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Motion for a resolution on the EU strategic objectives for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to be held in Johannesburg (South Africa) from 24 September to 5 October 2016 – B8-2016-0987

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the seriousness of the decline in global biodiversity, which represents the sixth mass extinction of species,

–  having regard to the role of forests and tropical forests, which are the world’s largest reservoir of terrestrial biodiversity and an essential habitat for wild fauna and flora and for indigenous populations,

–  having regard to the forthcoming 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP 17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to be held from 24 September to 5 October 2016 in Johannesburg (South Africa),

–  having regard to UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 69/314 on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife, adopted on 30 July 2015,

–  having regard to the questions of xxx to the Council and to the Commission on key objectives for the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Johannesburg (South Africa) from 24 September to 5 October 2016 (O-00088/2016 – B8‑0711/2016 and O‑00089/2016 – B8‑0712/2016),

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas CITES is the largest global wildlife conservation agreement in existence, with 181 parties, including the EU and its 28 Member States;

B.  whereas the aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants is not a threat to the survival of the species in the wild;

C.  whereas, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, more than 23 000 species, representing about 30 % of the 79 837 species assessed by IUCN, are threatened with extinction;

D.  whereas tropical rainforests contain 50 to 80 % of terrestrial animal and plant species; whereas today these environments are particularly under threat, including from the commercialisation of species, in particular the exploitation of tropical timber and subsoils; whereas deforestation and the illegal sale of wood are having a disastrous impact on the preservation of forest flora and fauna;

E.  whereas intensive fishing, commercial hunting and the unrestricted exploitation of micro-organisms and sub-seabed resources are harming marine biodiversity;

F.  whereas many species subject to trophy hunting are suffering a serious population decline; whereas over a 10-year period EU Member States declared as hunting trophies imports of almost 117 000 specimens of wildlife species listed in the CITES appendices;

G.  whereas wildlife trafficking has become an organised transnational crime which has major negative impacts on biodiversity and on the livelihood of local populations, as it denies them a legal income, creating insecurity and instability;

H.  whereas wildlife trafficking has become the fourth largest black market, after the drugs, people and arms markets; whereas the internet has come to play a key role in facilitating wildlife trafficking; whereas terrorist groups also use the above types of trafficking to finance their operations; whereas wildlife trafficking offences are not punished severely enough;

I.  whereas corruption plays a central role in wildlife trafficking;

J.  whereas evidence suggests that wild-caught specimens are being laundered through the fraudulent use of CITES permits and claims of captive breeding;

K.  whereas the EU is a major transit and destination market for illegal wildlife trade, especially for the trade in birds, turtles, reptiles and plant species(1) that are listed in CITES appendices;

L.  whereas a growing number of illegally traded exotic species are kept as pets in Europe and internationally; whereas the escape of these animals can lead to an uncontrolled spread affecting the environment and public health and safety;

M.  whereas the EU and its Member States provide substantial financial and logistical support for CITES, and for tackling illegal wildlife trade in many third countries;

N.  whereas the species under CITES are listed in appendices according to their conservation status and levels of international trade, Appendix I containing species threatened with extinction for which commercial trade is prohibited, and Appendix II species in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival;

O.  whereas CITES Appendix I species are strongly protected, whereas any commercial trade in species listed therein is prohibited, and whereas any permit to sell confiscated specimens or products (for example ivory, tiger products or rhino horn) would undermine the aim of the CITES Convention;

P.  whereas efforts to improve transparency in decision-making are essential;

1.  Welcomes the EU’s accession to CITES; considers the accession to be a fundamental step in ensuring that the EU can further pursue the wider objectives of its environmental policies and the regulation of the international trade in endangered species of wild flora and fauna, and promote the sustainable development policies of the UN Agenda 2030;

2.  Welcomes in particular the fact that the EU is participating for the first time as a party, and supports the proposals made by the EU and its Member States, in particular the proposed resolutions on corruption and on hunting trophies, the extension of CITES protection to a number of species imported into the EU, notably as pets, and the proposed amendments to Resolution 13.7 (Rev. CoP14) on the control of trade in personal and household effects;

3.  Highlights the fact that the accession to CITES by the European Union has rendered the legal status of the European Union in CITES more transparent vis-à-vis third parties to the Convention; believes that it is a logical and necessary step to ensure that the European Union is fully able to pursue its objectives under its environmental policy; recalls that accession enables the Commission, on behalf of the European Union, to express a coherent EU position in CITES matters and play a substantial role in negotiations during the Conferences of Parties;

4.  Stresses that the European Union became a party to CITES in 2015 and that it will be voting with 28 votes on issues of EU competence at the CITES CoP; in that regard, supports changes to the CoP’s Rules of Procedure which reflect the text of the CITES Convention on voting by regional economic integration organisations and which are consistent with what has been in place in other international agreements for many years, and objects to having the votes by the European Union calculated on the basis of the number of Member States that are properly accredited for the meeting at the time the actual vote occurs;

5.  Welcomes the recently adopted EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking, which aims to prevent such trafficking by addressing its principal causes, improving the implementation and enforcement of existing rules, and combating organised wildlife crime more effectively; welcomes the inclusion in the Action Plan of a specific chapter on strengthening the global partnership of source, consumer, and transit countries against wildlife trafficking; and urges the EU and its Member States to adopt and implement the strengthened Action Plan, which will demonstrate a strong European commitment to tackling wildlife trafficking;

6.  Supports the initiative by the Commission and the Member States to agree on global guidelines on trophy hunting within CITES in order to better control internationally the sustainable origin of hunting trophies of the species listed in Appendix I or II;

7.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to adhere to the precautionary principle with regard to species protection in all their decisions on working documents and listing proposals (as set out in CITES Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16)) – in particular regarding the import of hunting trophies of CITES species – taking account, in particular, of the user-pays principle, the principle of preventive action and the ecosystem approach; calls on the EU and its Member States, furthermore, to promote the removal of exemptions for permits for all hunting trophies from CITES-listed species;

8.  Demands that all CITES/CoP 17 decisions be based on science, careful analysis and equitable consultation with the affected range states, and be reached in cooperation with the local communities; underlines that any wildlife regulation should incentivise the rural population’s engagement in nature protection by linking their benefit with the state of biodiversity;

9.  Encourages CITES Parties to strengthen cooperation, coordination and synergies between biodiversity-related conventions at all relevant levels;

10.  Calls on the Member States to provide for cooperation, coordination and a prompt exchange of information among all relevant agencies involved in implementing the CITES Convention, in particular the customs authorities, the police, border veterinary and plant health inspection services, and other bodies;

11.  Encourages the EU and its Member States to promote and support initiatives to increase protection against the impact of international trade on species for which the European Union is a significant transit or destination market;

12.  Is concerned that the boundary between legal and illegal trade is very thin as regards the commercialisation of species and their derived products, and that with the cumulative effects of human activity and global warming the great majority of wild fauna and flora species are today threatened with extinction;

