Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Remarks and Question and Answer session to U.S. Chamber of Commerce, followed by press encounter, (unofficial transcript)

Washington, D.C., 1 June 2001

[Session on Private Sector Role in the Fight Against AIDS was moderated by Chamber President Tom Donohoe]

SG : Thank you very much, Mr. Donohoe and Carl [?], for those very kind and inspiring words.

This morning I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you about the revolutionary role business can play in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is a chance for me to explain why the international community cannot win this fight without you, and why doing so may be in your own interest as well as in the broader interest of humanity.

HIV/AIDS is a global problem of catastrophic proportions. The world has never before faced a pandemic such as this. More then 4 million children have already died from AIDS before they reach the age of 15.

There is no more time for half-measures. In terms of life lost, children orphaned and the destruction of the social and economic fabric of whole societies and whole countries, AIDS is an unparalleled nightmare. What is more, its impact continues to grow. In the worst affected countries, where more than one in five adults are infected, infrastructure, services and productive capacity are facing total collapse. The challenge is enormous, but we are not powerless to face it.

That is why I have made it my personal priority to form a global alliance commensurate with the challenge. Only through global alliance will AIDS be defeated. And in our shrinking world, all of us need to be involved in the solution because, one way or another, sooner or later, all of us will be involved in the problem.

I began my campaign in April by speaking to the African leaders in Abuja, Nigeria, and it is clear that there is now a fundamental recognition among African governments that they must face the issue head on. Soon afterwards I went to Philadelphia to meet with philanthropic foundations and then to Geneva to address a World Health assembly of ministers from around the world. To all of them I issued a call to action, focusing on preventing further spread of the epidemic; preventing mother-to-child transmission; caring for those already infected; delivering breakthroughs, especially in vaccine; and alleviating the impact of AIDS on the most vulnerable, particularly orphans.

Prevention, care, research is a plan I believe we can all rally around. To achieve these we need leadership. And today I come to you, the leaders of American business; representatives of one of the greatest forces in the world, but one which has yet to be fully utilized in the campaign against HIV/AIDS. It is high time we tapped your strengths to the fullest.

But first, why should business be involved? Why should it be your business? The answer is simple: because AIDS affects business. The spread of the pandemic has caused business costs to expand and markets to shrink. As far as the current balance sheet and future indicators show, the business community needs to get involved to protect its own bottom line. AIDS is uniquely disruptive of economies because it kills people in the prime of their lives. More than four out of five people dying from AIDS are in their 20's, 30's or 40's. Especially in the early stages of the pandemics, AIDS tends to strike urban centers: the better educated, the leadership elite, and the most productive members of society.

A study in Zaire, the democratic republic of Congo, found the highest prevalence of rates -- prevalence rates were among white collar executives, followed by foremen, and then workers. And these states deaths leach profits out of business and economies. The loss of every breadwinner's income reduces the access of dependents to health care, education, nutrition, leaving them more vulnerable to infection. The cycle needs to be repeated only a few times and AIDS destroys an entire community.

Africa has been hit disproportionately hard. By the beginning of the next decade, South Africa's gross domestic product, which represents 40 percent of the region's economic output, will be 17 percent lower than it would have been without AIDS.

And by 2020, if current trends continue, the total work force of 15 countries, analyzed by the International Labor Organization, will have shrunk by 25 million people as a result of AIDS.

But the economic havoc of AIDS is not confined to Africa. It is building at an alarming rate round the world, including places not so far from here. In the English-speaking Caribbean, it is now the leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 44. In Russia, there were more new infections in 2000 than in all previous years combined. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of new infections has risen by more than two-thirds in the past year. In India and China, two of America's largest export markets and sources of supply, the trend is particularly disturbing. India will soon be the country with the highest number of people infected with HIV, and China is not far behind. By 2005, the two countries together will have 10 million or more HIV-positive citizens.

As 42 percent of U.S. exports go to markets in the developing world, the negative impact of AIDS on American business should be obvious. But the cost of AIDS reverberates on many other levels. It undermines regional and global security and stability. In January last year, the U.N. Security Council held its first meeting on health issue -- the impact of HIV-AIDS and security in Africa. A CIA report issued the same month stated that the burden of infectious diseases will add to political instability and slow democratic development in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia and the former Soviet Union. That is certainly not good for business.

