ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN THAILAND, 9 – 13 JULY
Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in
, on Friday, 9 July, where he would open the Fifteenth International AIDS Conference the following day. Bangkok, Thailand
On Saturday, he met with Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and with Razali Ismail, his Special Envoy for
On Sunday morning, at the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting on HIV/AIDS, the Secretary-General stated that AIDS is far more than a health crisis. “It is a threat to social and economic development as a whole.” He thanked those attending the Conference for their commitment and said he looked forward to hearing the outcome of their discussions. (See SG/SM/9417.)
In the margin of that meeting, he met with the Foreign Minister of Australia, Alexander Downer. They reviewed the situation in
, including the continued detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and discussed ways to revive the democratization process there. The Secretary-General thanked the Minister for Myanmar ’s support for the United Nations Mission of Support in Australia East Timorand asked about the status of ’s negotiations with Timor-Leste over their maritime boundary. The Secretary-General briefed the Minister on the United Nations’ future role in Australia . Iraq
The Secretary-General then sat down with the Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, who described progress in the talks with
over the boundary and a revenue-sharing agreement on oil exploitation. They also discussed Timor-Leste’s relations with Australia . Indonesia
The Secretary-General then returned to his hotel, when he met with Thai Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai. They talked of the AIDS conference just beginning. He raised with the Minister the issue of
’s anti-drug policies, which were reportedly driving drug users underground and compounding the AIDS problem. They discussed the situation in Thailand in detail and the “Bangkok Process” to encourage democratization and reconciliation in the country. They also touched on Timor-Leste, the problem of human trafficking and Myanmar . Iraq
Afterwards, the Secretary-General and the Minister briefly spoke to the press, describing what they had discussed. Asked if the
World Courtopinion on the Israeli barrier had come up, the Secretary-General replied “no”, but then added, “of course the report has been received and I’ll pass it on to the General Assembly…”
“I think the decision of the Court is clear”, he went on. “Whilst we all accept that the Government of Israel has a responsibility, indeed a duty, to protect its citizens, any action it takes has to be in conformity with international law and has to respect the interests of the Palestinians. And
, as an occupying Power, is responsible for the welfare of the Palestinian people.” Israel
“I don’t want to prejudge what (the General Assembly) may decide”, he concluded. “So we’ll leave it to the General Assembly.”
After a luncheon hosted by the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General and his wife Nane toured the Royal Chitralada Projects at Dusit Palace, guided by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The projects were started by the Royal Family some 40 years ago to introduce dairy farming to
. The experiments multiplied to include milk powder, experimental rice, an organic fertilizer plant and the development of ethyl alcohol from crops such as sugar cane. The fruits of the experiments are distributed to Thai farmers country-wide. Thailand
The Princess then accompanied the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan for a tour of the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall containing modern reproductions of royal artefacts in silver, gold and gems, intended by Her Majesty the Queen to sustain traditional crafts.
In the evening, the Secretary-General went to the convention centre for the opening of the Fifteenth International AIDS Conference, where some 10,000 attendees had gathered.
“We are not on track to begin reducing the scale and impact of the epidemic by 2005, as we had promised”, he told the audience. He laid out three areas to focus on: scale up infrastructure to support both treatment and prevention; empower women and girls to protect themselves against the virus; and provide stronger leadership at every level -- including at the top.
“Leadership”, he said, “means freeing boys and men from some of the cultural stereotypes and expectations that they may be trapped in -- such as the belief that men who don’t show their wives ‘who’s boss at home’ are not real men; or that coming into manhood means having your sexual initiation with a sex worker when you are 13 years old.” This was greeted by applause. There was more applause when he said, “Leadership comes from partners who make sure they always use a condom, leadership comes from fathers, husbands, sons and uncles who support and affirm the rights of women.”
“Leadership”, he concluded, “means daring to do things differently, because you understand that AIDS is a different kind of disease. It stands alone in human experience and it requires us to stand united against it.” (See press release SG/SM/9418.)
On the morning of Monday, 12 July, the Secretary-General conferred with Richard Feachem, the Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Feachem reported that the Millennium Development Goals on HIV/AIDS could not be met without significant new pledges to the Global Fund. The Secretary-General said that some donors were concerned about the slow disbursement of what had already been donated. Feachem explained that $3 billion had already been committed to some 300 projects in 130 countries, even though only $430 million had so far been disbursed. Money was needed for new commitments. They discussed ways to raise awareness and broaden the base of financial support.
The Secretary-General then met with those of his regional special envoys on HIV/AIDS -- Dr. Nafis Sadik for
Asia, George Alleyne for the Caribbean, and Stephen Lewis for Africa. Each reported on progress in their respective regions, while also describing specific obstacles to dealing effectively with the disease.
