PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRIME MINISTER OF IRELAND
Continuing a tradition of commitment to the United Nations and its values, Ireland would contribute an additional $30 million a year to fighting AIDS, the country’s Prime Minister said this morning at a Headquarters press conference after making the announcement to the General Assembly's special session on AIDS. Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said the new amount was in addition to Ireland's already increased contribution to the United Nations in the millennium. He also announced to the gathered journalists that his country was honoured by its election to the Security Council for a two-year term.
Mr. Ahern said his country was making the additional contribution because it had a special interest in stemming the global epidemic that had infected 5 million people last year and killed 3 million the same year. Ireland would continue working with developing countries on issues related to the principal mode of transmission, which included unprotected sex, mother-to-child transmission, and, increasingly in the developing world, unprotected heterosexual sex. Furthermore, since the majority of those who had contracted the HIV virus had not come down with AIDS, new infections were developing at the rate of 16,000 a day.
Ireland would continue its partnerships with those in the developing world, Mr. Ahern said, both with regard to fighting the AIDS epidemic and in its role on the Security Council. A number of the Council’s issues were of particular interest to Ireland. For example, Ireland wanted an extension of the mandate in the Western Sahara. It also wanted to continue its involvement in East Timor. And since the Secretary-General had always been supportive of peace efforts in North Ireland, the country would endorse the re-election of Kofi Annan for a second term as Secretary-General, which the Council was expected to propose this week.
Asked if the additional $30 million would be applied through direct aid for fighting AIDS or would be pledged to the Global Fund, Mr. Ahern said the apportionment had not yet been decided and would be taken up with the Secretary-General. He also clarified that the $30 million was in addition to Ireland’s raised overseas development fund contribution, which had gone from 0.45 to 0.7 per cent in the new millennium. Ireland also hoped to put an additional $100 million toward its overseas development fund commitment next year.
Mr. Ahern was asked to comment on the fact that he was the only European head of State at the special session on AIDS. Was that a reflection of the European attitude toward the problem? No, Mr. Ahern replied. While it would be nice to have greater European representation, he would report to the other European nations through the European Council. In addition, European non-governmental organizations were taking part in the special session.
Asked if he was disappointed at the limited European response to the special session’s topic, Mr. Ahern said the resources being provided were a long way from what was required. However, when President Bush had addressed the European Union recently, AIDS and the situation in Africa had been raised as a major issue. That
would not have happened last year. The AIDS epidemic was providing a focal point for all donors to be involved in poverty, which was very much related to the problem of AIDS.
A correspondent noted that Ireland had been elected to the Security Council by an overwhelming mandate. Was Ireland worried that some in the developing world would be disappointed in Ireland during its Council tenure? No, Mr. Ahern said. Ireland had specific strengths to bring to the Council, in particular its focus and its point of view, both of which went to the heart of issues that were traditional concerns of Ireland, many related to peace-building. Ireland could bring new insights into issues related to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example. That perspective would give added value to the Council’s approach.
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