Millennium Development Goal 6 and the Trifecta of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis in Africa: A Human Rights Analysis

By Nnamuchi, Obiajulu | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Millennium Development Goal 6 and the Trifecta of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis in Africa: A Human Rights Analysis


Nnamuchi, Obiajulu, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. INTRODUCTION AND PRELIMINARY BACKGROUND

At the Millennium Summit, convened as a key part of the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations, (1) in September 2000, participating world leaders unanimously ratified the Millennium Declaration--a set of objectives grounding the Millennium Development Goals ("MDGs" or "Goals"). (2) The MDGs consist of the commitment by the global community to pursue a number of objectively and quantitatively verifiable Targets, with the deadline for reaching most of these Targets set at 2015.' Strikingly, of the eight Goals to which each country aspires to attain within the specified time frame, one--MDG 6--is devoted to combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. (4) Considering the devastation these diseases have inflicted, and continue to inflict, upon the lives and wellbeing of Africans, it is clear that this Goal holds special significance for people in the region. But whether the benchmarks of MDG 6 would actually be attained, come 2015, is mired in controversy as pessimism remains rife about Africa's capability to achieve this or any of the other Goals.

The African Union Conference of Health Ministers was quite categorical, "Africa is still not on track to meet the health Millennium Declaration Targets and the prevailing population trends could undermine progress made." (5) More recently, New York University professor of economics William Easterly documents other instances (6) including, inter alia, a statement by the U.N. Department of Public Information, "[a]t the midway point between their adoption in 2000 and the 2015 target date for achieving the [MDGs], sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the Goals." (7) But Professor Easterly vehemently disagrees with the conclusion, blaming the bleak picture on "poorly and arbitrarily" designed MDGs, the effect of which, in his view, has been widespread and misguided portrayal of Africa in a worse light than the true circumstances warrant. (8) Other scholars identify the "overly-ambitious" nature of the Goals themselves as the culprit. (9)

But regardless of design flaws or the overly-ambitious nature of the MDGs, evidence is beginning to percolate indicating that whilst challenges abound, there are bright spots in several countries in the region. Even in nations seriously lagging behind, new initiatives continue to be rolled out, aimed at bridging the gap between current realities and the MDGs. The political leadership is adamant about its commitment to achieving the Goals. Speaking at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Umaru Yar'Adua, the late president of Nigeria, echoed the regional attitude, "[f]or us in Africa, the achievement of the MDGs is our sacred duty." (10) This is quite an encouraging proclamation; nonetheless, whether this rhetoric is being or will be acted upon by authorities in the region, and if the strategies would be sufficient to pull the region out of its present doldrums, will begin to unfold as the various benchmarks specified in Goal 6, the focus of this discourse, are examined and will become even clearer as the 2015 deadline draws nigh. A critical aspect of this paper is its identification of what it calls "special population groups" (the most vulnerable groups in relation to the diseases) as worthy of being put "in front of the line," so to speak, in terms of receiving necessary interventions. Prioritizing the interest of vulnerable groups in the overall scheme of attending to population-wide challenges is a key requirement of human rights. It is a catechism forcefully advanced in this discourse.

This paper consists of six sections. Following the introduction, Part II examines global attempts to get a handle on the scourge of HIV/AIDS as well as factors standing in the path to success in Africa. It also identifies measures that hold prospect for reversing the status quo. Part III continues this theme, albeit with a different focus, by interrogating efforts to control malaria in the region. …

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