22 May 2007
General Assembly
GA/10596

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Plenary

100th Meeting (AM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES HIV/AIDS DEBATE, ELECTS MEMBERS TO PEACEBUILDING


ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITTEE, INTERNATIONAL TRADE LAW COMMISSION


The General Assembly today concluded its general debate on follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-sixth special session on implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, and also held elections for posts in the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).


The Assembly adopted a draft decision on the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS (document A/61/L.58), by which it welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on progress towards implementing the Declarations and requested that the Secretary-General take into consideration the discussions of the Assembly’s sixty-first session in preparing his annual report during the sixty-second session on the subject. 


The representatives of Rwanda, Syria and Viet Nam made statements during the debate today, as did the Observer for the Holy See and the representative of the International Organization for Migration.


In other action, the Assembly elected by acclamation to the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission two new members: Georgia from the Eastern European States and Jamaica from the Latin American and Caribbean States, both for two-year terms beginning 23 June 2007 to fill seats held by Croatia and Jamaica that were due to expire on 22 June 2007.  With that election, the make up of the 31-member Committee was as follows: Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States.


In resolution 60/180 of 20 December 2005, the Assembly had decided that the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission would comprise seven members selected by the Security Council, including the Council’s five permanent members; seven members elected by the Economic and Social Council from regional groups; and seven members elected by the General Assembly, giving due consideration to representation to all regional groups.  In resolution 60/261 of 6 May 2006, the Assembly decided that the seven members elected by the General Assembly would be distributed among the five regional groups as follows: two seats for the African States, one seat for the Asian States, one seat for the Eastern European States, three seats for the Latin American and Caribbean States and no seat for the Western European and other States.


The Assembly then elected to UNCITRAL the following 30 countries to begin six-year terms on 25 June 2007:  Armenia, Bahrain, Benin, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom.


The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 24 May, to elect the President for its sixty-second session. 


Background


The General Assembly met today to elect two members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as 30 members of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. 


The Assembly was also expected to conclude its consideration of follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-sixth special session: implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.  (For further background on the HIV/AIDS review, see Press Release GA/10594 issued on 21 May.)


Statements


NICHOLAS SHALITA ( Rwanda) said sub-Saharan Africa was particularly hard-hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, yet it lacked the health care professionals and infrastructure to mount an effective response.  He also noted the feminization of the pandemic in Africa, saying that in Rwanda, the rate of infection among women and girls was one and a half times greater than among men and boys.  The plight of women living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda was doubly challenging as many of them had been raped and lost their partners, homes and livelihoods during the 1994 genocide.  Special needs of such vulnerable groups should be recognized and action taken to support them.  The gender element must be addressed with the seriousness it deserved, including through the promotion of the rights of women.


Noting progress made thus far with respect to universal access to treatment and care, he said that it was still necessary to remember, and be humbled by, the fact that last year, 2.9 million people had died of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.  The new global objective of moving towards universal access by 2010 was both commendable and achievable.  However, it could only be achieved by a dramatic scale-up of commitments, both by developed and developing countries.  In Rwanda, the most difficult challenges in that respect related to securing long-term and predictable support from partners; training and retaining of health sector professionals; and weak public health infrastructure.  Therefore, efforts should focus on long-term and predictable funding, intensifying training and education programmes for public health workers and motivating them, as well as investing in public health infrastructure.  Capacity-building was also important to secure national ownership.


Rwanda had made some progress in “knowing our epidemic” through mapping exercises, behavioural surveillance surveys and demographic and health surveys.  Prevention would continue to be at the centre of his country’s response, through public education programmes, condom distribution and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.  “Knowing our epidemic” also entailed recognizing the regional and subregional dimensions of the pandemic, and launching multi-country responses.  Rwanda was part of the Great Lakes Initiative against HIV and AIDS, which had been launched in March 2006.  Next month, his country would host the 2007 HIV/AIDS Implementers’ Meeting, sponsored by several international organizations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, focusing on “Scaling Up Through Partnerships”.  The challenges before the world were great, and he had appealed to partner countries to ensure long-term and predictable funding, as well as assistance in human resources development in the health sector.  They should also help to strengthen health care infrastructures in developing countries.


WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said that limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS was a national, regional and international goal.  The pandemic had not only killed people, it had also placed a heavy burden on the nations of the world.  It would be difficult to stop the spread of the disease globally unless steps were taken to educate people about the risks and change risky behaviour.  Effective remedies and developing a vaccine, as well as ensuring access to medicines required serious efforts and sufficient funding.  While a low-prevalence country, Syria had a national plan to address the situation.  The Government had made addressing HIV/AIDS one of the national priorities, and set up a national committee in that regard.  Prevention was at the centre of the national plan, which endeavoured to raise awareness among the population, particularly among young people.  As for voluntary testing, particularly for those engaged in risky behaviour, she underscored the fact that such services were provided free of charge, under the principles of confidentiality and non-stigmatization.


