International News

U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS Criticizes Rich Countries for Failing to Fulfill Promises of Help to Africa

October 24, 2005

U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Sunday criticized rich nations for failing to deliver adequate aid to Africa, CBC News reports. "I've spent all my time watching people die unnecessarily," Lewis, who has held the post for four and a half years, said. He added that developed countries often make pledges to provide aid but do not follow through (CBC News, 10/23). Lewis is traveling throughout Canada, delivering a series of speeches about his work in Africa and 20 years of experience with the United Nations and other international agencies that will be broadcast next month as part of CBC Radio's Massey Lectures. Lewis also recently launched the book version of the lectures, titled "Race Against Time." In the book, Lewis criticizes musician Bob Geldof for using the "hype" surrounding the Live 8 concerts in July to allow the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations to promote a "wholly inadequate" aid package for Africa as a "major triumph of international consensus and generosity," the Ottawa Citizen reports. Lewis also admonishes the United Nations, saying he has seen "willful inertia" and "outright irresponsibility" at the agency (Cobb, Ottawa Citizen, 10/22). Lewis this week is scheduled to deliver two more lectures in the series (CBC News, 10/23).

Globe and Mail Profile
Toronto's Globe and Mail on Saturday profiled Lewis, who said he feels emotionally drained by his work and wonders whether he has the strength to remain in his position. Lewis, who previously served as the deputy executive director of UNICEF and the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, said he is feeling the burden of witnessing the AIDS pandemic in Africa. He writes in his book that he believes "the horrendous toll is yet to come. Countries will be fighting for survival 10 and 15 years down the road." He adds, "It's simply impossible to tear the productive generations out of the heart of a country without facing an incomparable crisis." According to the Globe and Mail, there is "growing speculation" that Lewis "has upset too many important people immensely and is on the edge of being sacked." But Lewis talks of resigning, possibly after next year's biennial International AIDS Conference, which is to be held in Toronto, according to the Globe and Mail. Lewis says he is "running out of steam" in his fight against AIDS, but he says, "I'll devote every fiber of my body to defeating this viral contagion, but I cannot abide the willful inattention of so much of the international community" (Valpy, Globe and Mail, 10/22).

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