Philippe Douste-Blazy, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Innovative Financing for Development, and Chairman of the Executive Board of UNITAID, spoke at UNU headquarters in Tokyo on Thursday, 24 February 2011. His lecture, entitled “Globalization at a Crossroad: Solidarity or War” was intended to address how innovative financing mechanisms can support global solidarity and facilitate development efforts in the world’s poorest nations.
Dr. Douste-Blazy started his presentation by expressing appreciation to the public and especially to the young people in the audience. He explained that the world is at a critical crossroad. World economies are suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis and official development assistance (ODA) is under tight pressure. Yet, the need for assistance to people living in the world’s poorest regions has never been greater. Dr. Douste-Blazy highlighted that in 2009 alone, while the developed world battled with financial deficits, debts and rising unemployment incurred by the crisis, 200,000 to 400,000 children died as a consequence of the crisis.
Dr. Douste-Blazy explained how an increasing need for solidarity in an ever more interdependent world led to the creation of UNITAID. The organization is an innovative mechanism to raise additional funds for global health and complement efforts to increase treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries. To support it, a new tax was incepted in France as of 30 July 2006: a one Euro tax which is levied on the plane tickets of all passengers departing from France with each Euro funnelled into UNITAID. Dr. Douste-Blazy then provided examples on how UNITAID does make use of the funds it receives, highlighting the development of appropriate antiretroviral drugs for children and a joint programme with UNICEF to minimize mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In the past four years, 14 other countries, including four from Africa, have shown solidarity by adding a one dollar tax to their plane tickets. Together, these countries have assisted UNITAID in raising more than two billion dollars.
Dr. Douste-Blazy concluded his lecture by encouraging Japan to join UNITAID in this act of world solidarity. Audience members were invited to show their solidarity by writing to their local newspapers and encouraging the adoption of this innovative financing mechanism for development.
A video of Dr. Douste-Blazy’s lecture, including the question and answer session that followed, can be viewed on UNU’s video portal.