And as AIDS creates more poverty and deepens inequalities, it fuels a growing public backlash against globalization. This sentiment will only get stronger and more widespread if we do not show ourselves determined to mount a really serious response. And in that response, business which has profited most from globalization will come under more and more pressure to provide leadership.

So what can business do? Business is used to acting decisively and quickly. The same cannot always be said of the community of sovereign states. We need your help and we need it right now. There are already several examples that can prove unparalleled positive impact corporate action can have in the fight against HIV-AIDS. It is time to turn those examples into concerted and strategic action in the workplace, in advocacy, and in building on your corporate strengths.

The first line of action begins in the workplace. Those of you with employees in the developing world can draw up effective AIDS policies in consultation with them. Programs to educate your work force about HIV can become a cornerstone of our global prevention campaign. When your staffs are affected by HIV-AIDS, you can and must support them and their families, notably by providing voluntary and confidential testing, counseling and treatment.

The rapidly falling price of HIV-related drugs is ushering in a revolution for private sector involvement. The world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, as we heard earlier, now accept the need to combine incentives for research with access to medication in poor countries. As antiretrovirums (sp) become more widely affordable, it is now profitable for countries to treat their HIV-positive employees than to recruit and retrain new ones as untreated workers die. Indeed, one recent study in Africa showed that treating HIV-positive workers paid for itself up to 10 times over.

Volkswagen de Brasil offers a good example. In 1996, the company launched a comprehensive program for HIV prevention and education in the workplace, as well as treatment, including antiretrovirums (sp), and counseling for workers living with HIV and AIDS. The company also introduced strong policy to end discrimination and ensure confidentiality.

This began in 1996. By 1999, the company had seen 90 percent reduction in hospitalization among HIV-positive workers, and 40 percent reduction in the costs of treatment and care. Nine out of 10 workers living with HIV were able to remain symptom-free and productive. This led to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced loss of employees to AIDS, and higher morale in the workplace. As a result, many families kept their breadwinners and many children still have their parents.

But of course, the contribution of business to fight against AIDS goes far beyond the individual workplace. You can have a wide-ranging impact as advocates for change by speaking up loud enough about HIV/AIDS epidemic and what can be done to stop it. Silence and stigma drives the virus underground and fuels the spread. Speaking up helps to halt it. Businesspeople are respected leaders in their communities. You can encourage action by all sectors of society, and particularly by your peers in other companies; you can use your skills and assets in marketing and communications, through product packaging and through advertising; you can help build the logistic expertise and capacity needed to deliver supplies of prevention and care materials; and you can transfer the technology of brand loyalty to help boost commitment, especially among young people, to the fight against AIDS, as well as linking your brands to a goal of social responsibility, following the examples of Levi Strauss and the Bodyshop.

You can offer your expertise in public affairs, human resources and corporate strategy planning to help AIDS service organizations and community groups which are in the fore-frontline in the fight against the epidemic and desperately need these skills. You can also adapt sector-specific approaches. Let me give you an example of that. In Thailand, some insurance companies encourage their corporate policyholders to develop HIV workplace programs, and offer preferential rates to those that do. They have seen reduced costs as a result of healthier workforces and gained new business by building their reputation for looking after their policyholders. And there are many other inspiring examples you can draw upon. The Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS is a consortium of companies that are working together to introduce better workplace practices and to encourage chief executives to offer -- to be leaders and innovators in the battle to halt the spread of the epidemic.

And in January 1999, I myself launched the Global Compact, a partnership between the United Nations and business, which encourages corporate responsibility in the areas of human rights, core labor standards and the environment. The compact's Learning Forum provides an effective platform for sharing learning experiences and best practices. It is heartening to note that the leading companies in some of the most affected countries have been inspired by local compact workshops to take action in the workplace and in the wider community in care and prevention.

Finally, you can contribute as donors. The total spending on AIDS prevention and care in low- and middle-income countries needs to rise to something between $7 (billion) and $10 billion each year. That is at least five times the amount that citizens, national governments, international donors are currently spending on the disease. It may sound like a lot, but Harvard has estimated that AIDS has already cost the world $500 billion. So $10 billion a year to defeat it seems fairly reasonable -- indeed, a bargain.

