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Opinions: PEPFAR Funding; Aid In Africa; Obama, Human Rights

U.S. Should Fully Support PEPFAR

Following a recent letter by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to President Barack Obama that “expressed concern about the future of” PEPFAR “as details of the Obama administration’s Global Health Initiative emerge,” a Courier-Journal editorial looks at how the “U.S. made a commitment to be a major player in the worldwide fight against AIDS” and details how “arguably the most successful program implemented by President Bush” has made huge strides in broadening HIV treatment access and preventing mother-to-child-transmission in the developing world.

“In July 2008, PEPFAR more than tripled its budget to $48 billion, thanks to support from a Democratic Congress and Republican president. The goals of the program’s second five-year phase include saving more lives, training more health care workers to help countries sustain their own efforts and developing national health agendas that ensure an individual country’s specific health epidemic is being properly addressed,” the editorial notes.

The editorial highlights the recent findings by a Kaiser Family Foundation/UNAIDS report on investment in global HIV/AIDS programs, which found “AIDS funding worldwide dropped to $7.6 billion in 2009 from $7.7 billion in 2008, and, according to the study, it would have dropped significantly more without U.S. funding.” The editorial states: “Sen. Lugar is right. In a rare show of bipartisan support, the U.S. made a commitment to be a major player in the worldwide fight against AIDS. President Obama, who supported PEPFAR as a senator, should make clear his commitment to the program’s continued success” (8/13).

Aid ‘Must Not Overwhelm Or Displace Local Efforts’ In Africa

In a CNN.com opinion piece, Robert Calderisi, author of “The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working,” writes of the disruptive effects foreign aid has had on the continent. “Aid must not overwhelm or displace local efforts; instead, it must settle with being the junior partner. … Because of Africa’s needs, and the stubborn nature of its poverty, the continent has attracted far too much aid and far too much interfering by outsiders,” Calderisi writes before outlining how historically development efforts have left African governments to play the role of the “eager receivers, rather than clear-headed managers of Western generosity.”

While “[i]n the last 20 years, some states – like Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Mali – have broken the mould, recognized the importance of taking charge, and tried to use aid more strategically and efficiently … most African governments remain stuck in a culture of dependence or indifference,” he writes.

To promote change, Calderisi calls for leaders “to use aid more restrictively,” adding, “[a]n obvious solution is to focus aid on the small number of countries that are trying seriously to fight poverty and corruption. Other countries will need to wait – or settle with only small amounts of aid – until their politics or policies or attitudes to the private sector are more promising. … We should also consider introducing incentives for countries to match outside assistance with greater progress in raising local funds” (8/12).

Obama Administration Needs To Do More To Stand Up For Human Rights

In a National Review opinion piece, Jacob Mchangama, an external lecturer of international human-rights law at the University of Copenhagen, contrasts the actions on human rights issues under the Obama administration with those in the administration under former president George W. Bush: “The Bush administration was cool toward the U.N. human-rights structure for a simple reason: It did not want to confer legitimacy on a system that rogue states and their supporters have turned into an instrument of tyranny,” he writes. “The Obama administration, by contrast, apparently believes that participation and dialogue in itself is more important than the outcome,” Mchangama adds, pointing to the recent decision by the U.S. to abstain from voting on a U.N. resolution that declared access to clean and safe water to be a human right.

“The Obama administration has also accepted seemingly harmless compromises that actually chip away at human rights,” Mchangama adds before citing several instances of such compromises.

“If the U.S. wants to be taken seriously as the leader of the free world, it must champion the cause of freedom at the U.N. by actively leading a coalition of democracies, confronting authoritarians, and shaming the spoilers. Alternatively, the U.S. could decide that human rights are best championed outside the U.N. and build a credible alternative. But sitting on the fence is tantamount to surrender,” Mchangama concludes (8/10).

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