Tuesday 15 May 2001
For Immediate Release

Public interest NGOs demand that the Global Health Fund meets poor countries’ needs, not those of industry

(Geneva, Switzerland) Public interest NGOs gathered in Geneva for the 54th World Health Assembly today reacted with concern to the Director General’s first briefing on a historic global fund meant to subsidise treatment, care and prevention of diseases associated with poverty, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

While the NGOs strongly endorse the Director General’s announcement that civil society would comprise part of the fund’s governing structure, questions about WHO’s specific role in the fund’s creation and management remained unanswered. “The Director General must clarify the role of the World Health Organization in the management of this fund and how she will take up this cause in the coming months as important decisions are made” said Zafar Mirza of Health Action International.

Kofi Annan, the United Nation’s Secretary General, called for the creation of a huge health fund with an annual commitment of US$7-10 billion per year during a meeting in Nigeria last month. However, the first government contribution to the fund has been a US$200 million donation made by the United States. “The Bush Administration’s decision to give such a small amount has already threatened the life of the fund,” said Asia Russell of the Health Gap Coalition.

The Secretary General will travel to Geneva on Thursday to address the Assembly about the fund. The NGOs call on him to champion basic principles about transparency, civil society involvement, operational mechanisms and to mobilise sufficient resources for the fund. “Millions of people dying of treatable diseases cannot afford for him to fail,” said Gaelle Krikorian of Act Up-Paris.

HAI, Oxfam, ACT UP and the Health Gap Coalition call on Kofi Annan and Gro Harlem Brundtland to fashion guiding principles for the multilateral fund that are responsive to the needs of people living with or vulnerable to infectious diseases. By the time of the UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS, 25 June, donors must have contributed substantial resources toward the Fund´s goal of US$10 billion. The NGOs also call for WHO to take up this discussion during next month’s TRIPs Council session.

HAI, the Health Gap Coalition, Act Up-Paris, and Oxfam UK call for the Fund to be guided by these principles:

1. Consumer representation, not industry representation.

The voices of people with AIDS, as well as other consumers, must determine the priorities of the Fund. The Fund must function with transparency at all levels. Representation from commercial interests in any governing or advisory capacity must be forbidden.

2. Money for purchase of treatment must be maximised through bulk procurement mechanisms, and the inclusion of generic drugs.

A system of bulk procurement, driven by a competitive bidding process including generic manufacturers, must be used to achieve best world prices—regardless of patent status—for life-saving and vital medications.

3. Wealthy nations must contribute billions, not millions to the Fund.

If the Fund is to meet its ambitions of providing treatment, care, and prevention for poor people facing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases of poverty, industrialised countries must contribute substantial resources now, and over the long term.

4. Strengthened existing health systems.

The fund should be designed to support programmes offering a comprehensive package of health services. It should work within an equitable national health policy framework.

For more information, contact:
Lisa Hayes, HAI Europe (+31-6) 24 22 58 47
Asia Russell, Health Gap Coalition (+41-79) 470 1752
Gaelle Krikorian, ACT UP Paris (+33 6) 091 77055
Mogha Kamal Smith, Oxfam UK (+44 7720) 255 730

CPT Home IP and Healthcare CPT page on the 2001 World Health Assembly CPT page on calls for funding.