Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Response to My letter On AIDS

A month or so ago, as part of the global campaign on AIDS, I sent letters to Brian Murphy, MP, and Tony Clement, Minister of Health. My letter was a customized version of the template sent out by the Make Poverty History, underlining my personal commitment to this issue. Brian Murphy responded promptly with printed letter; this was received today from the Ministry.

December 15, 2006

Mr. Stephen Downes
[stephen@downes.ca]

Dear Mr. Downes:

The Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, received a copy of your message to the Minister of Health, regarding HIV/AIDS. She has asked that I respond to you on her behalf.

Canada is playing a leadership role in ensuring a comprehensive and integrated response to HIV/AIDS, particularly in developing countries. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) works with partners at all levels, including Canadian civil society, the international community, and developing country partners. Over the past five years, CIDA has provided approximately $600 million in funding to support the implementation of initiatives, such as prevention programs and engaging youth, to effectively respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the developing world. In 2006, the new Government of Canada announced an additional $250 million over two years for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, of which approximately 60 per cent will go towards HIV/AIDS.

In addition, on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2006, this Government outlined its long-term, comprehensive approach to fighting HIV/AIDS globally and announced $120 million for the first in a series of new and concrete initiatives to combat the disease. These investments form part of the Government's commitment to improving peoples' health in the world's poorest countries and build on Canada's new aid effectiveness agenda.

Canada recognizes that many developing countries will need assistance in implementing the World Trade Organization’s decision of August 30, 2003, which allows developed countries to export generic versions of patented drugs to developing countries unable to manufacture their own. We are working with our partners to assist developing countries to take advantage of Canada’s Bill C-9, including putting in place mechanisms to procure, disburse, manage and prevent diversion of pharmaceutical products. The Government of Canada continues to work with the pharmaceutical industry, civil society and developing country partners to ensure that the medicines that are needed to address public health problems such as HIV/AIDS are available and affordable to those who need them. Minister Clement has announced that he is launching a review of this legislation in response to criticism that the legislation is too complicated.

Canada remains a strong supporter of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) debt relief initiative. Through the Canadian Debt Initiative, HIPCs completing the process receive 100 per cent forgiveness of their debts owed to Canada. For example, Canada recently announced the cancellation of all debt owed to Canada by Cameroon as this country reached completion point in the HIPC process. Canada has also contributed to multilateral trust funds that help international financial institutions to provide their share of HIPC debt relief without negatively impacting their financial status.

Canada and other G7 members recognized that more needed to be done to reduce HIPCs’ debts to multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Thus, donors agreed to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) in the fall of 2005. The MDRI provides for 100 per cent cancellation of HIPCs’ debts owed to the IMF, the International Development Association (the concessional lending facility of the World Bank) and the African Development Bank, once they complete the HIPC debt relief process. Canada is providing its share of the costs associated with this new initiative. In turn, Canada hopes that these countries will make good use of the fiscal space provided by these two debt relief initiatives to invest in their growth and poverty reduction.

Regarding Canada's level of development assistance, consistent with Canadians’ compassion for the less fortunate, the government will advance Canadian values and interests on the international stage by providing much-needed assistance to the world’s poor, as part of our commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Budget 2006 reaffirms the government’s commitment to double international assistance from 2001–02 levels by 2010–11. In line with this commitment, Canada’s international
assistance will grow to about $3.8 billion in 2006–07 and then to approximately $4.1 billion in 2007–08. We are also committed to exploring how to move Canada towards the average ODA/GNI ratio, as set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The government remains committed to continuing to increase, within a prudent fiscal framework, its international assistance over the short and long term. More broadly, this government is committed to supporting Canada's core values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights around the world. Canada is providing families and communities with the means to lift themselves out of poverty and build a better life.

For further information on recent and ongoing initiatives, I invite you to visit the CIDA Web site at www.acdi-cida.gc.ca.

Thank you for your interest in this important issue.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Wallace
Vice-President
Policy Branch

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