Commonwealth Secretariat



Dr. Rosemarie Paul,
Head of Delegation

At The

Special Session on HIV/AIDS

United Nations General Assembly

New York
27 June, 2001    


Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Over the past days, every country, through its distinguished delegate, has publicly acknowledged that HIV/AIDS is a global emergency requiring urgent and concerted action. HIV/AIDS is robbing us of our precious human resources, eroding our hard-won gains in health and development and posing a serious threat to the lives of individuals, families and whole communities.

The response to this crisis has been a unanimous commitment, at national level, to lead the vital, expanded and sustained actions which harness the valuable potential of all sectors of society and which address the critical challenges identified by the Secretary General, His Excellency Kofi Annan, in his report to the Fifty-fifth Session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President:  The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of fifty-four sovereign states which share history, a common language, goals and principles, among which are those relating to the dignity and rights of  individuals.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is the inter-governmental body serving this grouping of equal partners who, over time, have developed and use, to mutual advantage, mechanisms to address common challenges.  These challenges arise in many fields - economic, legal, health and education, to mention a few. The responses take cognizance of youth and include a gender perspective.

HIV/AIDS is undoubtedly a common challenge, perhaps the greatest so far faced by the member states which stretch across the globe from east to west and from north to south, with the vast majority being developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Commonwealth countries represent approximately thirty percent (30%) of the world's population, but carry a disproportionate sixty percent (60%) of the world's HIV/AIDS burden.

Mr. President:  In 1999, the Commonwealth Heads of Government, at their meeting in Durban, declared HIV/AIDS to be a global emergency and called upon all sectors to mount a coherent and concerted response. They personally pledged to lead the fight, a pledge they have reiterated at various regional fora and again, here at this Special Session.

Since the Durban meeting of Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Secretariat has been steadily working, in partnership with the Commonwealth Foundation, the Commonwealth Business Council and the Commonwealth NGOs, using its advocacy, brokerage and catalytic roles, to assist member countries in obtaining maximum benefit from readily available resources and also to leverage additional resources to combat HIV/AIDS.

The global call to action has been sounded and strategic action areas defined and agreed. The Commonwealth Secretariat will continue to work with partners, with and for the member countries.  Within the parameters of the agreed global and national plans, it will identify its particular and specific niche.  It will not duplicate the efforts of or compete with other organizations, but will work collaboratively with all, using the special advantages that mark the Commonwealth fraternity and commonalities to achieve synergies for the common good.

Mr. President, I thank you