A New Vision for Africa
Africa is struggling under a triple threat crisis that keeps its people poor and its nations weak – the burden of unpayable DEBT that drains financial resources necessary for health care and education; the epidemic of AIDS that is taking the lives of an entire generation; and the unfair TRADE policies that keep Africans from being able to sell their products at world prices and earn their own way out of poverty. Seventy percent of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $2 a day. 200 million men, women, and children go hungry every day. This year at least a million Africans, most of them young children, will die of malaria and two million will die of AIDS. Prior to 2001, this global crisis had little political organization, focus, or leadership. Within the United States, AIDS was perceived as a marginalized issue.
The Sheridan Group implemented the following steps to address this challenge:
- Consulted on the establishment of the Debt AIDS Trade and Africa Foundation (now the ONE Campaign) to conduct advocacy and fully leverage the celebrity status of Bono, the lead rock star of the Irish group U2, to raise the visibility of African debt, AIDS, and trade issues.
- Provided strategic legislative counsel, outreach, and coordination to build constituent support for Debt AIDS Trade and Africa’s (DATA) mission, including development of the ONE Campaign to end poverty.
- Prepared and executed a strategy that targeted the passage of major authorizing legislation to double funding for US global health programs while improving trade conditions and relieving debt for the most deserving countries.
- Advocated for funding ONE’s priorities through regular and supplemental appropriations bills, including increased contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and expanded US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) global health activities.
In 2002, President Bush announced the Millennium Challenge Account, a 3-year $3 billion dollar program, to encourage African countries to embrace market reform and clean up their governance through an incentive-based system. In 2003, Congress passed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). During the global Gleneagles summit in 2005, the United States committed to increase development assistance from $4.4 billion in 2004 to $8.8 billion in 2010. On track to meet its commitment, Congress delivered a 26% increase in the Millennium Challenge Account in 2008. Since 2002, annual appropriations by the United States for AIDS relief have gone up by $1 billion each year. Funding has been provided to treat 850,000 people with AIDS, care for 1.2 million orphans, and counsel and test almost 14 million people.
The Sheridan Group partnered with ONE to help ensure the Cardin-Lugar Extractive Industries Transparency Amendment was included in the Financial Reform Act in 2010. In August 2012, the SEC issued a final ruling on the Cardin-Lugar Amendment, mandating that all companies registered with the SEC disclose what they pay to the U.S. and to foreign governments for extracting oil and gas, and mining. This ruling increases transparency in resource-rich countries abroad, and aims to decrease the corruption and conflict often associated with energy and mineral wealth. In its ruling, the SEC specifically noted the 143,000 petitions received from The ONE Campaign.
While the ONE Campaign has been at the forefront of the global HIV/AIDS advocacy effort since Bono founded DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) in 2002, thanks to existing and emerging scientific innovations, ending AIDS in our lifetime is now achievable. On World AIDS Day President Obama committed to providing more than 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women with antiretroviral drugs to prevent them from passing the virus to their children.
The President also committed to provide more than 6 million people with antiretroviral treatment by 2013--two million more than their previous goal. Regardless of the electoral shifts and the increasing influence of money in politics, we continue to see well-positioned organizations like ONE achieve a remarkable return on their advocacy investment – in both human and financial terms.