When the Millennium Development Goals Summit opens on Sept. 20, President Barack Obama should take a strong leadership role so we can rebuild some of the confidence that the people of the world have lost since the financial crisis. We need to know that we can achieve positive, big things when we set our minds to them.
In September 2000, building on a decade of major conferences and summits, 189 world leaders came together to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty. The leaders set up a series of targets — with a deadline of 2015 — that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
A decade ago, it seemed like an impossible dream — much like going to the moon seemed in 1961. But real, measurable results have occurred.
Some of the most potent results have come from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The fund has developed an effective structure to overcome past failures of foreign aid programs. It calls on recipient countries to gather government, nongovernment, civic, health, union and community organizations to propose how to use available resources and determine how their success will be measured. Until that is done, no money or supplies flow. If regular monitoring shows the job is not being done, the flow stops until they can show new plans that the global fund deems workable. If they have success, they can propose more programs.
The fund is well managed and operates with low overhead. It is a user originated and supported way to achieve results. Every day, programs supported by the global fund save at least 3,600 lives, prevent thousands of new infections and alleviate untold suffering. By December, the fund's efforts saved an estimated 4.9 million lives and restored hope for the 33 million people living with HIV, the hundreds of millions of people who contract malaria or who are at risk each year, and the 9.4 million who contract active TB annually.
Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009 and declared, "We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year's summit with a global plan to make them a reality." Just as President George W. Bush made the stunning announcement of the $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 and reflected powerful leadership, now is the time for Obama to demonstrate our commitment to the world and to ourselves that the global fund will continue its successes regardless of the courage it takes to do this in the current economic climate.
Congress already demonstrated support through passage of the bipartisan Lantos-Hyde U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria Act of 2008. That bill authorizes the United States to invest $2 billion per year into the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria for five years. It's time to commit to replenish the funding for the global fund.
In the grand scheme of things, this pledge is a small price to pay for saving millions of lives and is only a tiny fraction of our budget. Consider that the United States spent $7 billion in one year alone on swine flu prevention and fewer people died of that strain of flu than typically die of the normal annual flu. A much smaller annual contribution over three years would save an estimated 6 million lives if invested in the global fund.
Now is the time for the president to show the world where we stand on the Millennium Development Goals by telling them we are making a pledge of $2 billion annually over three years to replenish the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria from 2012 to 2014.
Ken Schatz is a Tampa resident and a volunteer with RESULTS, an organization committed to end poverty.