He also met with Anand Panyarachun, Chairman of his High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, to review progress in the Panel’s work. He would meet with the entire panel in
at the end of the week. Vienna
After a luncheon for Heads of Delegation to the AIDS Conference hosted by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Secretary-General visited the United Nations Building in
, where he met with staff. Bangkok
“The past year or so has been a very difficult time for our United Nations”, he told them. But, he had told a journalist just that morning, “As far as the Iraq War was concerned, the Security Council worked the way it was supposed to work.” Still, he said, the United Nations was attacked by the pro-war faction for not supporting the war and by the anti-war faction for not preventing it. “So we get hit from both ends”, he said. Accusations of United Nations irrelevance were flying around and he had to warn some of the governments, “Be careful. Don’t knock the UN so much because you’re going to need it much sooner than you think.”
“Over the last couple of months,” he asserted, “the relevance of the UN has been demonstrated.” Without the United Nations’ contribution, through Lakhdar Brahimi, an interim government in
could not have been set up nor a legal framework for elections established. Iraq
“So, dear friends”, he concluded, “the UN is alive and well.” (See SG/SM/9419.)
The Secretary-General then visited a research hospital specializing in infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. He and Mrs. Annan visited an AIDS ward and talked with several patients there, accompanied by Thai Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan.
He went to a meeting room, where he was to talk to civil society leaders, who were delayed. Two AIDS patients, a man and a woman, strong enough to walk, came to the room. The Secretary-General and Nane spoke to them privately in one corner for several minutes.
The civil society representatives then showed up -- about a dozen AIDS activists from a variety of countries in
Europe, Africaand Asia. Among them was ’s Zackie Ahmat, who conducted a hunger strike to prod his government into recognizing the threat of HIV/AIDS. South Africa
They discussed the United Nations’ relations with citizens groups like theirs, the need for a report card to monitor progress on government pledges as well as progress toward goals and ways to get more donations, particularly from untapped sources, for the fight against the disease.
“The worst case scenario”, the Secretary-General told them, “would be if the Global Fund ran out of money. You can’t start helping people and then stop because you’re out of money, he said. There has to be long-term commitment.”
After an animated exchange that lasted more than an hour, the Secretary-General said that he hoped he could stay in touch with them and that this would not be their last meeting.
In a separate programme, Nane Annan visited a centre housing 550 girls and women who have been trafficked from within
and surrounding countries. Thailand
She spoke with them as they demonstrated vocational skills they had learned at the centre, such as cooking, fruit carving, painting, basket-weaving, reflexology and dancing.
Mrs. Annan encouraged the young women to focus on developing their skills and education so as to enable them to be strong and stand up for themselves. The Kredtrakarn Protection and Occupational Development Centre also provides shelter, food and medical care, as well as psychosocial rehabilitation, family tracing and repatriation.
The Centre is supported by the United Nations Inter-Agency Programme on Human Trafficking for the Greater Mekong Area.
In the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Annan had a private dinner with Hak-Su Kim, the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for
Asiaand the Pacific, and his wife.
The Secretary-General began his morning on Tuesday with two interviews. He told Phoenix China TV, “When [AIDS] first started, people thought it was a disease of homosexuals. Then they said it’s the drug users …. But the drug users or the prostitutes are part of society. They are your brothers and sisters as they are mine. And we need to be responsible for them.”
He went on, “Whether they are drug users, whether they are prostitutes, whether they are homosexuals, they are human beings and their problems should be a concern to you and me.”
In response to a question by BBC on the debate over abstinence versus condom use, he replied, “I think it’s a false debate. Frankly, you need both.”
“You are dealing with young people”, he continued. “They have their natural impulses. They have their peer pressures and they get into situations where they may have sex …; so you have to give them the means to protect themselves.”
Asked if abstinence is totally unrealistic, he answered, “No, I’m not saying it’s unrealistic, in the sense that it works for some .... Some will be able to abstain, and a large number will not be able to. Those who are not able to abstain, how do you look after them? One has to be practical and realistic.”
He then went to Government House, where he met initially one-on-one with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for about an hour and then with the full delegation for about 20 minutes. In the larger meeting, they discussed the response to the global AIDS crisis and the outcome of the AIDS Conference taking place in
’s support for Timor-Leste, the United Nations role in Bangkok, Thailand , the situation in Iraq and the Thai-United Nations relationship. Myanmar
The Prime Minister then presented the Secretary-General with a report on Thailand’s efforts to meet and exceed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Secretary-General thanked the Prime Minister, saying that “this report is eloquent testimony to
’s remarkable success in reaching most, if not all, the MDG targets, well ahead of schedule.” He said he hoped other nations would be inspired by Thailand ’s example. (See SG/SM/9421.) Thailand
The Secretary-General and his wife Nane then flew to Hua Hin, where they had an audience with Their Majesties, King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, at
. Klai Kangwol Palace
In the evening, they had an informal dinner with the Prime Minister and his wife at their Hua Hin residence.
The Secretary-General and his party departed
late that evening for Thailand . Vienna, Austria
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