13.  Urges the EU to adopt legislation to reduce illegal trade by making it illegal to import, export, sell, acquire or buy wild animals or plants which are taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of the law of the country of origin or transit;

14.  Commits particularly to strongly encouraging all the Member States: to ban the export of raw ivory, as already do Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and some US States; to increase their vigilance with regard to marketing certificates on their territory; to make the fight against fraud effective, in particular at borders; to launch destruction operations of illegal ivory; and to strengthen the penalties for trafficking in protected species (notably elephants, rhinos, tigers, primates and varieties of tropical wood);

15.  Encourages the EU and its Member States, and the wider CITES Parties, further to Articles III, IV and V of the Convention, to promote and support initiatives to improve the welfare of live CITES-listed animals in trade; such initiatives include mechanisms to ensure animals are ‘prepared and shipped so as to minimise the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment’, that destinations are ‘suitably equipped to house and care for them’, and that confiscations of live specimens are undertaken with due consideration for their welfare;

16.  Is concerned about the impact that ‘banking on extinction’, or the buying of products in the hope that the species concerned will soon be extinct, might have on the protection of endangered wildlife; invites the CITES Parties and Secretariat to carry out further research on whether emerging financial products and technologies such as bitcoin play an enabling role;

17.  Recognises that CITES observers play an important role in providing expertise on species and trade, and in lending their support to capacity-building by the Parties;

Transparency of decision-making

18.  Considers that transparency in decision-making in international environmental institutions is key to their effective functioning; welcomes all voluntary and procedural efforts to increase transparency in CITES governance; strongly opposes the use of secret ballots as a general practice within CITES;

19.  Welcomes the decision made at COP 16 to include a requirement for members of the Animals and Plants Committees to provide declarations of any conflicts of interest; acknowledges, however, that the requirement is based only on a self-assessment by members; regrets that there have been no declarations of any potential financial conflicts of interest from members of these committees so far;

20.  Urges the CITES Secretariat to investigate the potential for an independent review board, or the expansion of the mandate of the Standing Committee to include an independent review panel, in order to create an oversight safeguard for the conflict of interest provisions;

21.  Considers transparency imperative to any funding process and a requisite for good governance, and therefore supports the resolution proposed by the EU on the ‘Sponsored Delegates Project’(2);

Reporting

22.  Considers traceability essential for legal and sustainable trade, whether commercial or non-commercial, and also central to the EU’s efforts to fight corruption and wildlife trafficking and poaching, which is recognised to be the fourth largest illicit market on the planet; in this regard highlights the need for the implementation by all Parties of the e-permitting system, which should be organised transparently and jointly by all of them; acknowledges, however, the technical challenges faced by some Parties in doing so, and encourages the provision of capacity-building support to enable the implementation of the e-permitting system by all the Parties;

23.  Welcomes the decision made at COP 16 on regular reporting by CITES Parties on illegal trade; regards the new annual illegal trade report format, as included in CITES Notification No 2016/007, as a significant step towards developing a better understanding of wildlife trafficking, and encourages all CITES Parties to accurately and regularly report on illegal trade using the prescribed format;

24.  Welcomes private-sector initiatives such as those taken by the International Air Transport Association on e-freight for and by the air cargo supply chain; considers the expansion of such traceability initiatives, especially for the transport sector, to be an important tool in intelligence-gathering;

25.  Highlights the importance of the permit-issuing process in effective data-collection, and thus the key role played by the Management Authorities; reiterates that permit-issuing authorities must be independent, in accordance with Article VI of CITES;

Wildlife trafficking and corruption

26.  Draws attention to cases of corruption where deliberate fraudulent issuing of permits by actors in the permit-issuing authority has occurred; calls on the CITES Secretariat and the Standing Committee to address these cases as a matter of priority and urgency;

27.  Underlines that corruption can be detected at every stage in the wildlife trade chain, affecting countries of origin, transit and destination, and undermining the effectiveness, proper implementation and ultimate success of the CITES Convention; considers, therefore, that strong and effective anti-corruption measures are essential in the fight against wildlife trafficking;

28.  Raises serious concerns over the deliberate misuse of source codes for the illegal trade in wild-caught specimens in the form of fraudulently use of captive-bred codes for CITES species; calls on COP 17 to adopt a robust system for recording, monitoring and certifying trade in ranched or captive-bred species, in both countries of origin and the EU, in order to prevent this abuse;

29.  Urges the CITES Parties to develop further guidance and to support the development of additional techniques and methodologies to differentiate between species originating from captive production facilities and species from the wild;

30.  Condemns the high degree of illegal activity by organised criminal gangs and networks in violation of the Convention, which frequently use corruption to facilitate wildlife trafficking and frustrate efforts to enforce the law;

31.  Urges the Parties that are not yet signatories to, or have not yet ratified, the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption to do so without delay;

32.  Welcomes the international commitment under UNGA Resolution 69/314 (July 2015), inter alia on counter-corruption (Article 10)(3);

33.  Supports EU and Member State initiatives that call for more action in the global fight against corruption under CITES; urges the Parties to CITES to support the EU proposal for a resolution against corruption-facilitating activities conducted in violation of the Convention;

Enforcement

34.  Calls for the timely and full use of sanctions by CITES against Parties that do not comply with key aspects of the Convention, and in particular for the EU and its Member States to make use of the mechanisms available to encourage Parties to comply with the CITES Convention and other international agreements aimed at protecting wildlife and biodiversity;

35.  Underlines the importance of joint international cooperation between all actors in the enforcement chain, in order to strengthen law enforcement capacities at the local, regional, national and international levels; welcomes their contribution, and calls for even more engagement; points to the importance of setting up special prosecutors’ offices and specialised police squads to fight wildlife trafficking more effectively; highlights the importance of joint international enforcement operations under the ICCWC(4), congratulates in this respect the successful COBRA III operation(5); welcomes the EU support for the ICCWC;

36.  Acknowledges the increasing illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products via the internet, and calls on the CITES Parties to liaise with law enforcement and cybercrime units and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime in order to identify best practices and model domestic measures to tackle illegal online trade;

37.  Calls on the Parties to adopt and implement clear and effective policies to discourage the consumption of products derived from vulnerable wildlife species, to raise consumer awareness of the impact of their consumption on wild species and to inform on the dangers of the illegal trafficking networks;

38.  Calls on the Parties to support the development of livelihoods for the local communities closest to the wildlife concerned and to involve these communities in the fight against poaching and in the provision of information on the effects of the trade in species of fauna and flora threatened with extinction;

39.  Asks for continuing international engagement in order to facilitate long-term capacity building, to improve the exchange of information and intelligence and to coordinate the enforcement efforts of government authorities;

40.  Calls on the Parties to ensure effective prosecution of persons who commit offences related to wildlife and to ensure that they are punished in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of their actions;

