Africa: Debt and AIDS, 06/02/02

Africa: Debt and AIDS, 06/02/02

OAfrica: Debt and AIDSDate distributed (ymd): 020614 Document reposted by Africa ActionAfrica Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at

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Region: Continent-WideIssue Areas: +economy/development+ +health+SUMMARY CONTENTS: This posting contains (1) from Africa Action, a summary critique ofthe Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt initiative and (2)calls for action by African Religious Leaders from 30 countries,from a meeting on June 9-12 in Nairobi, Kenya, organized by theWorld Conference of Religions for Peace and the Hope for AfricanChildren Initiative. In addition to making a strong statement against stigma and makingtheir own commitments to new action, the Religious Leaders calledon African governments to immediately cease paying debt service tointernational financial institutions, and on rich countries tocancel Africa's debt as well as to provide adequate funding for theGlobal AIDS Fund. For more info on the Nairobi meeting, including a summary pressrelease with quotes from Christian and Muslim leaders, seehttp://www.hopeforafricanchildren.orgFor a statement by Africa Action and other groups to the G7 FinanceMinisters meeting this weekend in Halifax, see

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Africa Action NoteWhen the leaders of the world's richest countries meet for the annual G8 summit in Canada later this month, they will devote unprecedented attention to a discussion of Africa's development challenges. At the top of their agenda should be a commitment toaddressing the overwhelming burden of the continent's foreign debt. Africa's debt remains the single largest obstacle to poverty reduction efforts and the fight against HIV/AIDS. Recent reports from the World Bank reveal that the current debt relief plan, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative,has failed to resolve the debt crisis even by its own measure. While Africa Action notes the new legislative initiative inThe U.S. Congress that seeks to further reduce the debt stock ofHIPC countries ("Debt Relief Enhancement Act of 2002" - S.2210 andH.R. 4524), we believe that the time has come for an immediatemoratorium on poor country debt payments to lay the foundation forfull debt cancellation. As the critique below details, the HIPC Initiative cannot be considered a credible framework for resolving the debt crisis. This year's Africa focus at the G8 summit demands nothing lessthan a new commitment to the cancellation of Africa'sunsustainable and illegitimate foreign debts.

------------Africa Action Critique of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative - June 2002 The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, the currentinternational debt relief framework, poses as a scheme to reduce the debt of the world's most impoverished countries to"sustainable" levels. Launched in 1996 by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund(IMF), HIPC is the first comprehensive debt relief plan integrating all bilateral, multilateral and private creditors inone framework. The initiative aims to reduce the amount of debtowed by eligible countries in order to prevent them fromdefaulting on their outstanding loans. Eligibility is determinedby the ratio of a country's debt to the value of its exports, andby a country's commitment to following economic policyprescriptions dictated by the World Bank and IMF. Of the 42countries selected by the World Bank and IMF as potentialrecipients of HIPC debt relief, 34 are in sub-Saharan Africa. Neither the original HIPC Initiative, nor the "enhanced" versionintroduced in 1999, has succeeded in resolving Africa's debtcrisis. The 22 African countries that have so far qualified toreceive some relief are still required to pay almost $2 billioneach year in debt repayments to wealthy creditor countries andinstitutions, mainly to the World Bank and IMF themselves. Africancountries' efforts to address urgent domestic priorities, frompoverty reduction to the fight against HIV/AIDS, continue to beundermined by their persistent debt burden.

