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December 4th, 2023
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Bono and Martin join forces on aid to Africa

Posted on Saturday, November 15 @ 03:04:27 CET by Macphisto

(CTV.ca) -- The appearance of U2's Bono at the Liberal leadership convention has not only drawn attention to what has become more of a celebration than a race, it shows where new Liberal leader Paul Martin is focused, according to UN AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis.

Lewis said he believes that having Bono at the convention signals Martin's commitment to a Canadian initiative to get generic AIDS drugs to Africa as well as an increase in foreign aid -- two projects he said Martin could pursue more vigorously than his predecessor.

"I think Paul Martin is completely committed to generic drugs legislation," Lewis told CTV.ca News. "And I think that by having Bono at the Liberal convention, Paul Martin is giving the signal that we're likely to be contributing more to the resources of the Global (AIDS) Fund."

Bono has worked tirelessly to get governments to erase public debt from the world's poorest countries, many of them in Africa. He was named international spokesperson for the Jubilee 2000, an organization that aims to relieve debt, and two years later he founded DATA (Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa).

The U2 frontman and Martin have forged a relationship over the issue of relief for Third World debt. In 2001, Martin urged the U.S. to join Canada in implementing a moratorium on debt service payments by heavily indebted poor countries. The U.S. joined that effort the following year.

As for the generic AIDS drugs, Martin has already said he will continue with the legislation introduced earlier this month by Jean Chretien. "(It) is not only something that has to be fulfilled, it is something Canada should fulfill," he has said.

Chretien began the push to get legislation passed that will allow poorer countries to obtain generic versions of drugs for illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They are the three big killers in Africa.

Bono applauded Chretien's efforts in a recent letter, saying "From the perspective of a pesky Irish rockster, your leadership in Africa will be a legacy that lives on and flourishes way beyond your time in office."

Lewis called Canada's announcement on generic drugs a "startling precedent." The UN AIDS envoy has been lobbying hard for Canada to take the lead on this project. However, he said it does not erase the past failures by Canada with regard to Africa.

"No one should get intoxicated with what is happening as though this is part of a pattern of caring for Africa," Lewis said. "In truth, this is a restoration of care for Africa which has been abandoned which was otherwise abandoned over the last decade."

Lewis said Canada's contribution to the Canadian International Development Agency declined by billions between 1993 and 2001. He said the federal government also fell behind other G-7 nations in its contributions to the Global AIDS Fund, earmarking only about $150 million over four years. The fund aims to raise up to $10 billion US a year to fight the deadliest diseases in Africa.

As a result, Canada's international reputation has suffered, and so have the African nations who so desperately needed foreign aid.

"So on the one hand, we're doing wonderful things on generic drugs, but on the other hand, I'm hoping that when Paul Martin becomes prime minister, he will correct the failure to adequately fund the Global Fund."

Martin has already proved to have a strong international record. In 1999, he helped create the G-20 and was subsequently named the inaugural chair of the group, made up of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 industrialized countries and emerging market economies who discuss international financial issues such as debt.

In October, Martin discussed the idea of a Leaders' G-20 in an effort to restart foreign relationships with the U.S. and the rest of the world. He also wants to boost military spending and focus on fighting terrorism. In addition, he hopes to establish a permanent committee on Canada-U.S. relations.

Martin is taking over at a time when Ottawa and Washington are at odds on a number of issues, including the Iraq war and softwood lumber. Some suggest the government relationships are suffering because of personal differences between Chretien and U.S. President George Bush.

The newly crowned Martin hopes to meet Bush at a Summit of the Americas meeting in Mexico in mid-January. While that's still in limbo because of Chretien's up-in-the-air retirement date, Martin is obviously ready to begin his work on the international stage.

-- Sandra Dimitrakopoulos, CTV.ca News Staff

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