|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
SECRETARY-GENERAL, AT INAUGURATION OF NEW UNAIDS/WHO HEADQUARTERS, SAYS
BUILDING WILL STRENGTHEN GLOBAL RESPONSE AGAINST KILLER DISEASES
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the inauguration of the new UNAIDS/ WHO Building in Geneva today, 20 November:
Thank you very much, my dear friends. It is very moving for me to be here this morning. When I first joined WHO as a young international civil servant in 1962 the whole of WHO was in the Palais sharing the Palais with other organizations, and I believe it occupied from Door 4 to Door 2 as you come in, and everybody fitted. We were all in there with the Director-General, Dr. M.G. Candau. Then next time I came, you had the other building, which was also very nice. And today you have a new “green” building, which is really exceptional. And as someone who has just come from Nairobi, it is really wonderful to be here with you inaugurating a green building which I hope will set an example for others.
And Mr. Muller, let me tell you that you shouldn’t apologize when you confused the UN and the US. Years ago I was invited by a very prominent professor who had worked with the UN and had become a professor emeritus at Columbia University. So he asked me to give him a topic, I gave him my topic. And when I entered the room he introduced me and said, “My friend Kofi has chosen a very intriguing subject to talk about tonight. His topic is ‘UN is the US’.” And in fact what I had told him I would speak about was that the UN is “us” -- you and me.
Let me start by paying tribute to the memory of Dr. Lee Jong-wook, who, as Director-General of the World Health Organization, was a champion in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and who would have been proud to be here today. Let me also extend my warmest congratulations and best wishes to his successor, Dr. Margaret Chan, and wish her courage and success as she prepares to take over the helm of WHO, this vital institution.
It is deeply moving for me to be opening this building. Over the past 10 years that I have served as Secretary-General, WHO, UNAIDS and I have worked very closely together, and it is wonderful to see you now literally in the same house. Let me thankthe Swiss Government for the generous loan which has allowed the two entities to come together under one roof.
This house will not only bring UNAIDS and WHO closer together. It will also be a meeting place for ideas, a centre for dialogue, a forum bringing together people and organizations, in the UN and beyond, to strengthen the global response against AIDS, TB and malaria. In this way, the building will be a nerve centre in our mission to reach the Millennium Development Goals and build better lives for people in the twenty-first century.
It is fitting that the move happens in this twenty-fifth anniversary year of the first reported case of AIDS.
In a short quarter of a century, AIDS has drastically changed our world. At least 25 million people have died of it, and almost 40 million live with HIV today.
AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria make up the deadliest triad the world has known.
TB killed 1.7 million people last year. An astounding one third of the world’s population carries the TB bacillus. In Africa especially, the TB epidemic is getting worse. It is the disease most people with AIDS actually die of -- and now the appearance of new drug-resistant strains threatens us with a new pandemic.
As for malaria, it kills at least 1 million people a year -- most of them children in the world’s poorest countries.
Between them, these three diseases deepen and perpetuate poverty in the countries that can least afford it. In some countries, they have pushed human development into reverse.
But at the same time, there is more than ever reason for hope.
We can see how much things have changed, how the world is joining forces, just by looking at the gathering here this morning -- Governments and donors, civil society organizations, staff of UNAIDS and WHO, members of the UN Positive staff group. We are all here joining forces to fight this epidemic.
Over the past 10 years, we have seen advances in treatment like never before, political commitment like never before, and new resources like never before.
The creation of UNAIDS a decade ago, bringing together the efforts and resources of the UN family, was a milestone in transforming the way the world responds to pandemics.
WHO has been in the vanguard in strengthening the health sector response. It has led the dramatic scale-up of TB control, and new responses to the huge threats of HIV-associated and drug-resistant TB. It hosts the Stop TB Partnership, which has become a model of consensus-building, innovation and collaboration. And it has played a key role in developing and implementing strategies to control malaria globally.
Five years ago, when I made HIV/AIDS a personal priority, I called for the creation of a “war chest” of an additional 7 to 10 billion dollars a year. Today, I am deeply proud, and I am happy to see Richard Feechem here, to be Patron of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which has channelled more than $2.8 billion to programmes across the globe.
We have recently seen significant additional funding from bilateral donors, national treasuries, civil society and other sources. Available annual funding for the response to AIDS in low- and middle-income countries now stands at more than 8 billion dollars a year. Of course, much more is needed. By 2010 total needs for a comprehensive HIV/AIDS response will exceed 20 billion dollars a year.
But we have at least made a start on getting the resources and strategies in place to combat what amounts to the greatest challenge of our generation.
Those who will work in this building have a deeply demanding mission ahead of them, but also a highly exciting one. May your new headquarters inspire you.
I would also want to pay tribute to the leadership of the tireless Peter Piot who has led UNAIDS almost since its inception. I congratulate Anders Nordström, who had to step in very, very quickly following the untimely death of Jong-wook and took charge with such determination, camaraderie with all of you. And, of course, I have also had the pleasure of working with both of them.
Peter, I can assure you even as I leave this office that I will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. We must fight and fight to bring the epidemic under control.
I am grateful to every one of you for your support during my time as Secretary-General, and wish you success in the years ahead.
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For information media • not an official record