Africa Action Launches Campaign Urging Debt Cancellation for African NationsAfrica Action, an U.S.-based group that advocates political action on African issues, has launched a new campaign aimed at achieving debt cancellation for African nations and creating equal access to drugs and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS, Foreign Policy in Focus' Progressive Response reports (Progressive Response, 5/23). "Africa's Right to Health Campaign," which is based on a position paper prepared by Africa Action, states that World Bank and International Monetary Fund lending policies have "exacerbated poverty, providing fertile ground for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases" by forcing African governments to cut spending on health, thus hampering Africans' access to health care services (Africa Action Web site, 5/29). Although African leaders recently agreed to spend at least 15% of their national budgets on health, their "chances of meeting these goals are slim unless the World Bank and IMF agree to full debt cancellation," the brochure states, noting that "the World Bank still holds more influence over Africa's economic policies than do African elected officials" (Africa's Right to Health Campaign brochure, 5/29).
Letter Urges Debt Cancellation
Africa Action, along with the TransAfrica Forum, also recently sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in advance of O'Neill's current trip to Africa, stating that "[u]nconditional debt cancellation" should be the "first priority of any U.S. initiative that seeks to promote Africa's growth" and that the United States "should use its powerful position at the World Bank and IMF to move these institutions in this direction." The letter, which was signed by members of more than 110 organizations, also states that the United States "should support African initiatives with increased public investment in social development," and that a "successful development agenda" would emphasize investment in health and education efforts. The letter opposes "tying aid to specific criteria, including economic policies and governance conditions, defined by" the U.S. government, stating that monitoring mechanisms should be independent entities. Letter signatories include Marie Clarke, director of Jubilee USA Network; Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance; Wyatt Tee Walker, president of the Religious Action Network; and Zackie Achmat, chair of the South African AIDS group the Treatment Action Campaign (Letter text, 5/29).