The G8's Declaration on Global Health

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Global health may not have been at the top of the agenda at the Group of 8 summit in Italy today, but it wasn’t ignored either.

In their declaration today, G8 leaders noted that progress on global health has not been as significant as hoped and they reaffirmed previous commitments, most notably the $60 billion investment to fight infectious diseases and strengthen health system by 2012. In addition, the declaration specifically mentions the need to better coordinate HIV & TB care, a coup for those concerned about the threat of HIV/TB co-infection.

“We will implement further efforts towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, with particular focus on prevention and integration of services for HIV/TB,” the declaration states. (Click here for the full statement; the global health section starts on p. 33.)

Some critics expressed disappointment that the G8 leaders did not offer any new initiatives or articulate the less-than-impressive progress toward meeting previous commitments. And it’s hard to say whether the G8 leaders will live up to the goals outlined in this meeting. But at least they did not try to renege on the Heiligendamm promise or stay mum about the issue entirely.

Here’s a link to some of the advocates who expressed dismay at the G8 action. Below is an AFP story on the summit, followed by a statement from WHO’s Stop TB Partnership.

By Dave Clark

L’AQUILA, Italy (AFP) — The leaders of the G8 nations vowed Wednesday to honour their promises to Africa and make up a 25 billion dollar aid shortfall, while anti-poverty campaigners demanded action not words.

“Despite the severe impact of the crisis on our economies, we reiterate the importance of fulfilling our commitments to increase aid made at Gleneagles,” the leaders said in a statement seen by AFP ahead of its official release.

In 2005, meeting in the Scottish town of Gleneagles, the world’s richest nations promised to increase aid to the poorest by 50 billion dollars by 2010, but as they again met this week campaigners accused them of coming up short.

At their latest summit, this time in the Italian town of L’Aquila, G8 heads promised “with other donors” to come up with another 25 billion by next year.

While some countries, notably Japan, exceeded their promises, others, in particular G8 summit host Italy, have fallen far short of fulfilling their share of the bargain, leaving Africa short more than 23 billion dollars.

Oliver Buston, spokesman for the One campaign led by rockstar activists Bono and Bob Geldof, said: “The reiteration of old promises is fine.

“The announcement of new plans is fine, but what we really need is action, action to put food into peoples’ mouths and deliver treatment to the sick.

“Currently France is not meeting its promises and Italy is the worst performer, having slashed aid. We need urgent action from Prime Minister Berlusconi in the next three days,” he told AFP.

Major aid agency Oxfam was also unimpressed.

“The buck stops here. The failure of the G8 to deliver the 50 billion dollars in aid promised to poor countries is a crisis of credibility which will cost three million lives,” said Emma Seery, spokeswoman for the international group.

“What is the G8 for if they will not show leadership to save the lives of millions? They have two days left to show us their emergency plan to meet their broken promise,” she said.

Fellow aid agency ActionAid was even tougher, declaring: “Today G8 leaders failed a credibility test on Africa, with unimpressive action.”

“The G8 have again failed to provide credible figures for how they will keep their Gleneagles promises on aid. If the G8 isn’t believable, then it isn’t relevant,” said Otive Igbuzor, head of ActionAid campaigns.

Geldof clashed with summit host Berlusconi earlier this week, calling into question his legitimacy to chair the meeting after his country paid only three percent of the money it promised in 2005.

Buston hit out at Italy and France for failing to meet their commitments.

He showed reporters a copy of the 2005 G8 summit communique, signed by Berlusconi, which he described as a “contract with Africa”, calling on Italy to reverse its decision to cut its aid budget by 411 million euros.

Publicity surrounding the intervention of Geldof and Bono embarrassed Berlusconi in the run up to his summit, which he hoped would help burnish his image after humiliating revelations about his private life.

According to press reports, the Italian leader apologised for the aid shortfall in his meeting with Geldof. Bono, meanwhile, challenged Italians over their premier’s position during a concert on Tuesday in Milan.

“If you think he should do what he promised for the poorest and most vulnerable in Africa, you need to let him know. Because he is not,” the U2 frontman told the crowd.

Save the Children said it was shocked that Italy had announced it would cut its foreign aid to poor countries by another 10 percent in 2010, after a 56 percent reduction made in December 2008.

“The Italian government has used the eve of its own summit to announce not a reinstatement of aid but an extraordinary further cut,” said the charity’s spokesman Adrian Lovett.

“It’s a disgrace. Coming from the host of the G8, this action raises serious questions about the credibility of the summit.”

Save the Children warned ahead of the summit that 75,000 children would die for lack of health care during the period of the three-day meet.

From the WHO’s Stop TB Partnership:

In their joint declaration issued this week: Responsible Leadership for a Sustainable Future, the leaders of the G8 Summit  pledged to implement further efforts towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, with particular focus on prevention and integration of services for HIV/TB. “We will combine this with actions to: combat TB and Malaria. . . In this regard, we stress the importance of addressing gender inequality,” they wrote.

 

In a separate Experts’ Report, “Promoting Global Health” the leaders noted that where there have been substantial investments and good performances, impressive results have been achieved. This is especially evident in the dramatic increase in coverage on several disease fronts, notably tuberculosis, HIV, child immunization, polio and malaria, they stressed.  “Despite these major advances, the job is far from done. Sustained political leadership and commitment are needed,” they wrote.

 

The report calls specifically for strengthening of basic TB control, management of MDR/XDR TB; integrated HIV-TB care and increased availability of labs and diagnostics. And it reaffirms the G8 Commitment to halting the spread of TB. “We will also support the Global Plan to Stop TB, 2006-2015, which aims to cut TB deaths in half by the year 2015 compared to 1990 levels, saving some 14 million lives over ten years, and call upon all donors and stakeholders to contribute to its effective implementation,” they wrote.

 

“We commend the G8 leaders for their recognition of recent achievements in TB and HIV/TB control — and also for their call for scale-up of prevention and treatment and stronger political leadership,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership.

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