Security Council Holds Debate on Impact of AIDS
NEW YORK, 10 January (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council met this morning in an open debate on the impact of AIDS on peace and security in Africa. The debate marked the first time that the Council has discussed a health issue as a threat to peace and security. The meeting, which lasted for more than seven hours, was addressed by over 40 speakers.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the impact of AIDS in Africa was no less destructive than that of warfare itself. By overwhelming the continent’s health services, by creating millions of orphans, and by decimating health workers and teachers, AIDS was causing socio-economic crises which, in turn, threatened political stability.
In already unstable societies, he continued, that cocktail of disasters was a sure recipe for more conflict, which, in turn, provided fertile ground for further infections. HIV/AIDS was not only an African problem, but a global one that must be recognized as such; within that international obligation, however, the fight against AIDS in Africa was an immediate priority and must be part and parcel of the international community’s work for peace and security on the continent.
Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States, speaking in his capacity as President of the Council, said today’s historic session not only recognized the real and present danger to world security posed by the AIDS pandemic n- it also began a month-long focus by the Council on the special challenges confronting the African continent. "By the power of example, this meeting demands of us that we see security through a new and wider prism, and forever after, think about it according to a new, more expansive definition", he said.
He said there were new forces that now or soon would challenge the international order, raising issues of peace and war. It was time to change the nature of the way "we live together on this planet", he said. From that vantage point, "we must forge and follow a new agenda for world security". That agenda included the challenges of: the environment; drugs and corruption; terror; and new pandemics.
James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, said that AIDS was not just a health or development issue, but one affecting the peace and security of people in the continent of Africa, as well as people throughout the world. While life expectancy in Africa had increased by 24 years under African leadership over the last four decades, the development gains seen in the continent were threatened by the AIDS epidemic. In too many countries, the gains of life expectancy were being wiped out. More teachers were dying each week than could be trained. Judges, government officials and military personnel were being ravaged.
Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), proposed the following actions: support for Africa’s frontline efforts to combat the disease; promote inter-country cooperation; and mobilize more resources. The United States, with 40,000 new cases annually, spent $10 billion each year on prevention, care, treatment and research, while in Africa, with 4 million new cases each year, approximately $165 million in official money was spent. "we must mobilize more", said Mr. Malloch Brown, who is also Chairman of the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations of the Joint Programme United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said in countries where strong political leadership, openness about the issues, and broad, cross-cutting responses came together, the tide was turning against AIDS. In Uganda, the rate of new infections was falling, and in Senegal, it had been rolled back significantly as a result of massive information and prevention campaigns. To sustain and expand the success stories of Uganda and Senegal, there was need to mobilize between $1 and $3 billion a year. He noted that it was worth pondering how the international community had successfully mobilized hundreds of billions of dollars over the last few years to minimize the impact of that "other" virus n- Y2K.
A number speakers also drew attention to the conspiracy of silence about AIDS and called for the disease to be openly confronted. The speaker for Zambia said African political leaders must recognize the disease for what it was, "a threat to our very survival as viable nations". In supporting the inclusion of AIDS education as an essential part of curricula in schools, he said such education not only removed the stigma on the AIDS condition, but also led to positive changes in behaviour by groups most at risk.
Also speaking in today's debate were Ministers and representatives of Namibia, Bangladesh, France, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Argentina, Canada, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Ukraine, Mali, Jamaica, Algeria, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Cape Verde (on behalf of the African Group at the United Nations), Norway, South Africa, Japan, Brazil, Republic of Korea, Libya, Djibouti, Mongolia, Indonesia, Cuba, Italy, New Zealand (on behalf of the South Pacific Forum), Cyprus, Nigeria, Australia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal.
David Satcher, Surgeon-General of the United States, also addressed the Council.
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NOTE: A summary of the statements made can be provided upon specific request.