As a mechanism for mobilizing some of this extra money, I have proposed the creation of the Global AIDS and Health Fund to support national programs and strategies. It will be open to both government and private donors.

Over the past few weeks, there have been an exciting convergence of views on this concept from a variety of people -- governments, private foundations, civil society organizations and academics. We share a common vision that the fund must be structured in such a way as to be light and flexible and to ensure that it responds effectively to the needs of the affected countries and people.

My dear friends, by joining the global fight against HIV/AIDS, your business will see benefits on its bottom line. You will see direct benefits such as protecting investment and reducing risk. And you will make -- and you will also make less tangible, but no less important, gains in assets such as reputation and customer loyalty.

But even though HIV/AIDS poses a huge economic threat, it is first and foremost a humanitarian imperative. In fact, there is a happy convergence between what your shareholders pay you for and what is best for the millions of people around the world. That makes my job here today a little easier.

Together, I believe we will succeed, if only because the costs of failure are simply too appalling to contemplate.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Mr. Donohoe: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary General, let's do an administrative question right up front. If somebody in this audience, in government or business, is compelled now to step out and help, who would they contact in your office to begin to seek the best way to be of assistance?

SG: I will say that they should contact Peter Piot in Geneva, who is the head of the UNAIDS. In New York, I will suggest they contact my deputy, Louise Frechette. And depending upon your interest and what you would want to do, you will be directed to one of the many activities that we do. And we can also provide lots of information and suggestions as to what you can do. So, Louise Frechette in Geneva -- in New York, Louise Frechette, deputy secretary-general, in New York; and Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS in Geneva.

Mr. Donohoe: Excellent. Now, staying on the process of encouraging governments to participate, and because this organization is somewhat known for convincing governments to act, a question often here is, what can the business community do here in the United States and elsewhere around the world to encourage government to step up with the type of support that you've been seeking for your effort?

SG: As I indicated earlier, businessmen have influence in their own communities. I think we've launched a global appeal which, as I said, is open to government and private donors. I think, apart from your own contributions and what you can do, you should be able to encourage the governments to join the fight, to do more.

I noticed in the current bill there is a tax exemption for companies that continue research for vaccines and other medical treatment. But I think your can encourage governments to see this fight as their fight, to see it as a global problem, to get them to understand that there are no islands in the world today, there are no foreign and domestic infections; it affects all of us; and that it is in their interest to join in the fight and make a contribution as we move on.

Mr. Donohoe: Now, there are a number of questions -- I quickly looked through these -- about the pharmaceutical industry. And why don't I try and put them together into a few and you could comment on them.

First, what opportunities will be available for the pharmaceutical industry to participate in the special session of the U.N.? Second, as you know, there is a great concern about patents and intellectual property rights going forward in this regard. And third, how do we engage the pharmaceutical industry without the public criticism that some have decided was the best way to sort of motivate people to act?

And if you could just talk about those related subjects and any other thought, I think it would be very helpful.

SG: Okay. I know several chairmen and CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies will be in New York for the AIDS conference. Some are coming as part of their national delegations, others are coming as part of a business group, and others are coming as part of the sort of global business alliance for fight against HIV/AIDS. And so they will be participating and present under many guises.

On the question of the intellectual property and patents and the need to protect it, I have no problems with that. I have made it quite clear that I believe the companies need the incentive to be able to continue their research for new medication and vaccines. And I have been very encouraged to understand that when you talk about AIDS, there are over 100 different drugs in the pipeline. And even the cocktail of AIDS of -- (inaudible) -- medication could soon be reduced into one pill. So there's a lot going on.

So what I have done is to engage the pharmaceutical industry. We got together a little over a year ago and asked them to reduce their prices in the developing countries; we signed an agreement with them. And we got together again at the beginning of April this year. At that point, five countries had been given access to medication at reduced prices. We then agreed on certain measures to be taken. First, the least-developed countries of 50 -- 50 least-developed countries will be treated as a group and there will be no need for country-to-country negotiations, and they will have access to the medication. On the other developing countries, because of the income differentiation, they were going to continue their practice of price differentiation, voluntary licensing where it was appropriate, and try and make medication available to these other countries as well.

