- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Africa a Challenge for Obama in 2010

Oneworld.net, News analysis, Brittany Schell Posted: Jan 28, 2010

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (OneWorld.net) - Barack Obama is "missing a historic opportunity" to improve lives across the continent of Africa, says a new report from a pair of Africa policy think tanks, urging the U.S. president to create a new, "people-centered" strategy to tackle major ongoing challenges including HIV/AIDS, poverty, human rights violations, and climate change.

"In 2009, we formally bade farewell to President Bush, and shared President Obama's vision of hope and change for U.S. foreign policy," said Gerald LeMelle, executive director of Africa Action. "His bold commitments to human rights during his campaign commanded the attention of people all around the word."

But over the past year, the Obama administration has failed to increase funding for HIV/AIDS programs, bolstered the much maligned International Monetary Fund (IMF), and tripled the budget for the U.S. Military Command in Africa (AFRICOM) -- all actions that will further entrench poverty on the continent rather than improving the lives of African people, states the report.

The Africa Policy Outlook is an annual report released by Africa Action and Foreign Policy In Focus. Each year, the publication highlights key issues and developments for U.S. policy towards Africa. This year, it calls on the Obama administration to prove its commitment to long-term development in Africa with policies that emphasize "respect for human rights, the environment, peace, and justice."

HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Africa

Over two-thirds of all people living with HIV are in Africa, and in 2008 the region accounted for 72 percent of the world's AIDS-related deaths. International funding has decreased rates of the disease in many African nations, but this progress is being threatened as the global economic crisis forces countries to tighten their budgets.

Lack of funding for global HIV/AIDS programs is endangering the lives of thousands of patients in impoverished countries like South Africa. Trevor Samson / World Bank (flickr)
The report warns that the United States may scale back foreign assistance programs in light of the nation's financial crisis and the escalating costs of the war in Afghanistan. Numbers for the 2011 budget are set to be released on Monday, and health groups worry that the Obama administration will backtrack on its commitment to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

During the election, Obama pledged to spend over $1 billion a year on global efforts to fight AIDS. But Obama has not fulfilled these campaign promises, insisted activists last July. The 2010 budget proposal "essentially flat-lines support for global health," said Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance.

The 2011 budget may also be found lacking. Earlier this week Obama announced a plan to cut the budget deficit that includes a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs. Officials say the freeze does not apply to foreign aid, but with these tightened figures, there may be no room for an increase in AIDS funding as the president had promised.

AFRICOM: Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy

While the U.S. government chose not to increase funding for HIV/AIDS last year, it tripled the budget of AFRICOM, the U.S. Military Command in Africa established in 2007 under former president George W. Bush. Africa policy experts point to this shift as a clear indication of the militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa.

AFRICOM is supposedly designed to give humanitarian support to African people. But in reality, says the report, "Africa has never been the intended beneficiary of AFRICOM," noting that U.S. military efforts on the continent seem to be linked most closely to oil and other economic interests.

For example, multinational oil companies have long been profiting from oil reserves in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria at the expense of local communities. None of the wealth and practically all of the costs have been transferred to residents of the Niger Delta, an extremely underdeveloped and poor area. Frustrated community members eventually took up arms, staging attacks on oil facilities to demand a share of the region's oil wealth.

"Since Nigeria is the fifth-largest crude oil exporter to the United States, Washington is very concerned and is looking to support Nigerian military efforts to crush the dissidents," notes the report.

Nigerian military forces reportedly terrorized civilians in the Niger Delta for over a week last May. The operation was supposed to target militants but resulted in the burning of entire villages and many innocent deaths, charged rights groups calling for an intervention.

The situation in the Niger Delta and similar instances in other African countries help to illuminate the U.S. command's priorities, says the Africa Policy Outlook report. "When it comes to the extractive industry in Africa, which thrives in corrupt and dictatorial environments, the United States and AFRICOM have helped to maintain the status quo," concluded the report, citing questionable transfers and uses of military power in Gabon, Mali, and Somalia as well as Nigeria.

Poverty Poses the Biggest Challenge

Rather than focusing on military might, the Obama administration should fight poverty, which is the leading threat to U.S. national security in the region, say Africa Action and Foreign Policy in Focus.

In Africa, 87 percent of the population still lives on just $2 a day.

"Where there is endemic poverty, corruption, lack of transparency, and the absence of rule of law and political checks and balances, the conditions are ripe for states to fail," explains the report. And climate change and a worsening global food crisis are only expected to magnify the continent's poverty. [For more information on causes, effects, and responses to global poverty, visit OneWorld UK's Poverty Guide.]

Those who will suffer the most from destructive climate change will be the world's poor, who are also the least able to adjust to its effects. Changing weather patterns decimated crops in several of the world's poorest countries last year, leaving millions in need of food aid and humanitarian workers warning about the dangerous effects of climate change.

But Africa's $200 billion debt continues to be the biggest obstacle to the continent's development, says the report. In order to make debt payments, African nations have to divert much-needed funds away from social programs such as HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and health initiatives.

Earlier this month, however, leaders in the U.S. Congress proposed a bill to expand debt relief for up to 22 additional impoverished countries and reform IMF and World Bank policies that punish indebted nations. The introduction of the Jubilee Act was hailed by development groups as progress in the fight against global poverty and unfair lending practices to poor nations.

The U.S. government will also likely unveil a revised foreign aid act this year. Any new aid initiatives should focus on long-term poverty reduction targets improving the lives of poor people in concrete ways, insists the report, suggesting that U.S. policies have succeeded in providing disaster relief but largely failed in making lasting improvements. More of the money spent on foreign assistance programs must actually get to communities in Africa, the groups noted.

"The U.S. should leverage its enormous economic and political power to lead the international community in a global flight to eliminate poverty, disease, and conflict," added Africa Action's Michael Stulman. [Click here to read the full report online.]

This article was compiled by Brittany Schell.

Related Articles:

Crack Swiss Banks to Free Africa's Wealth

Clinton Should Tell African Big Men to Emulate Asian Dictators

Obama in Africa

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

International Affairs