PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
called on Monday for private U.S. foundations to put their
financial might behind a new global fund designed to
orchestrate a new coordinated attack on the AIDS pandemic.
"In today's world, there are no health sanctuaries, no
separation between 'foreign' and 'domestic' infections; no 'us'
and no 'them'," Annan told about 2,500 people at the annual
meeting of the Washington-based Council on Foundations.
"If you make the fight against AIDS a top priority, I wager
that governments and the general public will not be far behind.
And so that is the challenge right here."
Last Friday, Annan proposed a super fund capable of halting and
reversing the spread of AIDS, which has killed nearly 22
million people in Africa alone. He told an African summit in
Nigeria that another $7 billion to $10 billion a year would be
needed to finance a global assault on AIDS, malaria and
tuberculosis. Only about $1 billion a year is spent currently.
"We are not spending anywhere near what is required on AIDS.
In fact, the amount of money being spent on the epidemic, on a
problem this size, is pitiful," he told a news conference
after his speech.
Annan's plan is not only to increase spending but to coordinate
efforts between developing nations, industrialized countries,
non-governmental organizations and private donors.
Although most monies are expected to come from governments,
Annan viewed his appearance before the Council on Foundations,
an umbrella group of 1,800 foundations and corporations
involved in philanthropy, as a way to mobilize public opinion.
The project already has drawn support from the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation -- funded by the chairman of the software
giant Microsoft Corp. -- which spent more than $1 billion on
health projects around the world last year.
"You can act as levers and advocates, stimulating others to
emulate your generosity," Annan said. "You have the
flexibility to provide funds quickly, and use them to plug
gaps, where other institutions may be held back by political
considerations, or by the terms of their mandates."
His remarks brought an enthusiastic response from council
members who admit that the international AIDS crisis is a new
sphere for many in the philanthropic arena.
"It was an eye-opening speech, I think, for a lot of the
members of the council," said Paul Di Dinato, who heads a
group made up of foundations concerned about the AIDS pandemic.
He said foundation spending on AIDS and HIV could easily rise
to $200 million within three years.
The 50,000 grant-making foundations in the United States gave
an estimated $27.6 billion overall in 2000, according to the
New York-based Foundation Center, which bills itself as the
leading authority on institutional philanthropy.
But the foundations spent less than $100 million on
AIDS-related projects last year.
Annan made clear that the "heavy lifting" on funds would have
to come from industrialized nations including the United
States, where Bush administration officials are reported to be
scrutinizing a Senate bill to double AIDS-related U.S. foreign
assistance to $1 billion annually.
"Given the size of the U.S. economy, and their leadership in
the world, I hope they will pay a substantial portion," Annan
The Group of Seven industrial nations intends to take up the
issue at its annual summit in Genoa, Italy, in July.
Details on the global fund are still vague. U.N. officials say
it will have an independent director and board to evaluate
programs in various African countries and possibly Asia and
eastern European, where the pandemic is spreading rapidly.
Its purpose is to pull together all the initiatives into "one
clear proposal" with five main goals: prevention, combating
transmission from mother to child, care and treatment within
everyone's reach, research for a cure against AIDS, and special
care for the more than 13 million "AIDS orphans."