Most Africangovernments still spend up to three times more on debt repaymentsthan on health care for their own people. The World Bank claims that almost $35 billion in debt relief hasalready been committed through the HIPC framework. It states that the amount of debt held by qualifying countries is being reduced byup to one-third. However, the practical effect of this is minimalwhen most of this debt was not being repaid anyway, and when theremaining debt burden continues to be overwhelming. The World Bank and IMF's estimates of the amount of savings beingreleased to countries through HIPC are based on grossly unrealistic assumptions of economic growth and increased exports. In actual fact, export growth for HIPC countries has been far less than what the World Bank and IMF have predicted. In 2001 alone, it was less than half of what had been projected. Even by the World Bank's own measure, 31 of the 42 HIPC countries are not on track for reaching "sustainable" debt levels through this process. According to HIPC, "sustainable" debt represents the maximum amount debtor countries can repay without defaulting. Thus, while the HIPC framework claims to be concerned with easing the debt burden of the world's poorest countries, it is actually designedand controlled by creditors to extract the maximum possible indebt repayments. It is, in effect, mainly writing off debt thatwas not being paid in any case. The initiative's focus on purely economic criteria in assessing acountry's debt burden betrays an utter lack of concern for humandevelopment and for the capacity of poor countries to meet the needs of their own people. The emphasis is on ensuring thatcreditors recover as much debt as can be squeezed from thesecountries. HIPC permits creditors to retain leverage overindebted African countries while offering the veneer of concern forthe plight of these countries. The economic policy conditions attached to the HIPC process mirrorthe same prescriptions that have been imposed by the World Bankand IMF on African countries for the past two decades, with disastrous results. Although these are now repackaged to reflecta regard for "poverty reduction," their imposition is no lessinappropriate.

Tying debt relief to conditions determined bycreditors undermines African priorities and initiatives andaffords creditors an inordinate degree of control over the runningof African countries. It is a matter for African governments todetermine their own approaches to poverty reduction, inconsultation with civil society groups and other partners - notto have these prescribed to them by external powers. It isoutrageous that creditors should seek to stipulate to Africangovernments how they must spend any savings that are received fromdebt relief. Most importantly, the HIPC Initiative obfuscates the illegitimacyof most of Africa's debt. As such, it fundamentally undermines thestrong imperative for debt cancellation. Many of the loans beingrepaid by African countries today were disbursed for strategicpurposes, to prop up repressive and corrupt regimes during the Cold War. They were given for failed and grandiose projects pushedby creditors, most of which did not benefit Africa's people.

YetAfrica's people are today expected to pick up the tab. They arerequired to sacrifice their own health and education to ensure thatthese debts are repaid to wealthy creditors. Not only does the HIPC Initiative fail to acknowledge the illegitimacy of much ofthese debts, it actually sanctions the continued exploitation ofindebted countries by rich creditor nations and institutions. AsAfrican countries continue to be drained of desperately neededresources, the real question should be "who owes whom?" Africa's burden of illegitimate foreign debt represents the singlelargest obstacle to the continent's development. Six years afterthe introduction of HIPC, African countries are still forced tospend almost $15 billion each year repaying external debts. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has joined African leaders indeclaring HIPC to be inadequate and calling for a bolder approachto addressing the debt crisis. The Secretary General has urged amoratorium on international debt payments until such time as aninternational arbitration panel has determined a just resolution. Such a resolution must involve debtors and independent experts aswell as creditors, and must include indebted African countries,such as Nigeria and South Africa, that are excluded fromeligibility for the HIPC plan. Further tinkering with the HIPCframework can only be a shell game. If African efforts to reducepoverty and address the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS are to besuccessful, Africa's debt must be canceled outright.


African Religious Leaders Recommendations on National Policy & Advocacy Strategies onChildren and HIV/AIDS--11 June 2002CALL FOR ACTION BY AFRICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS1. African religious Leaders call for and will establish an AfricanReligious Leaders structure that will carry out advocacy functionson the African regional level and on the global level withgovernment, international financial institutions, and industry toprotect children and families affected by HIV/AIDS; 2. African Religious Leaders commit themselves to continue andexpand the full use of human and financial resources to address theHIV/AIDS pandemic 3. African Religious Leaders urgently call for and will participatein independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms to ensurenational laws and policies will protect children and familiesaffected by HIV/AIDS 4. African Religious Leaders will develop mechanisms to guardagainst manipulation by governments and development partners toensure that participation is real so that our strategic plans arefully implemented 5. African Religious Leaders immediately call for involvement ofreligious leaders in NEPAD to ensure that NEPAD is re designed andimplemented to protect children and families affected by HIV/AIDS 6. African Religious Leaders will do research on their countries todetermine what proportion of the national budget is provided forHIV/AIDSCALL FOR ACTION BY AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS1.

