The Global Financial Crisis and MDGs

14 Mar 2009

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Responding to a question about the importance of education and water in developing countries and their significance for women, Stephen Lewis, Director of AIDS-Free World speaks about the impact of the global financial crisis on MDGs.

Stephen Lewis: (There is a) need to engage women in a way which isn't prejudicial to them. To keep girls in secondary school. One of the things we do at AIDS-Free World is to focus people on secondary education, because although now primary education is frequently free - I guess in the majority of countries - there are still somewhere between 70 and 100 million children of primary school age who are not in school.

So that's still a struggle, but at secondary level in Africa for example, of all kids in secondary school, only 16% are girls, because of course girls are not chosen first to go to school and of course the school fees simply act as an obstacle to get kids into schools. So, for girls it's terribly difficult.

So education is important and water is vital. Not only in availability, but the imposition it puts on women to walk many kilometers to get the water and Joanne in the introduction made mention of the MDGs and all of these goals are being compromised in their achievement by the year 2015 by virtue of the prejudice visited on women.

Its not only the poverty, the communicable diseases, the lack of education - it's the tremendous struggle around gender equality in country after country in order to diminish the prevailing difficulties and we're still not even close to getting by that.

And now we face a tremendous resource difficulty because its clear that with the economic downturn we're going to be struggling for dollars. The global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is $5 billion short at this moment. The United States in its PEPFAR programme for AIDS, despite approving a $48 billion budget for AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and over the next five year, has defaulted on that objective in the first year - the money hasn't been appropriated and one hopes that when the President talks about his budget, that that money will be preserved and will one day get allocated, but its not allocated yet.

We're in a very difficult situation.

When Bono was here in September, when the UN general assembly opened, he had a press conference in which he said he did not understand how it was possible to find $700 billion in 48 hours to bail out Wall Street, but that we couldn't find $25 billion from the US and the entire assembly of G8 countries to meet the commitment that had been made at the Gleneagles Summit in the United Kingdom in July of 2005. The $25 billion, additional, per year for Africa, effective 2010.

We have reached a level of 4 billion additional dollars. In the meantime, the world has managed to find somewhere between three and five trillion dollars, worldwide, to deal with bailouts and stimulus packages.

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