Funding

41.  Points to the need to increase the funding being made available for wildlife conservation and capacity-building programmes;

42.  Stresses the need to allocate adequate resources to the CITES Secretariat, especially in view of its increased responsibilities and additional workload; also stresses the need for the timely deposit of financial contributions pledged by the Parties to CITES;

43.  Encourages the Parties to consider increasing the core budget of CITES to reflect inflation and to ensure the proper functioning of the CITES Convention;

44.  Encourages the extension of public-private partnership financing for capacity-building programmes to other areas of the CITES Convention framework, as well as of direct funding, in order to support the implementation of the Convention;

45.  Welcomes the EU funding provided for the CITES Convention through the European Development Fund, and encourages the EU to continue to provide and ensure targeted financial support and, in the long term too, to continue to support specific and targeted financial aid;

Amendments to the CITES Appendices

46.  Expresses its strong support for the listing proposals submitted by the EU and its Member States;

47.  Urges all Parties to CITES and all participants in COP 17 to respect the criteria laid down in the Convention for the inclusion of species in the appendices, and to adopt a precautionary approach in order to ensure a high and efficient level of protection of endangered species; observes that the credibility of CITES depends on its ability to alter listings in response to negative trends as well as positive ones, and therefore welcomes the possibility of downlisting of species only when it is appropriate, in accordance with established scientific criteria, providing evidence that the CITES listing functions well;

African elephant and ivory trade

48.  Notes that with the doubling of illegal killing and the tripling of the quantity of ivory seized over the past decade, the crisis faced by the African elephant (Loxondonta africana) as a result of poaching for the ivory trade remains devastating and is leading to a decline in populations across Africa, and is a threat to the livelihood of millions of people, given that the illegal ivory trade harms economic development, fosters organised crime, promotes corruption, fuels conflicts and threatens regional and national security by providing militia groups with a source of funding; urges the EU and its Member States, therefore, to support proposals that would strengthen the protection of African elephants and reduce the illegal trade in ivory;

49.  Welcomes the proposal submitted by Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Uganda and endorsed by the African Elephant Coalition that seeks to list all the elephant populations of Africa in Annex I, which would simplify the implementation of the ban on international trade in ivory and would send a clear message to the world regarding the global determination to prevent the extinction of African elephants;

50.  Calls on the EU and all Parties to maintain the current moratorium and hence to oppose the proposals made by Namibia and Zimbabwe on the ivory trade, which seek to remove restrictions on trade associated with the annotations to the Appendix II listing of those parties’ elephant populations;

51.  Observes that attempts by CITES to reduce poaching and illegal trade by permitting legal ivory sales have failed and that ivory trafficking has increased significantly; calls for further efforts by the parties concerned under the National Ivory Action Plan process; supports measures for the management and destruction of ivory stockpiles;

52.  Recalls the call made in Parliament’s resolution of 15 January 2014 on wildlife crime on all 28 of its Member States to introduce moratoria on all commercial imports, exports and domestic sales and purchases of tusks and raw and worked ivory products until wild elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching; notes that Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Denmark have already decided to not grant any export permits for pre-Convention ‘raw’ ivory; encourages the EU and its Member States, therefore, to ban the export and import of ivory and prohibit all commercial sales and purchases of ivory within the EU;

White rhino

53.  Regrets the proposal made by Swaziland to legalise trade in rhino-horn from its white rhino population (Ceratotherium simum simum), which would facilitate the laundering of poached rhino-horn into legal trade, undermining existing demand reduction efforts and domestic trade bans in consumer markets, and might fuel poaching of rhino populations in Africa and Asia; urges the EU and all Parties to oppose this proposal, and consequently calls on Swaziland to withdraw its proposal;

African lion

54.  Notes that while African lion (Panthera leo) populations have experienced a dramatic inferred decline of 43 % in 21 years and have recently been extirpated from 12 African States, international trade in lion products has increased significantly; urges the EU and all Parties to support the proposal by Niger, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda and Togo to transfer all African lion populations to Appendix I of CITES;

Pangolins

55.  Observes that pangolins are the most illegally traded mammal in the world, for both their meat and their scales, which are used in traditional medicine, putting all eight species of pangolin (Manis crassicaudata, M. tetradactyla, M. tricuspis, M. gigantea, M. temminckii, M. javanica, M. pentadactyla, M. culionensis) at risk of extinction; welcomes, therefore, the various proposals for transferring all Asian and African pangolin species to Appendix I of CITES;

Tigers and other Asian big cats

56.  Urges the EU and all the Parties to support the adoption of decisions proposed by the CITES Standing Committee which lay down strict conditions for tiger farming and trading in captive tiger specimens and products, as well as the proposal made by India encouraging the Parties to share images of seized tiger specimens and products, which would assist law enforcement agencies with the identification of individual tigers by their unique stripe patterns; calls on the EU to consider providing funding for the implementation of these decisions, and calls for the closure of tiger farms and for an end to be put to the trade in captive tiger parts and products at the CITES COP 17;

Pet traded species

57.  Observes that the market for exotic pets is growing internationally and in the EU and that a large number of proposals have been submitted to list reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals that are threatened by international trade for the pet market; calls on all the Parties to support these proposals in order to ensure better protection for these endangered species from exploitation for the pet trade;

58.  Calls on the EU Member States to establish a positive list of exotic animals that can be kept as pets;

Agarwood and rosewood

59.  Acknowledges that illegal logging is one of the most destructive wildlife crimes, as it threatens not just single species but entire habitats, and that the demand for rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) for Asian markets has continued to increase; urges the EU and all the Parties to support the proposal by Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Kenya for the inclusion of the genus Dalbergia in CITES Appendix II, with the exception of the species included in Appendix I, as this will be a critical contribution to the efforts to halt unsustainable rosewood trade;

60.  Notes that the current exceptions to CITES requirements could allow resinous powder of agarwood (Aquilaria spp. and Gyrinops spp.) to be exported as exhausted powder, and other products to be packaged for retail sale before export, thus evading import regulations; calls, therefore, on the EU and all the Parties to support the United States of America’s proposal to amend the annotation in order to avoid loopholes for trade in this very valuable aromatic timber;

Other species

61.  Urges the EU and all the Parties:

–  to support the proposal from Peru to amend the annotation to Appendix II for the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), as it will consolidate the marking requirements for the international trade in this species;

–  to support the inclusion of the nautilus (Nautilidae spp.) in Appendix II, as proposed by Fiji, India, Palau and the United States of America, given that the international trade in chambered nautilus shells as jewellery and decoration is a major threat to these biologically vulnerable species;

–  to oppose the proposal by Canada to move the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) from Appendix I to Appendix II, as this may exacerbate the significant illegal trade in the species;

62.  Recalls that the Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) is on the IUCN list of endangered species and that a huge proportion of the species has been lost, including several entire populations, due to the continuing high demand for the aquarium trade, with main destinations being the European Union and the United States; calls on the European Union and its Member States, therefore, to support the inclusion of the Banggai cardinalfish in Appendix I rather than Appendix II;

63.  Notes that the international trade in raw and worked coral has expanded and that market demand for precious corals has increased, threatening the sustainability of precious corals; urges the European Union and all the Parties to support the adoption of the report on precious corals in international trade submitted by the United States;

64.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Parties to CITES and the CITES Secretariat.