African Religious Leaders call on African governments toimmediately withhold debt servicing payments to the World Bank,IMF, and wealthy G8 governments and commit to using those resourcesto eradicate poverty and implement HIV/AIDS interventions; 2. African Religious Leaders call on African Governments to reformall policies and take urgent action to remove tariffs, streamlinebureaucracy, and eradicate corruption from the drug sector toensure that all medically eligible African have access tolifesaving triple-drug antiretroviral medications as soon aspossible; 3. African Religious Leaders call for the review and reform ofnational laws and policies so that they conform to internationalframeworks to protect children and families affected by HIV/AIDS; 4. African Religious Leaders call for the holistic integration ofnational and traditional laws and policies to protect children andfamilies affected by HIV/AIDS 5. African Religious Leaders immediately call on each and everyAfrican governments to fully implement the Abuja Declaration 6. African Religious Leaders call on African governments toimmediately develop and implement a plan for regional production oflifesaving triple-drug antiretroviral generic medicationsCALL FOR ACTION BY G8 GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS,AND THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY1. African Religious Leaders call on wealthy G8 governments toimmediately provide $7-10 billion per year starting this year tostop AIDS through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria 2. African Religious leaders call on wealthy G8 governments, thepharmaceutical industry, and the World Trade Organization tourgently review and revise their policies to ensure that allmedically eligible Africans have access to lifesaving triple-drugantiretroviral medications, including generically manufactureddrugs as soon as possible 3. African Religious leaders call on the World Bank, theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) and the rich G8 governmentsurgently and immediately cancel outstanding debt so that theAfrican people have the opportunity to eradicate poverty and stopAIDS. ___________

Final declaration:AFRICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS ASSEMBLY ON CHILDREN AND HIV/AIDS 9-12 June 2002, Nairobi KenyaFINAL DECLARATIONChildren in Africa are being crushed by HIV/AIDS. More than 14million have lost one or both parents. Many are sick, sufferingcruel deprivations, and are frightened and alone in a world whereno one seems to care. Worse, there is yet another burden. Thesechildren are stigmatized, made to feel ashamed by the source oftheir suffering, HIV/AIDS.We men and women, senior representatives of Afric's religiouscommunities, have come to Nairobi from 30 countries to confront theterrible impact that HIV/AIDS is having on our children and theirfamilies. All of our religious communities are living withHIV/AIDS, and we share the pain of all those who suffer from itseffects. Called by and respectful of our different religioustraditions, we stand united on two fronts: to protect and care forchildren impacted by HIV/AIDS, and to denounce and fight the heavyyoke of stigma that our children are forced to carry.We proclaim the fundamental dignity of every child rooted in thesacred origin of life. Our religious traditions compel us to act onbehalf of children affected by HIV/AIDS. Many elements of Africanculture such as the concepts of UBUNTU and HARAMBEE inspire us topull together as communities to confront problems that deny afullness of life for all, especially those affected by HIV/AIDS. Wemust lead efforts to change attitudes, adopt policies, and devoteresources to protect our children, insuring that all vulnerablechildren, in particular girls, receive their rightful share of allresources - educational, medical and spiritual. We must work tohelp them build a future free from the scourge of AIDS.Our religious traditions teach us that human sexuality is a giftfrom the Creator, and that we must accept the responsibilities ofthis gift. We recognize that HIV/AIDS is a problem that compels usto re-examine our traditions for guidance. It is our duty asreligious leaders to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS basing ouractions on these new understandings.All people have the right to information on how the spread of thedisease can be stopped. With conviction, concern and compassion, wecommit ourselves and urge our believers to work to stop the spreadof this disease in ways respectful of conscience as it is informedby our religious beliefs.Our capacities for caring for children impacted by HIV/AID aresubstantial. From the smallest village to the largest city, atdistrict, national, and international levels, religiousorganizations offer the largest social infrastructure to providecare and support, to share information, and to mobilize communityresponses. Our communities are already on the front lines inresponding to the devastating impact of the pandemic. Fully 90% ofHIV/AIDS care workers in Africa are women of faith, and wegratefully recognize and commend their efforts.We acknowledge that we have not fully unleashed our communities'rich assets for action. Our messages have not always beenconsistent and our voices have not always been heard.

