support of African countries. The next stage is therefore in Evian where this mutual commitment must start being honoured », the French president declared at the Franco-African summit on February 21, 2003 [2].

On May 21, 2003, George Bush challenged Jacques Chirac when he declared : « When I go to the G8 next week, I will challenge our partners to match their good intentions with real financial resources and to announce a financial commitment (on a par with the three billion dollars the US will raise to fight AIDS) to save even more lives. I will remind them that the AIDS clock is ticking, that every single day 8 000 more people will die in Africa », warned the American president [3].

After demonstrating American military supremacy, and to try to regain moral prestige for the United States, George W. Bush now wants to establish in Evian American supremacy in humanitarian affairs. And indeed, France for one has not yet honoured the commitment made at the U.N. in 2001 to collect a global sum of 10 billion dollars a year to fund the war against AIDS [4].

But with its extreme rightwing leanings, the Bush administration is opposed to the approach of the fight against aids which the French president has succesfully advocated in Africa since 1997, in particular the use of generic medicines and condoms [5]. African countries, France’s ex-allies, will have to give up advances won at a high cost if they wish to benefit from US funding. The three billion from the United States is also a blow for the French president’s efforts to preserve multilateralism in international affairs, as the money will essentially go to bilateral programs, with only a paltry share for the Global Fund imagined by Chirac in 1997. Richard Feachem, the Executive Director of the Global Fund against AIDS, declared May 23 : « The fund has no money left. 1.4 billion is needed by the end of October if we are to honor the commitments made to poor countries. But if the Global Fund is going to be yet another band-aid on global epidemics, we might as well shut it down » [6]. Thus the French president, who met Mr. Feachem on May 16, is sent back to his responsibilities.

On September 2, 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Jacques Chirac declared : « What developed countries promise is that every country will have the necessary resources to finance its development. As we fulfill this promise, the priority must be given to the struggle against AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria, (because) I believe mankind would be found guilty of non-assistance to peoples in danger if we failed to take action » [7].

This is why Jacques Chirac must react to the 3 billion dollar per year commitment by the US, and immediately announce a French contribution at least proportional in terms of GDP : 500 million euros, or 0.03% of French GDP [8]. This is what needs to be done if 40 million preventable deaths are to be avoided.

Jacques Chirac can, through a French commitment, influence European countries and thus counter the American offensive. As a matter of fact, the decision of Germany and France to narrow the differences between their foreign policies, officially includes international solidarity. Thus an important French contribution to the Global Fund would be followed by Gerhardt Schröder’s own increased contribution. Great Britain, under American, German and French pressure, would have to raise its own contribution, which would lead Italy, Canada and Japan to do the same. The American contribution which since May has been limited to a third of what all other sources contribute, would then be proportionally increased.

Notes

[1] Press conference of Jacques Chirac at the end of the G8 meeting, Genoa, Italy, July 22, 2001.

[2] Press conference of Jacques Chirac at the end of the 23rd meeting of the French and African Heads of State, February 21, 2003

[3] Ten Days Before the G8 Summit, Bush takes on Europeans, Oliver Knox, AFP, May 21, 2003

[4] On June 27, 2001, the wealthiest countries pledged at the U.N.General Assembly to reach a global amount of 7 to 10 billion dollars to fight the AIDS epidemic in the low-income and middle-income countries.(Declaration against AIDS at the General Assembly of the Organization of the United Nations). On July 22, 2002, in Genoa, the G8 Heads of State made a commitment, in response to the call of the General Assembly of the United Nations, to make decisive progress in the struggle against infectious diseases thanks to a new Global Fund(Declaration of the G8 Heads of State and Governments on July 22, 2002). To this day the contribution of the EU is less than 200 million euros a year (Report of the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, "Pledges and contributions to the Global Fund, 2001-2003", March 31, 2003)

[5] Jacques Chirac’s message to the 14th International Conference on AIDS, July 9, 2002

[6] Jon Liden, in charge of Communication for Richard Feachem, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, contact : +41 79 244 6006 ; jon.liden@theglobalfund.org

[7] Jacques Chirac addressing the General Assembly at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, september 2, 2002

[8] According to the 2002 OECD GNP’Report, the ratio between the American and French GNPs, whether price and exchange rate fluctuations are adjusted or not, is between 5 and 7. On this basis, France should contribute up to 1/6 of the American contribution to the struggle against AIDS, that is 2.5 billion over 5 years or 500 million a year.

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