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When 11-year-old Nkosi Johnson stood in front of 20,000 delegates at the International AIDS Conference and asked the government to start providing anti-retroviral drugs to mothers and children, South Africa's president at the time, Thabo Mbeki, was so embarrassed he walked out. Not only was Mbeki criticised when he publicly questioned the widely accepted link between the HIV virus and AIDS in 2000, but his government was reluctant to supply the drugs at state hospitals, saying they were too expensive and toxic.
While Mbeki was shamed, another man in the audience was inspired.
Rodrigo Garay, founder of AAI, is the son of a political refugee, and he spent his teenage years trying to escape the reach of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. The family moved first to Romania and then later to Sweden.
"I had to be a grown up and I was a child," said Garay, explaining how he had to translate for his parents in their newly-adopted homeland. "When I met Nkozi Johnson, I saw this happening again."
He felt that Johnson, like himself, was a victim of unaccountable leaders.
"I said to myself: 'Why is a child at this opening ceremony talking about leadership when none of the grownups are?' Five years later, in 2005, Garay founded AAI which has offices in Stockholm and Cape Town.
Having worked as an insurance broker, Garay felt that leaders, like Mbeki, could be pushed to act if they were being watched and ranked by an independent outsider. "In the financial sector, rating institutions have a huge influence," he said. "Ratings, if they are well done and well utilised, will force leaders to focus and take action. There is a consequence because you are measuring what they are doing."
By publishing scorecards, and doing needs-based research and advocacy, AAI aims to provide tools that allows activists and other stakeholders to hold leaders accountable for the public commitments they have made on health.
*Copied from an article by Katie Nguyen on Rodrigo Garay and AAI.