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Geneva (Rep. Office)

100 Electric Vehicles "stamp" #1o5C at UN Gates for Climate Change Action!

“There is no reason why every car cannot already be electric, zero emissions and renewably powered,” says Louis Palmer, founder of the World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE). “Electric vehicles are here, they are here to stay, they’re fun, attractive and the obvious choice. They are the future.”

Louis, along with 75 teams from 13 nations, and supported by the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), entered the finishing phase of a 1,300km traverse from Bremerhaven, Germany on Friday. Sitting behind the wheel of a 100% electric vehicle rally, he had one simple objective: zero emissions for 1.5 degrees.

Now in its 7th year, WAVE Trophy is the largest e-vehicle rally in the world. Conceptualized in the years following two successful round-the-world trips in a solar vehicle, Louis carried forward his enthusiasm and optimism for a brighter future; tackling climate change one electric vehicle rally at a time.

Now an annual event, in 2016 the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) supported WAVE in raising awareness of the #1o5C campaign, an effort to encourage #ZeroEmissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees; as was agreed during the Paris Agreement one year earlier.

The CVF formed in 2009, and supported by UNDP works to tackle global climate change through collaboration on common goals, communications and the sharing of expertise and experience. It now represents one billion people highly at risk to heat waves, flooding, storms and other weather-related disasters across 43 member states.

On the afternoon of the second last day of their 8-day journey, 100 cars drove upon the Place des Nations in Geneva, stamping #1o5C for all to see. With support from CVF and UNDP (UNEP, CleanTech21, CARE International, UNOSSC, WACAP and CAN), each car was carefully parked in formation for the drone above. As the crowd ‘waved’ in unison, the unified call for zero emissions was echoed for all to see and hear.

With the severity of natural disasters increasing as the planet warms, and the lives of those in the most vulnerable locations threatened; CVF and WAVE unite to remind us all of the way in which we are all able to contribute to a zero emission agenda and a brighter future.

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UNDP and the Global Fund partner with Zimbabwe to strengthen HIV prevention and treatment services

Aug 31, 2016

New York - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund strengthened their partnership with additional funding of US$ 143 million to help scale up the fight against HIV in Zimbabwe.

HIV remains a major public health challenge in Zimbabwe with 1.4 million people living with HIV at the end of 2015. Even though the country has seen one of the sharpest declines in HIV prevalence in the region, at 15 per cent it remains among the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world.

The HIV grant aims to increase access to HIV treatment, with a particular focus on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, expanding HIV testing and counseling services, and scale up of prevention for adolescents and in and out of school youth.

“This timely new funding will sustain and strengthen existing HIV prevention and treatment services in Zimbabwe. Significant advances have been made in recent years but we must not be complacent. Services must continue if we are to further reduce the rate of new HIV infections while also increasing the number of people initiated on to HIV treatment,” said Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Zimbabwe.

Implemented by UNDP, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the National AIDS Council and civil society organizations, the new funding will run from January 2017 through December 2017. The US$ 143 million is additional funding to the Global Fund’s existing HIV grant to Zimbabwe, taking the grant total to US$ 611 million.

Zimbabwe has made great strides in the fight against AIDS, with the support of UNDP, the Global Fund and other development partners. The existing HIV grant supports 880,000 people in Zimbabwe to access life-saving HIV treatment. Between 2014 and 2015, retention of patients on HIV treatment has increased from 87% to approximately 90%, while the proportion of HIV-positive infants born to HIV-positive mothers has declined from 18% to 4% in the same period, corresponding to 14,000 new HIV infections of children being averted.

The grant will be key to reducing the impact of the HIV epidemic and ensuring healthy lives for all, contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3 on ensuring health and well-being for all.

Contact Information

In New York: Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist | UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support | Email: sangita.khadka@undp.org | Tel: +1 212 906 5043

In Geneva: Sarah Bel, Communication Specialist | Email: sarah.bel@undp.org | Tel: +41229178544

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UN Gender Focus: reproductive rights, women police officers and solar energy

9 Jun 2016

Listen /

Annah Sango. UN Radio/L. Jarriel

Zimbabwe activist champions sexual reproductive rights for women

Young girls in Zimbabwe struggle with issues ranging from early pregnancy to accessing sexual reproductive services, a young activist has said. Annah Sango, advocacy officer for Africa Young Positives, is in New York to attend a High-Level event in the UN General Assembly on ending AIDS. A political declaration was adopted on Wednesday, setting new time-limited targets to end the epidemic as a public health threat, by 2030. A motivational speaker and life coach, she started her own community-based support group for women affected by HIV. Speaking to Jocelyne Sambira, Ms Sango began by explaining why the conference was important to her and the young girls she works with.

Priscilla Makotose speaking to Daniel Dickinson. Photo: UN Radio

Countries urged to send more women police officers to Darfur

More women police officers are needed in Darfur to help protect millions of people displaced by conflict. The appeal has been made by Priscilla Makotose, Police Commissioner at the hybrid UN-African Union mission there, known as UNAMID. She said although women comprise the majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur, women police officers make up just two per cent of the mission's Formed Police Units (FPUs). Daniel Dickinson caught up with Ms Makotose during her recent visit to UN Headquarters to attend a global summit of police chiefs. She began by talking about what it is like to work for peace in Darfur.

Abze Djigma. Photo: UN-OHRLLS

Solar energy: A catalyst for transforming lives in West Africa

Solar energy is lighting the pathway to a better future for rural youth and women in West Africa; that's according to an engineer from Burkina Faso who attended a recent UN conference in Turkey devoted to the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The young people are being trained to install and maintain solar panels, water heaters and other items through a project called MAMA-LIGHT for Sustainable Energy.Princess Abze Djigma, founder of Abze Solar which produces the MAMA-LIGHT line of products, is behind the initiative.Princess Abze spoke to Reem Abaza who began by asking her if there was a conflict between the need for companies to be profitable as well as socially responsible.

Presenter: Jocelyne Sambira
Production Assistant: Ana Carmo
Duration: 10’00″

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General Assembly on HIV/AIDS

Note:  A complete summary of today's General Assembly meeting will be available after its conclusion.

