UK doubles commitment to Global Fund

Julian Meldrum
Published: 26 June 2001

The UK's Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt Hon Clare Short MP, announced at the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday 25 September that the UK was ready to contribute US $200 million to the fund over the next five years, once the Fund's management arrangements are agreed. This is the same amount promised for this year by the United States and around twice the amount previously indicated by the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

Clare Short was critical of much of the rhetoric around the UN Special Session. "We have, I am afraid, no reason to congratulate ourselves on the holding of this meeting. We have been aware of the infection for 20 years and that it was spreading out of control for at least 10 years. And we must not fool ourselves that the holding of a UN Special Session leads to any automatic improvements in prevention or treatment."

"However," she added, "as we are here, we must make the best possible use of this meeting and try to use it to energise a world wide effort to contain the spread of the disease."

After praising Uganda and Thailand, she said: 'Prevention remains the most important work because there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS. We must, of course, press on with research for a vaccine and for microbicides. We must make anti-retroviral drugs available, where we can do so responsibly. But let no-one pretend that anti-retrovirals are a cure or that whatever the price, most people who are infected will receive them. ... We must do more to make condoms and drugs available but be absolutely clear that without a much greater commitment to building basic health care systems, the overwhelming majority of the more than 30 million people who are already infected will not be helped."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the US donation as 'seed money' and said "more will come from the United States as we learn where our support can be most effective." He announced that President Bush had requested US $480 million "to combat AIDS in the developing world ... more than double the fiscal year 2000 amount."

A column in the Guardian newspaper by Christian Aid's Mark Curtis dismissed the proposed global fund as "just another false dawn for the poor" claiming that the UK's contribution would be from money already pledged for international aid. However, the Department for International Development reports that the UK's international development budget rose by 40 per cent last year and observes that the UK currently spends 0.31 per cent of gross national product in this way compared to an internationally agreed target of 0.7 per cent. A DfID spokesperson told aidsmap that the UK contribution will definitely form part of an increasing overseas aid budget, and that other support for health care will be maintained.

Further donations to the Fund have been promised by Canada, Japan and most western European governments, subject in some cases to more information on how the Fund will operate, to a total of US $600 million. Further announcements will be made at the G8 summit in Genoa next month and it is expected that the Fund will begin operation in 2002. A number of countries, such as Australia and Switzerland, have pledged additional funding in direct international aid and in support to existing multinational efforts such as UNAIDS.

Sources (click on the links below to view source material):

UK international development assistance: (Department for International Development)

Clare Short's address to the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS

Comment by Mark Curtis of Christian Aid

UNAIDS site for further details of the UN General Assembly Special Session

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