I think what the companies have done is by agreeing to make sure that they can -- the poor countries can have access to the medication, they are introducing the necessary balance; yes, incentive for research, but the poor must also have access to the medication, otherwise you are in serious trouble. I was happy to be able to play a role between the pharmaceutical companies and the South African government in resolving the law case they had in South Africa because it didn't do anybody any good. In the sense of the pharmaceutical industries I told them, first of all you have to be a public relations genius to (go and see ?) Nelson Mandela, you know. (Laughter.) And to take on an issue that has been reduced to profits and people, profits and lives; even if you won in court, you lost. And I think it's been very, very good that this has been resolved, and the South African government has indicated they want to cooperate with the pharmaceutical company.

I think the pharmaceutical companies have been responsive, but we have to understand that they alone cannot do it. Medication alone or the antiretovirals alone are not enough. We need everybody to get involved. We need other companies to become involved either as donors or using their own resources to play a role on the ground. And so in my own advice at the World Health Assembly, I said we need partners, we need partners to fight this disease, and the pharmaceutical companies have proven to be good partners. And I will be seeing them again in October. And I think that's the way to go. Confrontation doesn't help anybody.

Mr. Donohoe: Well, I had -- that's very helpful. And I have two questions lined up, but you justgave me a chance to take care of one of the ones in the back here. It was a question for you to see that, in talking about South Africa, if you'll be able to get the political leadership there to take a more scientific approach to this serious problem. (Laughter.) And I sort of calmed down that question. (Laughter.)

SG: You did? So this is a calmed-down version you're giving me? (More laughter.)

No, I think in my discussions with the South African leadership, from President Mandela, I also have spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Health Minister and President Mbeki, I think generally there is an awareness that there is a major problem in society which has to be tackled. There had been a debate, which I think you've alluded to, which has caused difficulties and problems for South Africa. But it is important that we put that behind us now that the conflict with the pharmaceutical industry has been resolved, to cooperate with them and for all to come together and pool their efforts to help the poor infected victims of this disease. And this is what I will urge everybody to do. And I am doing it myself.

Mr. Donohoe: Good. And I hope we'll do the same.

Now, there are four or five questions here about globalization, and they go in both directions. One set of questions say, do you think globalization has contributed to the spread of this disease? And, by the way, will globalization as it expands spread it even further in the future? And then finally, a global effort to attack it would be stronger than any individual effort. And I'm sure you'd have a comment on that.

SG: I think in my own remarks I said that there are no islands today and there are no, sort of, domestic diseases and international diseases. We live in a global village. We live in a shrinking world. And there are many contacts between us. And I think we should see it as such. Whether globalization made it worse or not, I think at this stage it's not that important.

And I must also say that globalization and travel and contacts between civilizations and countries has been going on all the time. It's only accelerated in the recent decades, and I think it's going to continue. And this is why it is important that when we are facing a challenge of the kind that I have alluded -- that we have discussed here today, that we all come together to fight it because no one is isolated, no one can be smug and sit in his or her corner and say, "I'm safe because it is somewhere."

We saw it recently with the foot and mouth disease. It started in one little corner, in England. Before you knew, it was in France, it was in Germany and everybody was worried. It affected meat supplies in this country and Canada because of the curbs that had to be imposed on it. And when you talk to the scientists and say, how does it move around, they say it can be by a bird that flies from England to France, you know, or to Germany. So there are so many ways. It can be by the winds. So how do you avoid this? And this is why we need to see it as our problem.

Last night I spoke to the Global Health Council, and they have a wonderful theme: There is no "them," only "us." And I think we should also think about that. A combination of issues. There is a concern in a number of questions here about the issue that you raised in your speech about the Caribbean. Perhaps the concern here is that that's very close to the United States. But it's not in the same condition as Africa right now.

Q: So what immediate types of steps can the people in the audience and the U.N. take to intervene now, to move on the educational front and on the treatment front to have the greatest effect before it gets out of hand?

SG: Yeah, I think the prevention is very important; prevention in the sense that we should make sure that everyone who is exposed and is likely to be infected must know what to do to avoid infection, particularly the young people. Those who are infected, we should try and take care of, and I think with the cost of medication coming down, we should be able to help some of those who are infected to live normal, productive lives. And I gave examples of what has happened in other parts of the world.