Opening Remarks

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, said it was hard to believe that some 34 million people had died from AIDS-related diseased and that 14 million had been orphaned as a result.  It was harder to believe that approximately 6,000 new HIV infections occurred daily and that some 36.9 million people were living with AIDS.  That was unacceptable in a world of incredible possibility.  “Today is the moment, therefore, that collectively, we signal our intentions to strike out for victory, to fast-track efforts over the next five years and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” he said, emphasizing the impact of HIV/AIDS on development, economic growth and conflict and post-conflict situations.  He also noted how the epidemic had affected women and girls more than any other group, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and had an impact on young people, those who injected drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and prisoners.

In recent years, he said, there had been strong progress towards the goals and targets set out in 2011.  While reflecting on that progress and preparing for the next five years, the high-level meeting would identify best practices and lessons learned while determining how to overcome obstacles, plug gaps and address evolving challenges and opportunities.  “If we want to reach our 2030 target,” he said, “all stakeholders must now step up to the plate”, with greater global solidarity, more resources and greater collaboration and partnership.  More attention needed to be paid to equality, inclusion and the empowerment of women and girls by ensuring that key populations were included in AIDS responses and services were made available to them.  Ultimately, he said, there needed to be accountability for commitments made.  “Ending the AIDS epidemic would be one of the greatest achievements of our lifetime,” he said.  “It can be done and it must be done.”

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that a decade ago, AIDS was devastating families and communities.  In many low-income countries, treatment had been scarce.  In 2007, only 3 million people – one third of those in need – had access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

Enormous progress had been made, he said.  Since 2000, the global total of people receiving that treatment had doubled every three to four years because of less expensive drugs, increased competition and new funding.  Today, more than 17 million people were being treated, saving millions of lives and billions of dollars.  Moreover, the world had achieved Millennium Development Goal 6, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and had halted and begun to reverse its spread.  New HIV infections had declined by 35 per cent since 2000, while AIDS-related deaths had fallen by 43 per cent since 2003.

He said such success could not have happened without the leadership of people living with HIV and civil society partners, who had broken the silence and shone a light on discrimination and intolerance.  Investment in the AIDS response had strengthened health systems, social protection and community resilience.

Yet, AIDS was far from over, he went on to say.  In the next five years, there was a window of opportunity to “radically change” the epidemic’s trajectory and end AIDS forever.  “If we do not act, there is a danger the epidemic will rebound in low- and middle-income countries,” he said.  Action now could avert an estimated 17.6 million new infections and 11 million premature deaths between 2016 and 2030.  Such successes would require commitment at every level, from the global health infrastructure to all Member States, civil society and non-governmental organizations, and to the Security Council, which had addressed AIDS as a threat to human and national security.

“I call on the international community to reinforce and expand the unique, multisector, multi-actor approach of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),” he asserted, and ensure that the annual target of $26 billion in funding, including $13 billion over the next three years, was met through the Global Fund’s fifth replenishment.  That required continued advocacy and approaches that promoted gender equality and women’s empowerment.  It also meant removing punitive laws, policies and practices and providing access to HIV services without discrimination.

The future of people with HIV/AIDS must be central to every decision, he said.  Indeed, the AIDS response was a source of innovation and inspiration, showing what was possible when science, community activism, political leadership, passion and compassion came together.

MICHEL SIDIBÉ, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said today’s important Political Declaration would open a new door for ending AIDS.  “We, the peoples, have broken the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” he declared, highlighting that the number of new infections and related deaths had significantly been lowered and results had been delivered on the 2011 Political Declaration.  Recalling that in the General Assembly Hall, in 2001, someone had stated that treatment could not be provided to the poor, as it would be too expensive, he pointed out that at that time, treatment for each individual had cost $15,000 annually whereas today, that figure had dropped to less than $100 per person per year.

Providing some concrete results, he said it was the first time in history of HIV/AIDS that Africa had reached the “tipping point”, with more people on treatment than being newly infected.  While that was truly amazing, West Africa and Central Africa had been left behind, he said, urging leaders to mobilize energy to triple the initiation rate of treatment within three years.  It was important, after all, not to have a “two-speed” approach to the disease on the continent.

In addition, he said, the once distant dream to end mother-to-child transmission and create an AIDS-free generation was becoming a reality.  Cuba had eliminated such transmission and, yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) had certified that Thailand, Belarus and Armenia had done the same.  Many other countries would follow, he said.

Continuing, he said that four years ago, more than 58,000 babies in South Africa had been born with HIV/AIDS.  Today, there were less than 6,000 such cases.  Further, more than 80 countries had shown they would soon achieve the goal, as they had less than 50 babies born each year with HIV.  One by one, the bonds of discrimination and exclusion were being broken, he said, underlining the importance of including prisoners, migrants, people with disabilities, men having sex with men, people who used drugs, sex workers and transgender people.

“The door to the United Nations should be open to all,” he stressed.  “We cannot afford to silence their voices, as we come together to chart a course towards ending AIDS.”  The rights to health and dignity must be universal, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  The AIDS response had always been about partnership, innovation and social transformation and had produced unprecedented results:  8.8 million deaths had been averted.

But, those gains were fragile, he said.  Women were being raped, exploited and infected at the same rates as 20 years ago.  Adolescent girls remained “shockingly” vulnerable, with discrimination still pushing people into the shadows and preventing them from accessing life-saving treatment.  A prevention revolution was needed that placed young people at its centre.  It was unacceptable that 20 million people continued to die because of a lack of access.

“AIDS is not over,” he stressed, emphasizing that the next five years would be critical in placing countries on the “fast track”.  Testing should be normalized and the 90 million people who did not know their status must be reached.  “If we do not act now to break the backbone of the epidemic, once and for all, the world will never forgive us,” he said.  “We can do it.  We must do it.”

LOYCE MATURU, from Zimbabwe, described how in 2002 she lost her mother and brother to tuberculosis and AIDS and how, two years later, at the age of 12, she learned that she too had the same illnesses.  “It was the most depressing moment for me,” she said.  “I cried.  I thought I was going to die, but here I am today.”  In 2010, facing emotional and verbal abuse from a family member, she tried to kill herself with an overdose of medication.  After going to the hospital and receiving “massive counselling”, she told herself she would live to make sure that peers living with HIV became confident, healthy and hopeful for the future.  She said that today, she was thankful to be among 17 million people who represented the success of HIV treatment, but she was tired to see others with HIV die every day.

Identifying access and availability of treatment as a major challenge, she went on to emphasize the need for Governments not to exclude such persons as sex workers, those who inject drugs, prisoners and migrants.  While HIV treatment might be free, most clinics charged administrative fees that many could not afford.  Stigma remained a big barrier that had led to adolescents being denied jobs and scholarships, she said, appealing for investment in support mechanisms and advocacy for adolescents and young people with HIV/AIDS.  Without training for health-care workers on providing client-friendly treatment services, the next generation would face the same problems as the current one.  Noting that ending the epidemic would require teamwork, she said the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS must take advantage of the upcoming International AIDS Conference to start drawing a road map towards that objective, and for the Global Fund to End AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to be fully funded.  She concluded by urging participants to trust and believe adolescents and young people in their countries to help shape the way society thought about HIV/AIDS.

