( LatWp) - The world's leading industrialized nations Friday pledged $60 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, mainly in Africa, a gesture that drew criticism from human rights groups who termed it an insufficient commitment and part of a pattern of unfulfilled promises.
The agreement on African aid, half of which would be provided by the United States, came as the Group of 8's three-day summit concluded at this Baltic Sea resort. The money is part of a series of measures to reduce disease and spur economic growth on a continent wracked by poverty and corruption, where more than 2 million people die each year of AIDS.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G8 would rise to its responsibilities to the developing world. Speaking on a day when the representatives of six African nations were on hand, Merkel added: ``On the other hand, we want to stress that we also have expectations about what should happen in Africa.''
The chancellor said that the $60 billion package ``is not yet enough . . . Africa is not only a continent with many diseases, it is also a continent with many chances for the future.''
Merkel characterized the pledge to Africa as the latest milestone in a summit that also calmed tensions between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin over Washington's proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe and led to a compromise between G8 members on reversing global warming. It was the decision on Africa that drew the most pointed criticism among activists and tens of thousands of anti-globalization protesters.
``By falling scandalously short of what the United Nations says is needed to fight AIDS and HIV, and by setting the treatment targets well below actual need, (G8 members) have capped ambition at a level which will be fatal for many,'' said Steve Cockburn, coordinator for the Stop AIDS Campaign.
Human rights groups have charged the G8 with breaking earlier promises. At the 2005 summit meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, leaders pledged $25 billion a year in development aid to African countries by 2010. Activists said the pace of funding has fallen well behind that goal.
They also said the $60 billion pledge to fight AIDS and other diseases is not enough to fund drugs and medicine on a continent where 65 percent of all HIV-infected people live.
``The announcement of $60 billion to tackle disease is not the increase promised in Gleneagles,'' said Kumi Naidoo, a member of Global Call to Action Against Poverty. ``There is no time frame for delivery and a deliberate absence of detail. We are appalled by the lack of urgency they are showing.''
The Group of 8 said other assistance to Africa would include granting $60 billion in debt relief, working with 30 African countries to cut malaria deaths by half, improving education funding and pressuring countries to fight corruption. The leaders said the continent's 6 percent annual growth was helping reduce poverty in several nations.