And I believe the government in Jamaica will need support from external donors to be able to do an effective campaign. But of course, the first thing would be for them to draw up a national AIDS campaign and how you fight the disease. And they must get the entire community involved. The leadership, from the prime minister down, must speak up and get the fight down to the community level, women's groups, NGOs, and let them all become involved. This is how the countries that have been successful have made it, because you bring in the families, the communities, and the mothers who have influence, and the schools, of course, and the churches have a role to play. So I think I'm talking about total mobilization of society.

Mr. Donohoe: Well, the last question, then, gives you a chance for a little bit of a commercial. It says: "What is the most" -- and this has -- there have been a number of questions here. "What is the most effective prevention and education program that you're aware of that companies could immediately move to and follow and adopt?"

SG: I think -- I recently -- you have companies in the African region, like Rio Tinto, who have been very good with their staff, looking after their staff, and also working with the communities. And I read recently that Anglo American has also decided to look after its staff. That is 50,000 people. When you look after 50,000 employees, you can imagine what numbers, even if you have a family, average family of three or four, you can quadruple or multiple that figure by five. And of course, they go on and share the message with their friends in the community and it gets the community also engaged.

So I will suggest that the companies start with their own staff, but not limit it there; in some cases try and reach out to the communities, the communities in which they operate. And that would also earn them a good reputation and loyalty from the community in which they are operating.

And the other example that we have seen -- you talked about logistics, how do you distribute this.

We have been able to team up with some companies, for example Coca- Cola. When we did the polio campaign, which is almost eliminated now, we needed, in a place like India, which is huge, we needed a network system. And we teamed up with Coca-Cola, which had trucks and people going to every village with refrigeration in their trucks. So we put the vaccine in there and we had it distributed to the villages where people were there to receive it, take it up and give it to the children. So, you know, these are some of the things that companies can do.

Mr. Donohoe: Perhaps we can put it in the Coca-Cola. (Laughter.)

SG: You are going to get into another trouble if you do that. (Laughter.)

Mr. Donohoe: We're always in trouble here.

Ladies and gentlemen, in just a moment the Secretary-General is going to welcome the press here. He'll stay up on the stage and they'll come up and ask some questions.

But I wanted to encourage you to participate in every way that you can find in this great challenge. I was thinking, as you were speaking sir, of all the conflicts in the world that you've been in the middle of, trying to calm down and resolve. And I think if you put them all together since you took office, none of them have the potential -- except for nuclear war -- of causing 20 million people to lose their lives. How significant this is, how important it is that you are providing the leadership, and how much respect we have for the effort that you're making.

And we want to thank you very much and pledge our support.

SG: Thank you. (Applause.)

Mr. Donohoe Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. If the press would just gather here, the Secretary-General will take your questions. It would be very helpful if you could identify yourself when he recognizes you, and if there's any problem in being heard, we'll let you know, and you can speak up or I'll pass you the microphone.

Mr. Secretary.

SG: Good morning.

Q (Name inaudible) -- with the Washington Times here in Washington. I want to ask you about the money that the Bush administration has pledged. It's about $100 million.

SG: No, $200 million.

Q: Two hundred million. Is that a number you think is acceptable? And do you think that Mr. Donohoe's comments -- that the business community need to, as you put it in your speech, persuade the Bush administration to raise that commitment?

SG: I think President Bush himself indicated that this was a founding contribution, seed money, with a promise of more to come as the fund evolved. And I trust that will happen. I would also expect corporations to make their own direct contributions in addition to encouraging the government to do more.

Q: And what is a reasonable amount? Ranging from what to what? What would you hope -- (inaudible) -- to be, given a reasonable amount of time?

SG: First of all, it's very difficult for me to say what a government should pay. It's obviously an issue for that government. But, given the magnitude of the problem that we are dealing with and the size of the fund that I have proposed, I hope contributions will be commensurate.

Q: What does that mean?

SG: (Laughs.) That I hope contributions would match the challenge that we are going to face, but I don't want to give a specific sum of --

Q: And from the corporate world?

SG: On the corporate side, given the discussion I have had with them today, I hope they will realize that it is in their interest to join this fight and join it in a manner that will be meaningful and that they should make substantial contribution to the fund.

Again, I will hesitate to give you percentage and the other, but I think they heard my message and they know we are in a big fight and we need big bucks.