NDOBA MANDELA, a grandson of former President Nelson Mandela, from South Africa, recalled the death of his father from AIDS.  Citing his grandfather’s determination that his only son would not die in vain, he said the former president had prompted a national dialogue on AIDS in South Africa and global action around the world.  Given those efforts, he asked that participants at the high-level meeting continued Madiba’s legacy and ensured that none of the 34 million people who had died with AIDS did so in vain.  Going forward, “90-90-90 by 2020” should be a milestone for every country.  Yet, the epidemic would not be ended by treatment alone.  It would be a crime for the tools that stopped HIV infections were not used fully and immediately, he said, asking participants to ensure that persons at risk were able to live unafraid of arrest, physical danger or discrimination simply because of who they were or who they loved.

“Bigotry and fear do nothing but spread the [HIV] virus,” he said, asking the 35 countries with travel restrictions on foreigners living with HIV/AIDS to lift them immediately.  Echoing the call of his mentor, Michel Sidibé, he called for the end of AIDS to be the first target of the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by his generation.  Asking that all high-level meeting participants get tested for HIV, he said “always carry two condoms — one for you to use without fail and another to give to someone who isn’t carrying their own”.  Doing so did not cost much, but its impact would be priceless.  Lives would be saved and it would be the best down payment on ending AIDS.  The eyes of millions of people living with HIV were on the high-level meeting and they were counting on delegates to make an unprecedented commitment to end AIDS and for promises to be kept.

Action

A number of delegations took the floor before the vote on the draft resolution titled “Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS:  On the fast-track to accelerate the fight against HIV and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030” (document A/70/L.52).

The representative of Argentina, speaking also for Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay, welcomed gains achieved in addressing HIV/AIDS.  At the same time, he acknowledged critical gaps, reaffirming the commitment to full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the International Conference on Population and Development and its Programme of Action and the outcomes of their review conferences, and the previous HIV/AIDS political declarations.

He strongly reaffirmed the commitment to end new HIV/AIDS infections by 2030, including in conflict, post-conflict and other humanitarian crises.  Through evidence-based policies, he reaffirmed all human rights for all without distinction, with an emphasis on addressing structural inequalities for those who were living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.  He called for enhancing health-care systems and capacities for broad public health measures, condemning discrimination, stigma and violence, including hate crimes, against people living with, presumed to have, at risk of and affected by HIV, including by strengthening legal protections.  He committed to respecting the full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, expressing grave concern that AIDS was the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally.

The representative of Cuba said he had joined consensus on the Political Declaration, recognizing with concern that some challenges it contained should have been reflected more clearly.  The right to health must prevail over material, technological or intellectual ownership.  No legislation or practice should limit universal access to treatment, he said, stressing that it was unacceptable that price limited such access.  Comprehensive sexual education was essential to working with young people and adolescents, requiring resources to transfer the best technologies without conditions, under the auspices of the WHO and UNAIDS.  Realization of the right to development would ensure victory over HIV/AIDS, he said.

The General Assembly then adopted draft resolution “L.52”.

Speaking in explanation of position after the action, the representative of Iceland said he had joined consensus on the text and aligned with Argentina’s statement, reiterating the commitment to end the AIDS epidemic.  Iceland was against the term “sex worker”, as it was an incomplete reference to a key population group.  Thirty-five per cent of women globally would experience sexual and intimate violence in their lifetimes.  Bold actions were needed through a health system response and a multisectoral approach.  Also, Iceland qualified prostitution in all its forms as sexual violence, as the act of buying sex was incompatible with human dignity.  Iceland’s approach supported access for those who sold sex to health commodities.  The term “sex work” implied that selling sex was legalized, which was not the case in a large majority of countries.  In that context, it was important to recall the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women referred to prostitution, rather than “sex work”.  When referring to “sex workers”, there was a risk that those who did not sell sex for a profession were not covered by that term.  It excluded those forcibly sold into the sex industry.  UNAIDS had defined the sale of sex of those under 18 as “sexual exploitation”.  The term also excluded people younger than 18 years old.

He proposed that “people who sell sex” was a more complete reference to those vulnerable to HIV as a result of selling sex.  It was the term UNAIDS had used for those under and over the age of 18 years, and had allowed for variation among countries that had different legal frameworks, such as his own, which criminalized only the buyer.  Nothing in the text gave UNAIDS a mandate to advocate for the legalization of sex work.  The aim was to focus on the equitable deliver of treatment, care and support to those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

The representative of Singapore reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.  While joining consensus on the Political Declaration, she said the reference to “harm reduction” in paragraph 43 called on States to consider ensuring access to such approaches.  However, a range of approaches should be available to States.  It was not useful to attempt to prioritize strategies at the global level.  In Singapore, harm-reduction strategies were not relevant, since it had only a few cases of transmission through drug use.  Singapore took a balanced approach to drug policies, with effective enforcement, rehabilitation and community partnerships to facilitate reintegration.

The representative of Canada said his delegation would have preferred that the Political Declaration had contained a call to end stigma, discrimination and violence against key populations.  Canada strongly supported evidence-based harm-reduction measures and called upon Member States to consider their implementation.  Going forward, Canada would continue to work in close partnership with civil society and those at risk of infection.

The representative of Sudan, expressing a number of reservations, said the Political Declaration included several not-agreed-upon terms, such as “sexuality”, which ran counter to the legal frameworks of several countries, and “comprehensive education”, which meant comprehensive sexual education, a notion that violated the United Nations Charter and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  “Key populations” referred to a few groups and other parts of the Political Declaration included principles that contradicted several traditions and religions.  Sudan supported the principle of sovereignty, which was every Member State’s right, and renewed its commitment to ending the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The representative of the United States said that while the Political Declaration was necessary step, it was far from perfect and its language could have been stronger with regard leaving no one behind.  Despite medical advances, there had not been so much progress on preserving human rights and preventing stigma, discrimination and violence against those living with HIV/AIDS.  Comprehensive services needed to reach the most vulnerable populations and it was imperative to measure and change the dynamics driving stigma and discrimination, she said, adding that AIDS would not end without the protection of sexual and reproductive rights.  She went on to express a number of reservations, including the United States’ concern regarding the right to development, which had no internationally agreed meaning.

The representative of Australia called the Political Declaration “a milestone” in the fight against HIV/AIDS, placing a human rights approach to ending HIV at its core, and recognizing the need empower women and girls, including their sexual and reproductive rights, as central to ending HIV.  She urged States to see it as a minimum starting point to ending AIDS.  The Political Declaration should have gone further to include key populations.  Australia’s HIV/AIDS response was informed by “evidence of what works”, which included engaging key populations with services that delivered a high impact at lower cost.  Disappointed the text did not call to end stigma violence facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people globally, she condemned any efforts to interpret HIV/AIDS transmission as a criminal issue.

