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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Sida. « L’aide au développement est en net recul »

by Ixchel Delaporte

AIDS. “Development Aid in Sharp Decline”

Translated Tuesday 30 December 2008, by Marjorie Cremont-Targar

An interview with Sébastien Fourmy, Campaign Coordinator for Oxfam France.

A few days before the World AIDS Day several associations (Act Up, Aides, Coalition Plus, Solidarité sida, Sidaction and Oxfam France) issued a warning on budgetary cuts to AIDS programs in poor countries…

Which events aroused your concern?

Sébastien Fourmy. There was the debate in Parliament on the public development aid figures and then Oxfam obtained a list of 55 bilateral public development aid projects which were threatened to be cut in 2009. Finally, after a fight, we have been able to move ahead on 10 projects. However, we have no information on the French Cooperation’s sectoral or geographical priorities. Moreover, on 8 November 2008, the Board of the Worldwide Fund to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria announced budgetary cuts of 25%, even though this aid has proved to be very effective in furthering the struggle against AIDS and other pandemics.

Do aid projects really have any impact?

Sébastien Fourmy. It’s generally quite difficult to explain how public aid helps development, as most people think that African dictators or technocrats skim it off for themselves. But quite honestly, when you go into the field, you realize how essential it is. The figures speak for themselves: the number of children treated for the AIDS virus in low income countries went up from 75,000 to 200,000 between 2005 and 2007. Of course it’s not a miracle cure, but it does represent a means of short term action. It’s also worth mentioning here that the State should be at the heart of implementing these educational and health policies for all, instead of relying on the private sector.

The worldwide fund is using the financial crisis to support these cuts. What do you think of that?

Sébastien Fourmy. Most rich countries have a vested self-interest in blaming the financial crisis, even when aid from all of the OECD member countries, France in particular, has been on the decline for over a year. The current trend is to not provide public aid to development within a social context. Nowadays, French support is seen as a tool in foreign or trade policy making. Alain Joyandet, Secretary of State in charge of cultural aid for French-speaking countries, stated that it was not normal for public development aid to not help French companies develop their operations in Africa. Crisis or not, the budget translates this development vision as serving France’s best interests. The doubled financial undertakings are going for cultural aid and not public development aid. When you see the speed with which the policy makers are capable of organizing meetings freeing billions to curb the crisis, it becomes clear that international cooperation is indeed a question of political commitment.

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