South Korea Shortchanges Global Fund

In G20, Global by AHF

AHF urges Korea and other wealthy nations to pay their fair share in global AIDS fight.

Korea’s announced contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, though increased, falls far short of its duty, says AHF, noting that supporting the Fund is not some favor that countries do, but a responsibility that leading nations of the world have.

WASHINGTON (November 22, 2013) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, today asked the Republic of Korea to increase its generosity in its pledging commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Korea’s contribution, though increased, falls far short of its duty, said AHF. The request—which AHF delivered to Ahn Ho-young, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, in a letter sent to the country’s Embassy in Washington—comes prior to the upcoming meeting for the Fourth Replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria set for December 3rd in Washington.

AHF’s appeal to Korea to increase its generosity for the worldwide fight against AIDS was prompted by the announcement this week of Korea’s intended financial commitment to the Fund. According to a November 21st press release from the Global Fund, “The Korean Ministry of Health will contribute US$ 6 million to the Global Fund for 2014-16. An additional US $10 million, from a levy on all passengers leaving Korea on international flights, will be paid by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Global Fund in five annual installments of $2 million from 2013-17.”

“Like much of civil society, AHF views donor contributions to the Fund not as charity, but as a responsibility, both morally and practically, that wealthier nations have to protect the public health of the entire globe,” wrote Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation in AHF’s letter to Korean Ambassador asking Korea to further boost its financial support of the Global Fund. “That is why AHF was disappointed to hear the recent news that the Republic of Korea has committed only US $16 million to the Fund over the next five years. AHF was further dismayed to learn that Korea intends to raise the majority of this money not through its own resources, but by taxing people flying into and out of Korea, including all foreigners who travel this way. We ask and sincerely hope that Korea will reconsider its commitment to the Global Fund, and will commit resources to the Fund in an amount keeping with its stature and responsibility in the world.”

In AHF’s letter to Ambassador Ho-young, Weinstein also noted:

Korea, a member of the G20, is one of the world’s largest economies, with an annual GDP of some US $1.12 trillion. Clearly, Korea’s Global Fund commitment is in no way proportionate to its economic size.
For sake of comparison, the United States’ GDP is roughly 15 times larger than Korea’s. However, the US contributes over US $1.3 billion to the Fund every year.
A proportionate contribution by Korea would be in excess of at least $70 million per year, much more than the current US $16 million commitment over five years.
Further, Korea’s preferred method of raising much of this money–by taxing travel by foreigners – indicates that Korea does not fully consider the responsibility for global public health to be its own.
Given the realities of today’s travel, it is obvious that diseases do not respect borders, and underfunding global health not only hurts those in immediate need, but further sets the stage for outbreaks where there previously were none.

“Replenishment pledges should not be considered ‘optional’ or looked upon as some generous gesture by countries such as Korea, China and many others,” said Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Global Ambassador for AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a former head of CENSIDA in Mexico. “Like UN dues, supporting the Global Fund and its worldwide fight against three infectious diseases—AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria—is, or should be, an obligation of responsible member-countries of the G20.”

“Each wealthy nation has responsibility to improve and protect global public health—It is a moral imperative,” said Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs and General Counsel for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “As such, financial commitments to organizations like the Global Fund must not be viewed as contributions, but must be looked at as expected payments that constitute a country’s ‘fair share’ of the collective global effort. Public health is a shared responsibility. Countries that do not pay their fair share are, in essence, freeloading off of countries that do. We have to start changing the narrative so that countries understand pledging financial support is not a favor that countries do, but a responsibility that nations of the world all share.”

The Global Fund is a program funded by wealthy nations that is designed to provide financial assistance to developing countries that lack the resources to fight diseases and build up medical infrastructures.

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