The forgotten human face of security

What future do we want to leave our children? World leaders should answer this when they gather in New York to negotiate United Nations reform proposals and review progress on the Millennium Development Goals. It was no great surprise that the High-Level Panel made critical links between security and development. But as the debate on UN reform has grown more intense, the human face of security has been forgotten.
Securing Security Council seats became more important than securing responsibility for addressing HIV/Aids and other human security issues.

Despite the laudable efforts of those living with the disease and civil society in Africa and beyond, HIV/Aids is winning: it has killed nearly 20-million Africans in the last two decades and orphaned more than 12-million children.

The pandemic is a slow puncture deflating the capacity of nations. African governments have been doing what they can, but it’s not enough. Without the promise of affordable treatment or delivery of a vaccine, without doctors, nurses, teachers and police, HIV/Aids is a death sentence for the security of poor countries. These concerns are part of the panel recommendations, which call for the scaling up of global health capacities.

In Monterrey, Mexico, the International Conference on Financing for Development agreed on a division of labour for economic development. Poor countries would embrace private-sector-led growth and build transparent and effective institutions. Rich countries would reduce trade barriers, increase aid and provide debt relief. Since then, and four years after the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, between 40% and 60% sub-Saharan Africans still live on less than a dollar a day. Rich countries have dragged their feet on removing trade barriers and continue to subsidise farmers to the detriment of African exports. In the meantime, money that could be spent on building up long-term development infrastructure or improving health facilities is spent on famine relief that is often delivered too late. Twenty-five years into the pandemic, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria is still grossly under-resourced, and of the millions of people who need anti-retroviral drugs, only about 10% have access to this life-saving Aids medication.

Africa needs one million more health workers to address HIV/Aids. Only three in 10 Africans have regular access to essential medicines; and the continent has only 1,3% of the world’s health workforce, while suffering 25% of the world’s disease burden.

When African leaders meet their counterparts soon, they will be faced with a wall of silence. Newly appointed United States ambassador John Bolton has already proposed numerous dramatic changes to the draft UN Millennium Summit Declaration, effectively reneging on commitments of increased aid and universal access to Aids drugs. Such obvious contempt for the lives of the poor is unacceptable. UN reform without a dramatic acceleration of financing for development and health is not genuine reform—it is business as usual.

Angela Ndinga-Muvumba is a senior researcher for HIV/Aids and security at the Centre for Conflict Resolution, University of Cape Town

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