Q: Associated Press TV. Can you just give use a comment on the death of Nkosi Johnson, the 12-year-old activist in South Africa?

SG: He was a very courageous young man, a courageous child. And I think he became a wonderful advocate and was able to reach many people beyond South Africa. I feel -- I offer my deepest condolence and sympathies for his death, and I think we will all miss him. We have lost a voice, a voice against the fight.

Q: Chuck Hurley, CNN. Some say that microbicides are a cheap way of fighting the spread of AIDS, especially in third-world countries.

SG: I can hardly hear you. If you can put the mike down a little, please.

Q: The big pharmaceutical companies show no interest in developing them because they're not big money-makers. What must be done to develop them and bring them to market, and what is the U.N. doing about this?

SG: Let me repeat and make sure I got the question. The pharmaceutical companies are not interested in developing medications for the African market?

Q: Specifically microbicides.

SG: Oh, yeah. I think microbicides -- did you hear, the development of microbicides? -- which I think has a great potential, particularly now that we don't have a vaccine or a cure. And I think we are going to see greater and greater encouragement of its use. I'm not sure that the pharmaceutical companies don't want to use it. I don't have the facts. But I think it is going to be much more pervasively used, and I know that there are advocates out there who will be pushing for it and we will see it on the market and we will see it in Africa.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, my name is Komesi Motumi (ph). I'm with Inter Press Service. A growing concern among AIDS activists is that during the negotiations for the establishment of a Global AIDS

Fund, the U.S. position has been that generic drugs be excluded from the procurement list. As you know, generic drugs pose an affordable option for many developing countries who have been pushing for them. Could you please assure us that the U.N. is going to ensure that generic drugs would be put on the procurement list?

SG: I am not aware that that is a U.S. position. But I can assure you that we would want value for money, and that the fund would be used to ensure that assistance and medication gets to the countries and those in need, and we would want to do it as effectively -- as cost effectively and efficiently as possible. And we are not going to exclude generics if that is the most effective way to do it in a particular country.

And we have also, in my own discussions with the pharmaceuticals, been encouraging them, where possible, to offer voluntary licensing so that the countries themselves can produce generic versions of medication. So we are not going to exclude that.

Q: Secretary-General, do you think it's telling that the first question from the business community today was how they can get government to give more money? Do you think that they really are getting the message?

SG: Well, I thought my message was clear, and I gave them lots of examples of what they can do in addition to giving money. But if in addition to what they are going to do or we expect them to do, they want to work with governments to give more, it will be fine. But if they want to leave it to the governments alone, then that would be wrong because governments alone cannot do it, and this is why we are trying to build this partnership to get it done; partnership not only at the national level, but a global one that would include all the stakeholders that I have listed.

Q: Secretary-General, sir, my name is -- (inaudible) -- News Service. There seems to be --

SG: Which news service?

Q: (Banan ?) News Service. There seems to be a lack of will on the part of leaders of developing countries, especially in Africa, you know, to tackle this problem. How successful are you to talk to them and to get them to take this a little more seriously, because this reflects also in the way the media covers the AIDS problem in Africa.

SG: I think the situation is changing. We met in Abuja last April at a summit, and quite a lot of leaders who were there have indicated their engagement; and their presence itself was a sign of commitment. Some are leading the fight in their own countries, like in Botswana, Festus Mogae, the president, is at the forefront of the fight. In Mali the president is talking about it. And we had quite a lot of the presidents there, from President Obasanjo, Kufuor of Ghana, Eyadema and all of them have promised to talk about it.

Q: Secretary-General, do you think it's telling that the first question from the business community today was how they can get government to give more money? Do you think that they really are getting the message?

SG: Well, I thought my message was clear, and I gave them lots of examples of what they can do in addition to giving money. But if in addition to what they are going to do or we expect them to do, they want to work with governments to give more, it will be fine. But if they want to leave it to the governments alone, then that would be wrong because governments alone cannot do it, and this is why we are trying to build this partnership to get it done; partnership not only at the national level, but a global one that would include all the stakeholders that I have listed.

Q: Secretary-General, sir, my name is -- (inaudible) -- News Service. There seems to be --

SG: Which news service?

