UN Dispatch recently sat down with Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health on the Committee for Foreign Affairs, to discuss malaria, the priorities of the Subcommittee, and UN peacekeeping. The transcript follows.
UN Dispatch: As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, why have you chosen to focus on malaria? Congressman Payne: Well, as you may know malaria kills more people than any other disease. The thing about malaria is that many times people get it; they get cured from it; but then they get it again. And tremendous numbers of children die–millions die–over the course of years. It’s something that is certainly preventable. That’s why we feel that preventable diseases should be the ones that we attack first. So, there is a tremendous amount of attention out that has been drawn. We are talking about nets that are treated so that the insects are killed. We are talking about having medication available. We also need to talk about sanitation and water, where many times these mosquitoes fester, and so we can start to eliminate where they are multiplying. We have a real coordinated approach to malaria. I think finally the world has decided that malaria is a disease that we need to focus on and we need to concentrate on. It is something that’s preventable, and I am very pleased at the new attention that has been given to the war on malaria.
UN Dispatch: What other Global Health challenges do you hope to address through the Subcommittee in the near future, and what role do you think the UN might play in those initiatives?
Congressman Payne: Well, as you know, HIV/AIDS is certainly one of the big pandemics that’s still killing so many people. We’ve had hearings on HIV/AIDS. We were pleased that the U.S government has actually doubled it’s commitment over the next five years. It was $15 billion over the first five years and there would be reauthorization in 2009 for the next five years. And so we are looking forward to the $30 billion that the President pledged for HIV/AIDS, and, of course as we know, it’s now the fund for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. So, we know that all of these diseases are sort of interrelated, and so that’s one of the areas that we are certainly looking to work on. 2015 is the year that the millennium challenges will take in. We are looking to halve abject poverty by that date. We are looking to increase potable water by that date and improve on sanitation as I mentioned as we discussed malaria before. And recently the resistant strain of TB that we heard about right here in the United States is another area in which we are going to recommend higher amounts of money in order to combat. want to get higher amount of funding in order to fight against. The U.N is actually just an organization that brings them all together.
UN Dispatch: As I understand that you attended the Subcommittee on International Organizations hearing yesterday on U.N peacekeeping. What is your stand on the arrears issue?
Congressman Payne: I really believe that the United States has a responsibility to pay up the $600 million that we are in arrears plus the additional $500 million. It appears that we are about $1.2 billion back. U.N peacekeeping operations save the U.S a tremendous amount of resources, financial and in terms of manpower. Considering Haiti alone, if we had U.S. troops in Haiti rather than UN troops, the cost would be 5 or 6, 7 times as much as it is with the UN being in Haiti, as an example. And I believe that we should pay our arrears. As you know the U.S. reduced its percentages [for the UN regular budget] over the years, and we are moving to try to even reduce it more. That’s not fair. Actually Japan pays 19% and U.S pays 21%. It is supposed to go by GDP. Our GDP is not just a couple of percentage points more than Japan, so Japan is paying more than its GDP dictates. So I think we have to be responsible in what our government has done, and it has been irresponsible. I hope that with changes in the political leadership of the House and the Senate, we can really start to reengage with the U.N to actually work as a partner more so than what we’ve done in the past six to eight years. We need the UN, and the UN needs the U.S. So we are partners together and that’s our goal going forward to try to pay up our arrears and to beg better partners to the UN than we have before.