Bono: Western World turning its back on HIV fight

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Musician and campaigner says pressure to cut aid funding is hampering efforts to stamp out Aids

By Larry Elliott (in Davos)
Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The world is at risk of losing the battle against HIV due to a backlash against aid triggered by a sense that western governments need to solve problems in their own countries, the musician and development campaigner Bono has said.

Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the U2 singer said populism in the rich north was the result of people being chewed up by capitalism.

Bono said 7,000 women a week were being infected by HIV/Aids and called for fresh funding for global health initiatives.

"We could lose this thing," he said. "We were winning. We have been somewhat put on the back foot by the understandable concern in northern economies that we have problems in our own cities. If there are people on the streets in our own cities, why should we care about what's going on over there?

"The answer is that what is going on 'over there' affects us. If Africa loses, Europe can't win. But we have got to get back into the conversation. We need a response to what is going on in our own cities."

Bono, who helped set up the campaign group One, said capitalism had lifted more people out of poverty than "any other ism", but warned: "It is a wild beast. If it is not tamed it can chew up a lot of people along the way."

Populism was the result of people being chewed up, he added.

Failure on the part of governments and businesses to invest in Africa would leave the way open for China to fill the void, Bono said. "China is the elephant in the room." Young people were asking a question of business and political leaders: "Are you a firefighter or are you an arsonist?"

Speaking at the same event, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said it was simply impossible for poor countries to mobilise enough resources domestically to meet basic development goals for sectors such as health, education, roads and water.

To meet UN sustainable development goals by 2030 would mean investment worth an additional 15% of GDP for low income countries.

Lagarde said: "That's monumental. No way can that be done by domestic resource mobilisation. Business has to be part of it."

The IMF said that achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDG) set by the UN would require strong partnerships between the public and the private sectors.

Countries needed to take a lead by improving the running of their economies, boosting the capacity to collect taxes, making public spending more efficient and creating business-friendly environments.

But hitting the SDG goals also required the support of the private sector, donors, philanthropists, and international financial institutions.

Lagarde told developing country leaders that combatting corruption was vital to prevent international investors from being scared off.

Bono added that he had once seen the IMF as a "great Satan", due to its emphasis on structural reforms and bullying of junior economies.

Now, though, he says the development community "really values" the tough-mindedness shown by Lagarde - but he'll still be "on her case".

© 2019 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on January 24, 2019 2:05 PM.

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