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Inter Press Service
HEALTH: Annan Turns to US Foundations for Money to Fight AIDS
Thalif Deen
April 30, 2001
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 30 (IPS) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Monday took his cash-strapped battle against AIDS before one of the richest audiences in the United States.

Annan, who is seeking to build a massive "war chest" of about seven-to-ten billion dollars to launch his global fight against the deadly disease, appealed to affluent US foundations for desperately needed funds.

Addressing the annual conference of the Council on Foundations in the city of Philadelphia Monday, Annan said the international community needs a "great deal of new money" to battle the devastating disease.

"While much responsibility does lie with governments in the countries where the disease is spreading fastest, clearly they need help from outside," he added. The most fortunate countries can, and must, provide that help.

The Council on Foundations, a coalition of over 1,800 foundations, has some 318 billion dollars in combined assets and made outright grants totalling an estimated 14 billion dollars in 1999.

Annan said that when he addressed a summit meeting of African leaders in Nigeria last week, the estimates of seven-to-ten billion dollars a year "sounded a lot". But in a gathering of US foundations, he added, the amount is relatively small.

"It is actually less than you, the charitable foundations of a single country, are giving away each year. And the world's governments spend more than 100 times that amount each year on their military forces," he stressed. Current spending on AIDS in developing countries total around one billion dollars annually.

At the Nigerian summit meeting, Annan proposed a Global Fund dedicated to the battle against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

The Fund, he pointed out, must be able to deliver money quickly where it is most needed. Its decision-making must be open and transparent. It should give support to all kinds of organisations that are really working to fight the epidemic and help those affected by it, and which are willing to work within a common country framework.

Annan said he hopes to actively pursue the idea of the Global Fund with all concerned over the next few weeks. He held out the hope that the Fund will be up and running before the UN Special Session on AIDS scheduled to take place in New York Jun. 4-8.

As a condition, he said, each country or community receiving support from the Fund would have to show that it is actually bringing results to those most at risk. These results would be independently monitored.

At a press conference last week, Urban Jonsson, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the seven-to-ten billion dollars needed to fight AIDS could not be raised using old methods, such as merely asking for it.

"The international community had to look at it in a different way. While it was a lot of money for organisations such as the United Nations, it was only one percent of global military expenditures," he added.

If those responsible for military expenditures were to reduce their spending by one percent, that would pay the bill, he said.

David Morrison, President of Netaid.org Foundation, said the only way to generate the money would be if people around the world demanded that their governments made it a priority.

The campaign, along with others like it, was designed to let leaders know what the important issues were, and make them respond to world pressure, he noted. At a press conference in Nigeria last week, Annan disagreed with a reporter's view that "there is no money anywhere now for AIDS".

"Quite frankly, if I shared that view, I don't think I would have embarked on this idea of trying to set up a Global Fund and encourage donor governments, private foundations, corporations and individuals to pay money into the Fund," he responded.

For much of the international community, according to Annan, the magnitude of the crisis is beginning to sink in. Almost 22 million people have already died of AIDS.

More than 36 million men, women and children around the world are today living with HIV or AIDS - the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. But the pandemic is now spreading at an alarming rate in Asia and Eastern Europe.

In the year 2000 alone, Annan said, three million people died from the virus - the highest annual total to date - and five million became infected: the average of 13,000 people a day.

"This is indeed a catastrophe. But we are not powerless before it. Something can be done, and - what is more - people are starting to do it," he added. (END/IPS/HE/IP/td/da/01).



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