Q: (Banan ?) News Service. There seems to be a lack of will on the part of leaders of developing countries, especially in Africa, you know, to tackle this problem. How successful are you to talk to them and to get them to take this a little more seriously, because this reflects also in the way the media covers the AIDS problem in Africa.

SG: I think the situation is changing. We met in Abuja last April at a summit, and quite a lot of leaders who were there have indicated their engagement; and their presence itself was a sign of commitment. Some are leading the fight in their own countries, like in Botswana, Festus Mogae, the president, is at the forefront of the fight. In Mali the president is talking about it. And we had quite a lot of the presidents there, from President Obasanjo, Kufuor of Ghana, Eyadema and all of them have promised to talk about it.

And whenever I see them in private, one on one, I also push them to speak up and to fight the epidemic, because silence is death, and they have to have some loyalty to their own people.

Q: Joe Firelli, UN Wire. There were some alarming statistics that came out this morning in the U.S. press about the renewed spread of AIDS in the United States. I wonder if you could just comment and try to put that into perspective in the context of the global efforts in states.

SG: I think that the statistics that came out about the prevalence of AIDS in the U.S. should be a warning signal to all of us. We cannot be complacent. We cannot say that we had AIDS but it's done, it's over. We have to be vigilant and really to continue our efforts to contain this disease, continue the efforts to search for vaccine and cure, and to maintain our prevention efforts. I believe that it is a wake-up call that we cannot be complacent and there's work to be done even in this country.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General -- (off mike).

SG: Can you put the microphone a bit closer?

Q: Excuse me. One of the worst rates in the spread of AIDS in the developed world is in Russia. And one of the greatest amounts of natural resources is also in Russia. Do you have an explanation as to why AIDS is spreading at such an alarming rate in Russia? And wouldn't that be an incentive for investment in controlling AIDS, because it's such an attractive country to invest in in terms of its resources and all the other -- the oil and -- .

SG: I was in Russia earlier this month, and my wife and myself met with some of the HIV activists, a group of NGOs, young people, dynamic young people doing great work in Russia. Quite a lot of it is from intravenous drug use. And of course it starts from there and then it begins to take on other patterns. As I indicated, that's how it started here and in other countries, and then it took on other patterns, to the extent that now that now more women are getting infected in other parts of the world than men.

And obviously, the government and the international community need to become very active in fighting the disease in Russia, in the former Soviet Republics, as we are doing in Africa. But it has to -- it requires leadership. It requires leadership from the government.

And I also discussed it with the government. I did the same thing in China. And when I was in India, I discussed it with the leaders too. So we keep pushing them to lead, to engage. And you are right, Russia has lots of resources, and in time it can be a very attractive business destination. So we -- it should be in people's interest to fight the disease.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, John Diamond with the Chicago Tribune. The AIDS problem seems to be very far advanced for the U.N. to just now at this date be making a pitch to the business community. Is this the first time the U.N. has made this pitch, or has it done so before and been ignored? You know, why now for this particular outreach that you're doing?

SG: We've done that before. In fact, as I indicated, we formed an alliance between the private sector, governments, NGOs and international organizations. And for the first time, I came together, mainly with the pharmaceutical -- brought the pharmaceutical companies together in May or April last year, and we were concerned about the price of medication and its inaccessibility to the poor, and encouraged them to cut their prices and reduce it for the poor. And we've been working with them since them. I've met with them twice since that occasion. We've agreed to meet periodically. We set up another meeting for October, and I'm meeting them at the chairman/CEO level. This is the pharmaceutical companies.

Others we have embraced in other forms. In the Global Compact, which was 1999, we brought together a group of countries working with us to improve issues of workplace, core labor standards, environment and human rights. And this also includes trade unions and NGOs. So we've been reaching out to them. Ever since I took over as secretary- general, I felt the U.N. alone cannot tackle some of the issues we are dealing with and that we had to work in partnership with others to be able to expand our capacity and reach and, therefore, embrace more energetically our cooperation with the NGOs and the private sector, trade unions and city managers in trying to reach out.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, UPI --

STAFF: I'm sorry. This lady first and then you.

SG: Go ahead.

Q: Hi. Rachel Zimmerman (sp), Wall Street Journal. The private sector and some of the philanthropies are a little nervous about the Global Fund and they're sort of expressing concern that it's more set up for governments to donate rather than them. What are you doing in determining the logistics of the fund to sort of ease their concerns that it's not just going to be this sort of bottomless pit, no accountability? If you could talk about that a little bit.