The representative of Djibouti underscored a national determination to implement non-discriminatory policies to eliminate AIDS by 2030.  Emphasizing the importance of leadership and national ownership in those efforts, she welcomed paragraph 4 for reaffirming States’ sovereign rights and the need to implement the Political Declaration in line with federal laws, development priorities and different cultural, religious and other values.  For Djibouti, key and vulnerable populations were women and young people.  References to sexual and reproductive health should not be interpreted as an appeal for people living with HIV/AIDS to interrupt their pregnancies, she said.  National efforts on that issue consisted of eliminating mother-to-child transmission and she urged continued support for those initiatives.  Djibouti ensured access to sexual and reproductive health services for all women under commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.  Paragraphs 14 and 61 of the Political Declaration did not imply a reinterpretation of the Cairo Programme of Action and could not be interpreted as a guarantee of uncontrolled access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago recognized the importance of paragraph 4, noting that health-care services, including in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, were provided to all citizens.  The provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis, however, went against his country’s post-exposure prophylactic policy.  Such an approach could give a false sense of security and encourage risky behaviour.  He was pleased to join consensus and pledged to implement the Political Declaration in line with national priorities.

The representative of Indonesia said the most effective way to eradicate HIV/AIDS was outlined in paragraph 57, through differentiated responses based on national ownership, local priorities, drivers, vulnerabilities and aggravating factors.  Paragraph 42 emphasized that each country should define vulnerable populations.  For its part, Indonesia recognized that such populations included those at a higher risk of HIV transmission.  On paragraph 39, he supported reducing risk-taking behaviour.  Stopping the virus required encouraging avoidance behaviours, such as abstinence and fidelity, which were the most effective ways to stop transmission.  Any reference made to adolescents should be interpreted as a reference to a “child”.  He was concerned at the use of “people who use drugs” as it had a different meaning than the agreed term.  More broadly, he said terms used in the Political Declaration would not serve as precedents for future decisions in other fora.

The representative of Egypt said his country had joined consensus on the Political Declaration, despite that it contained controversial points that did not reflect consensus on social, cultural and religious diversity.  His Government would implement its commitments as part of international and regional strategies to combat HIV/AIDS.  He dissociated himself from paragraphs 42, 62 (e), (g) and (h), as well as 61 (n) and (j), expressing concern at the multiple terms used, such as “people at high risk”, “key populations”, “high-risk populations” and “populations at risk because of epidemiological evidence”, which were not in line with Egypt’s values.

The representative of Iran said his country was committed to providing the widest possible access to care, treatment and support to people living with HIV/AIDS.  It was a public health issue and Governments were obliged to ensure the highest attainable health and well-being standards for all citizens.  It was expected that the Political Declaration would have avoided discriminatory approaches, but it was unacceptable that it had avoided appreciating risk-avoiding measures, such as fidelity and abstinence.  He expressed a reservation to any part of the Declaration that contravened Iran’s legal framework or religious and cultural values.  He reserved Iran’s position on de facto definitions, in paragraphs 42 and 62 (e), as they disregarded national circumstances.  Also, any reference to “children and adolescents” would take into account the roles and responsibilities of their parents.  He expressed concern that such misplaced terms as “people who misused drugs” were being used in the context of HIV/AIDS.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, reiterated States’ sovereign right to implement national programmes that were in line with legislation and religious, ethical and cultural values.  He expressed reservations about paragraphs 42 and 62 €, which used “key populations”, 60 (h) and 62 (g), which discussed “vulnerable populations”, as well as paragraph 61 (l).  Forced and early marriage was a crime under various conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He expressed a reservation about the term “sexual rights”, as it was important to consider national and regional specificities, cultural values and other aspects.

The representative of Mauritania said it was clear that AIDS was a serious danger and a huge challenge.  However, the Political Declaration included principles with which he could not agree, he said, expressing reservations about all concepts that ran counter to national legislation.

The representative of Libya echoed the view expressed by some other delegations that the Political Declaration ran counter to national legislation and Muslim traditions.  However, his delegation had joined consensus, mindful of the need to address the illness.  Once his country had achieved stability, it would contribute to eliminating the illness so that Africa could enjoy sustainable development by 2030.

The representative of the Russian Federation said there was no doubt about the need to step up efforts to combat the spread of HIV infections.  However, she said, the main responsibility for protecting populations from infections rested with the States themselves.  She expressed disappointment that, unlike the 2011 declaration, the focus had shifted from real measures to help countries to end the epidemic to other questions that did not enjoy a large consensus.  She expressed a number of reservations, including the obligation to reform national legislation with respect to infected populations and the language regarding key groups and sexual education.  In her country, implementation would be carried out only in line with national policies and traditions.

The representative of Yemen, echoing concerns that had been raised by some of his counterparts, expressed reservations about terminology that ran counter to national legislation.

The representative of the Holy See said that, in combating discrimination and stigmatization, a difference needed to be made with measures to prevent risk-taking behaviour.  The only safe and reliable method of preventing the sexual transmission of AIDS was abstinence before marriage and respect for fidelity in marriage.  The Holy See did not consider abortion as a dimension of reproductive health.  Regarding contraception and condom use, he reaffirmed his support for the family planning methods that the Catholic Church considered morally acceptable.  Among other reservations, he said his delegation understood the term gender as referring to persons born male or female.

Statements

ROCH MARC CHRISTIAN KABORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, said the fourth national HIV response document covering 2016 to 2020 was part of national strategic plans that prioritized high-impact methods.  In turn, the strategic national framework was part of international efforts to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.  Citing gains, he said Burkina Faso had lowered and stabilized HIV/AIDS prevalence, increased access to treatment and was seeking innovative ways to mobilize resources.  Prevalence had fallen to 0.9 per cent in 2014 from 1.2 per cent in 2011, with priority given to reducing mother-to-child transmission.  The Government had been providing free antiretroviral treatment to people with HIV/AIDS since 2010, he said.

Urging more needs-based adaptions of strategies, including for vulnerable and high risk groups, in order to control transmission, better target interventions and strengthen both the gender and human rights aspects of care and support, he said additional efforts were needed to reduce new infections among women and young people and from mother-to-child with a view to achieving the 90-90-90 objective by 2020.  For its part, Burkina Faso was also determined to improve budget allocations to fight HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, he said.

ROXANA GUEVARA, Vice-President of Honduras, said intelligent investments were needed to reduce new HIV/AIDS infections and related deaths, stressing the strategic importance of prevention and guaranteed access to key populations, with an emphasis on adolescents and young people.  Condemning the assassination of a well-known leader of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and/or intersex community of Honduras, a crime that had had homophobic characteristics, she stressed that the Government had ordered an investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Honduras was limited by resources, but had the will to enhance care, treatment and support for people living with HIV.  She appealed to donors to continue their support and to others that had withdrawn their assistance to restore it.  Violence and discrimination persisted, she said, urging that barriers to testing and care be dismantled.  Emphasis must be placed on young people and their rights.  Resources must also be used to target key populations, people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, women, men, adolescents and young people, she said, calling for the allocation of resources, increased availability of diagnostic tests, promotion of responsible sexual conduct and the protection of the lives of the unborn.