We have beenreluctant to speak openly about HIV/AIDS. Too often our ownignorance, fear and denial have held us back as teachers aboutHIV/AIDS in our communities. Moreover, many of our communities'capacities for positive action to care for our children have notyet been adequately engaged.We pledge to make the fight against HIV/AIDS and its impact onchildren, young people and families a priority. We commit to:* Speak out at every opportunity to defend the dignity of everyperson, to break the silence and stigma that haunts those affectedby HIV/AIDS, particularly children. * Work harder to educate ourselves and the members of ourcommunities. * Encourage mutual respect, healthy relationships andsexual integrity among all persons. * Help make available clear and accurate medical information on howHIV is spread and methods to stop its transmission. * Advocate with our governments to commit more resources and moreenergy to combating HIV/AIDS, especially to addressing the needs ofchildren, and to hold adults accountable for the tragedy of childabuse. * Support stakeholders and affected persons as they systematicallyreview traditional practices to assess their impact on HIV/AIDS.Religious communities have an essential role to play, but we cannotsucceed alone. We commit to working in partnerships with allsectors of our societies in providing the necessary care for ourchildren. In particular, we call on our governmental leaders tofulfill the political, financial and goodwill commitments they madeat the Abuja Summit and to give greater attention to the particularneeds of children. We urge them to review NEPAD to insure itappropriately addresses HIV/AIDS and its impact on children andfamilies. Finally, we urge our governments to place a priority onfunding community based and led efforts. We pledge our readiness towork with them to meet these goals.14 million orphans is more than an African crisis; it is a disasterfor the human family. In practical terms, partnership with the restof the world is needed, in moral terms it is required. We appeal tothe international community, particularly wealthy nations, toprovide the external resources that are needed to overcome thisscourge. Their capacity to make a life or death difference on somany children impacted by AIDS is their moral responsibility to doso. They must honor their commitments to increase HIV/AIDS funding,in particular meeting the $7-10 billion goal set for the GlobalFund on AIDS, TB and Malaria. In addition, we call on them toensure that Africans suffering from HIV/AIDS have access toessential medications.HIV/AIDS is not just a health issue, but a development issue aswell. Nations need to honor their pledges and commitments both fordebt relief and for HIV/AIDS funds. We call on them to immediatelycanceloutstanding debt.

We urge the G-8 governments to deliveradditional, substantial, tangible resources when they meet nextweek in Canada.We value the Hope for African Children Initiative (HACI) becauseonly a dynamic expanding partnership of all stakeholders canaddress the needs of our children. HACI brings together religiouscommunities, other civil society groups, international developmentagencies, governments and intergovernmental agencies as partners,each contributing in own essential strengths. Within HACI, we lookforward to working with the World Conference on Religion and Peaceto expand the work being done in our local communities to care forchildren.As people of faith, we share in the suffering of all those affectedand infected by HIV/AIDS, but we remain filled with hope. AIDS neednot be a death sentence. Today, in communities across thiscontinent people are finding ways to meet the needs of children andfamilies through counseling, education, treatment, transitionplanning, prevention, and many other interventions. We haveincreased knowledge of what works. Our challenge is to find ways toensure that every child victimized by this disease receives theneeded care. We pledge our energy and resources to achieve thisgoal. With the help of the Divine, we will see a world free ofHIV/AIDS where every child has hope for the future.


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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