SG: I think the structure, the way we are structuring the fund would answer quite a lot of their concerns and I hope ease the anxiety. It is a fund that will be -- it's not a U.N. fund per se, it is a global fund, a global fund that will have a governance structure with private and public people on it. It would include representatives from the donor governments as well as the recipient government, the private sector, and NGOs and, hopefully, the international organizations.

But we would want to keep it small; we would want to keep the board small and responsive. We would also have an advisory panel made up of the best scientists and people attached to it to ensure that we are aiming for the right results and that our approach is going to be effective. There will be a small secretariat that will handle the day-to-day operations, and the banking functions will be handled by the World Bank. And we will encourage each government to come up with its own strategy, and the U.N. experts on the ground will help them if need be. And of course, request for funding will come from the ground. And depending on the quality of the proposals and its effectiveness, funds will be released to -- will be applied to it.

Q: Secretary-General, do you expect this particular campaign of the U.N. in general to get a warmer welcome in Washington now that the Democrats have got a majority in the U.S. Senate? And are you going to miss Senator Jesse Helms as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee?

SG: I was on the Hill last Thursday, the day it all happened, and I had arranged to see both the majority leadership and the minority leadership. The ground changed as I was entering the Capitol. One of my staff whispered to me that Senator Jeffords has switched and that the leadership of the Senate will change. I went ahead anyway and had my meetings with all the parties. I saw Congressman Hyde, Chairman Hyde, Mr. Gephardt, Mr. Daschle, Senator Helms. And we had very good meetings. And on this issue, both promised support. And so I can say that there is bipartisan support for the fight against AIDS. And if that is the case, then we should do well.

Q: Do you -- will you miss Senator Helms as Chairman of the Committee?

SG: (Laughs.) I think Senator Helms has been there and worked with the U.N. for a long time. We've also worked with Biden since he was a minority leader on the committee. And they've both come to New York to talk to us, and I've got used to dealing with them and working with them. And I'm looking forward also to working very, very effectively with Senator Biden, who is a great support.

Staff: Last question.

Q: Terry Shultz (sp) with Fox News Channel. Sir, the new administration, one of their plans is to transfer a lot of social spending to faith-based organizations, and that may go away from some NGOs. Do you have a sense of if and how that would affect AIDS efforts on the ground and whether there's any difference in the philosophies with faith-based organizations that may affect the AIDS struggle?

And if I could just tack on one little question, could we have a comment from you on the Middle East after that? I'm sorry.

SG: Comment on what?

Q: On the Middle East, when you're done.

SG: I think I will answer the last question, but not the first. (Chuckles.)

Q: Ohh!

SG: No, let me start with the last question and I will come to -- I think on the issue of the Middle East, of course we are in very, very difficult situation. The U.S. government has reinforced its team there by sending Ambassador Burns to work with them and try and nudge the parties forward. There have been several security meetings, but I don't think much has come out of it yet.

There are suggestions, and I think it's also now clear that the entire international community supports the Mitchell report and its conclusions. And there's also a sense that the proposal put forward by Jordan and Egypt could be helpful, and these two documents taken together offer hopeful and constructive steps which the parties could take to end the tragedy and come back to the negotiating table. Whether we will be able to convince the parties to come to the table and how soon, I do not know. What is clear is that Prime Minister Sharon did instruct his soldiers not to shoot first, and President Arafat has been urged to issue the same statement. And, of course, you know the differences about the issue of settlements. But I hope that the discussions that are going on would move the parties forward a bit more. I am in touch with all the participants of the Sharm el- Sheikh meetings and there is a strong determination to move the parties forward using the Mitchell report. That's as far as I can go now.

On your first question, obviously this is an issue for internal political decision. But I would be saddened if decisions were taken that weakened the capacity of NGOs to play a role in this fight against the HIV epidemic. Obviously, there are some faith-based organizations that are active in the fight against AIDS, and I hope will continue and perhaps even do better with increased resources. There are others that we have problems with that I don't think are doing enough for the AIDS nor their own teachings supporting what needs to be done for prevention.

Thank you. *****


Off-the-Cuff on 1 June 2001