G8 summit: ‘$60b pledge is a smokescreen’

London, June 10:

A pledge by the rich countries of the G8 to spend $60bn over the next few years on HIV/Aids, malaria and TB was dismissed by development groups as a smokescreen for the West’s broken promises to the world’s poor.

Although the G8 stressed its “firm resolve” to keep the pledges made at Gleneagles two years ago, aid agencies said the leading industrial countries were way off track to meet the targets set for 2010 and had watered down their commitments.

Tony Blair welcomed the G8 package as important progress in fleshing out the Gleneagles pledges. British sources said the summit had agreed to boost funding on education, peacekeeping and health.

Under health, the $30bn pledged by the US for HIV/Aids treatment over five years

will be matched by a similar sum from other G8 countries.

The Global Fund for treating Aids, malaria and TB will receive a $6-8bn budget by 2010 - a threefold increase.

The G8 said it would treat five million people in Africa suffering from HIV/Aids as a step towards the universal coverage by 2010 pledged at Gleneagles.

Privately, the Global Fund said the communique had been a compromise between President Bush’s determination to include a specific target for numbers to be treated for HIV/Aids and Mr Blair’s insistence on sticking to the promise of universal access.

Campaigners for Africa said the pledge is made up largely of money which has already been announced, including $30bn from the US, and falls short of UN targets for extending treatment to tackle Aids.

Aditi Sharma, Action Aid’s head of HIV/Aids campaign, said, “Even this $60bn smokescreen can’t cover up for the abject failure of the G8 to move forward on their Aids promises.”

Anti-poverty campaigners Bob Geldof and Bono attacked the deal. Geldof, the driving force behind the Live8 concerts and G8 protests two years ago,said Blair had “gone out all guns blazing”. But he told reporters, “I want them [the G8] to commit to it. This wasn’t serious, this was atotal farce.”