She said the country’s prevention strategy included programmes for primary health care, which, in turn, included reproductive and sexual health services, and maternal and child care. A national information and education strategy had been developed, on the basis of moral values and beliefs.  The State undertook all measures to ensure safe blood transfusions.  Counselling services were provided to those in need, particularly to groups most at risk.  The country’s legal provisions concerning AIDS clarified the rights of infected people, while also emphasizing confidentiality, as well as ensuring the right of the patient to get all the social and medical care required without any stigmatisation or discrimination.  She hoped that international partners would provide assistance to support national plans, particularly to provide medicines at affordable prices and support and encourage scientific institutions. 


NGUYEN TAT THANH (Viet Nam) said Viet Nam was making every effort to implement the National Strategy on the Prevention of and Fight against HIV/AIDS to the year 2010 and Vision 2020, which aimed to keep the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate to less than 0.3 per cent by 2010, maintain a zero increase rate thereafter and reduce the pandemic’s impact on socio-economic development.  The National Strategy focused on mainstreaming HIV/AIDS prevention in all government agencies and bodies; raising public awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention; controlling transmission from high-risk groups through clean needles, condoms and other intervention measures; ensuring adequate care and treatment for people living with the disease; improving surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems nationwide; and preventing transmission via medical services.


Since last year’s United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, Viet Nam’s National Assembly adopted the Law on the Prevention of and Fight against HIV/AIDS on 29 June 2006, he said.  That law spelled out the rights and responsibilities of individuals, government agencies, social organizations, communities and families in the joint fight against the epidemic.  It expressly prohibited discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, including refusing employment or promotions on the basis of their HIV/AIDS status.  It also guaranteed people voluntary testing, confidentiality of test results, counselling, access to antiretroviral medicines and other forms of prevention and treatment.  Viet Nam was also trying to expand its national budget for the fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as utilize resources more effectively and efficiently.  Viet Nam’s Prime Minister signed on 7 May a decision to establish the Support Fund for the Treatment of People Living with HIV/AIDS, which became effective today.


CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said that the challenges presented in the Secretary-General’s report included caring for the 39.5 million people living with HIV; reducing the number of people dying annually from AIDS (2.9 million in 2006); preventing new infections (some four million per year); and taking special care of young people, who accounted for 40 per cent of new infections last year.  The fact that only two million of the 7.1 million people needing antiretroviral drugs received them was regrettable.  The resources required globally were estimated at $18 million for 2007 and $22 million for 2008 for low- and middle-income countries.  Those large numbers actually represented only $3 to $4 per person on the planet.  In aggregate, the numbers seemed overwhelming, but taken in their proper context, person by person, they were really a fraction of what the world community could and should provide.


“All of us must clearly step up our efforts,” he said.  For its part, the Holy See reaffirmed its commitment to intensify its response to the disease, through its ongoing support for a worldwide network of some 1,600 hospitals, 6,000 clinics and 12,000 initiatives of a charitable and social nature in developing countries.


Commenting on some of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, he said that providing information and opportunities for a values-based education was essential, both in the development of scientific advancement and for personal prevention.  There could be no excuse that, 25 years into the epidemic, all people in all countries still did not have sound and reliable information so as to educate themselves and live safer lives.  Also, speakers in the Assembly often spoke of transparency and collaboration with respect to their commitments.  His delegation encouraged all States to be more forthcoming in providing accurate numbers with respect to monitoring and evaluation, however difficult that might be.  A factual understanding as to where the world community stood on that matter would only assist it in attempting to address all the problems associated with HIV/AIDS and to provide care for those affected.


ANKE STRAUSS, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that United Nations estimates placed the number of people living outside their place of birth at almost 200 million, half of them female.  The number of people on the move, including refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as seasonal workers and clandestine migrants was much higher.  While HIV/AIDS and the millions of people on the move were acknowledged as two of today’s greatest challenges, the nexus between the two was still underestimated.  Therefore, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and its recognition of the fact that while migrants were particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, they often received few HIV programming interventions dedicated to their specific needs.  Insufficient funding and programming were dedicated to gender inequality, stigma and discrimination, and violence against women and girls.


Today, with the support of several major initiatives such as the Global Fund, the issue of access and continuity of services for populations on the move through the communities of origin, transit, destination and return were being addressed.  Resources must be increased to, among other things, provide access to health services; ensure protection of migrants by reducing all forms of discrimination and social exclusion; collaborate with multiple sectors; and integrate HIV prevention, AIDS treatment and care in humanitarian settings.  Of particular importance were partnerships between Governments and organizations at community, national and regional levels in order to improve access to preventive measures, treatment and care for all mobile populations, regardless of immigration or residence status. 


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For information media • not an official record