Broadcast: December 29, 2003
This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.
As two-thousand-three ends, several major issues and events have influenced the year in development.
In October, the first treaty to fight organized criminal groups around the world became part of international law. About one-hundred-fifty nations signed the agreement. It includes a measure making work in organized criminal groups illegal.
Also this year, South Korean doctor Jong Wook Lee was named the new director-general of the World Health Organization. One of his main goals is to fight health problems in Africa, especially AIDS and the H-I-V virus that causes it. The United Nations estimates about forty-million people have the virus.
World AIDS Day on December first supported international efforts to fight the disease. The W-H-O announced a new plan to provide three-million AIDS patients in developing countries with medicine by the end of two-thousand-five. This program also calls for training more than one-hundred-thousand community health workers. They will work at the local level, providing anti-retroviral drugs and supervising patients. However, the three-million AIDS patients is still only half of the number of people considered in immediate need of the drugs.
The W-H-O estimates five-and-one-half-thousand-million dollars will be needed to carry out its program. The cost would have been higher if not for a recent agreement negotiated by the Clinton Foundation to reduce drug prices for poor nations. Former President Bill Clinton negotiated the agreement with three drug companies in India and one in South Africa. The companies produce low-cost versions of drugs protected by legal permits, or patents. They will sell these medicines to Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and twelve Caribbean countries.
The Clinton Foundation agreement was made possible by a World Trade Organization ruling in September. The W-T-O gave its approval for poor countries threatened by killer diseases to import patented drugs. Under the agreement, international patent laws will be eased to permit drug companies in countries like India and Brazil to sell copies of medicines to poor nations. The agreement also calls for special measures to prevent copied drugs from being illegally transported back to wealthy nations.
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.