Leaked documents disclosed last week in both the U.S and United Kingdom press show that President Bush's controversial new ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, is trying to block a reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to lessen global poverty. The commitment, based on a 2000 pledge of wealthier nations to increase the amount of their contributions to fight disease and hunger in developing nations, seemingly was confirmed by the Bush Administration as recently as the G8 meeting at Gleneagles, Scotland, in July. The apparent Bush-Bolton backtrack on the U.S. promise has inspired passionate international criticism, and censure from local activists as well. "It's not that surprising to see this administration say one thing and do another," says Nick Arena, the Indianapolis-based grass-roots manager for RESULTS, a global anti-poverty organization. "What's quite disturbing, is that over 17,000 people many just children are dying each day from three diseases, HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, that cost just a few dollars to cure or prevent. Heck, if they [the Bush Administration] would have spent the $9 billion that they cannot account for in Iraq on HIV/AIDS, TB and other global health problems, we would have saved millions of lives."
The U.S. anti-poverty commitments are contained in the Millennium Development Goals, agreed to by the U.S. and other global powers in 2000. That plan aims to eradicate global poverty by 2015, in large part through wealthier counties devoting 0.7 percent of gross national product to development aid. The U.S. current assistance level of 0.2 percent is among the lowest in the industrialized world.
The backdrop for Bolton's efforts is a Sept. 14 U.N.-sponsored summit of 175 national leaders, including President Bush, who were expected to attend and sign a new agreement to reinvigorate the anti-poverty campaign.
Arena points out that the administration is also urging Congress to support a foreign aid appropriations bill that will cut funding for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria programs. "The people of the U.S. want something done to stop this and our government continues to let us down," Arena says. "I guess they think we've forgotten the promises or are not watching these actions.
"Letting 17,000 people die each day when we have the means to save them is a crime against compassion, justice and humanity."