TIMOTHY HARRIS, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the region had made great strides between 2006 and 2015.  The HIV prevalence rate had been halved and the estimated number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy had increased from 5 to 44 per cent.  Despite progress made, the region was second to sub-Saharan Africa in its prevalence rate.  The vast majority of people living with HIV were concentrated in three countries, where prevalence among the key risk groups could be as high as 32 per cent.

Expressing support for the global and regional leadership of UNAIDS, he noted that the organization had demonstrated what could be achieved through coordinated policies.  As the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provided new challenges and opportunities, CARICOM placed greater emphasis on capacity-building, lessons learned, universal health-care coverage and affordable medicine.  In 2002, the region had become the first to negotiate and sign an agreement with six pharmaceutical companies, reducing drug prices by about 85 to 90 per cent.  Turning to the Political Declaration, he recognized that it provided useful guidelines, but stressed the need to take into consideration cultural, political, social and economic circumstances.  On the financing required to end AIDS, he decried the calculations of contributions based on gross domestic product (GDP) alone because it had failed to include other factors that were impeding small economies.

BARNABAS SIBUSISO DLAMINI, Prime Minister of Swaziland, expressed his country’s hope to end AIDS by 2022.  That meant accelerating efforts in reducing new infections and eliminating all forms of stigma and discrimination.  It would require greater involvement of people living with HIV and of men as strategic partners, he said, underscoring the need to address the vulnerabilities of young women and girls.  He then went on to stress that HIV treatment must be extended beyond the health-care system by strengthening the role of communities.  That would improve adherence to life-long treatment, create efficiencies in service delivery and reduce new infections, he pointed out.

While his country remained committed to financing the HIV/AIDS response, he said it was crucial that global development fora prioritized discussions about sustainable financing.  The agenda for ending the epidemic by 2030 would be accomplished through the improved collaboration within regional blocs, he said, noting that it would create efficiencies in areas including HIV research.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA, Prime Minister of Uganda, said national strategies had attached great importance to fast-tracking the fight against HIV and ending the AIDS epidemic.  In partnership with development partners, the private sector, civil society, religious and cultural leaders and local communities, Uganda had made significant strides in combating that epidemic since 2011.  The focus of national efforts had been to implement high-impact structural, behavioural and biomedical interventions on a sufficient scale and intensity.

Sharing the outcomes of some of those initiatives, he noted that the number of new HIV infections had declined to 83,265 from 162,000, and prevalence among HIV-exposed infants had fallen to 3 per cent from 19 per cent in 2007.  Furthermore, the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy had increased to 834,931 in 2015 from 588,039 in 2013.  Regarding efforts to achieve the 90-90-90 targets, he noted that 65 per cent of the HIV-infected population had been diagnosed and given access to care.  In that regard, Uganda’s population HIV impact assessment survey, which would begin in July, would provide the Government with better and current estimates.  Despite those achievements, challenges remained in order to fast track the response, he said, expressing concern that only 55 per cent of Ugandans had ever been tested for HIV and 43 per cent of those eligible for antiretroviral therapy were not receiving treatment.

MOTHETJOA METSING, Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho, said his country had one of the highest adult HIV prevalence as there were an estimated 52 new infections and 26 deaths each day.  Although the epidemic had been stable over the years, the level was too high to realize the target of 90-90-90.  Lesotho had adopted the WHO 2015 HIV testing services and prevention, care and treatment guidelines and the Prime Minister had launched a “test and treat” strategy in April.  “We are focusing on innovative targeted community-based HIV testing services,” he said, emphasizing that the aim was to reach key populations, such as sex workers, people with disabilities and tuberculosis patients.  To ensure that no one was left behind, the international community must do more to reach the most affected populations.  While Lesotho was on the right path, existing testing and treatment were not enough and the global community must provide support through increased and innovative funding, he concluded.

PAUL BIYOGHE MBA, Deputy Prime Minister of Gabon, said that HIV in Africa remained a major public health threat, like malaria and non-transmittable diseases.  Gabon had not escaped its multiple devastating effects and despite enormous efforts, the struggle against HIV/AIDS was far from being won.  More needed to be done, he said, emphasizing the impact of the economic and financial crisis on developing countries.  Progress that had been made so far on HIV/AIDS would be in vain if some countries, including middle-income countries like Gabon, were excluded from international aid.  Only greater solidarity and the intensive mobilization of meaningful financing would enable a fast-tracked response to HIV/AIDS, he said.

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UN General Assembly adopts political declaration to fast-track progress on ending AIDS

8 June 2016 – At a high-level meeting on ending AIDS that opened at the United Nations General Assembly today, Member States adopted a new political declaration that includes a set of time-bound targets to fast-track the pace of progress towards combating the worldwide scourge of HIV and AIDS over the next five years and end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.

“AIDS is far from over,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized at the opening of the meeting.

“Over the next five years, we have a window of opportunity to radically change the trajectory of the epidemic and put an end to AIDS forever. Despite remarkable progress, if we do not act, there is a danger the epidemic will rebound in low- and middle-income countries,” he added.

The high-level meeting, which runs through Friday, brings together heads of State and Government, ministers, people living with HIV, representatives from civil society and international organizations, the private sector, scientists and researchers to build on the commitments made in the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS and to set the world on course to end the epidemic by 2030 within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Specifically, participants will focus on the importance of a fast-track approach to HIV during the next five years in order to ensure that global efforts are accelerated during that time, as highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report, On the fast track to ending the AIDs epidemic.

The Fast-Track approach of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) aims to achieve such targets as fewer than 500,000 people newly infected with HIV; fewer than 500,000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses; and eliminating HIV-related discrimination.

In his remarks, Mr. Ban noted that when he became Secretary-General 10 years ago, AIDS was still devastating families, communities and nations. In many low-income countries, treatment was scare – in 2007, only 3 million people, or one-third of those in need, had access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the General Assembly High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“We have made enormous progress. Since 2000 the global total of people receiving antiretroviral treatment doubled every three to four years, thanks to cheaper drugs, increased competition and new funding. Today, more than 17 billion people are being treated, saving millions of lives and billions of dollars,” the Secretary-General said.

Furthermore, the world has achieved Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 – which included halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic – and new HIV infections have declined by 35 per cent since 2000, the UN chief said.

Noting that he was particularly happy that new HIV infections among children were down by 56 per cent in the past 15 years, the Secretary-General said that four countries had eliminating them completely: Armenia, Belarus, Cuba and Thailand.

“None of this could have happened without the leadership of people living with HIV, and civil society partners on the ground around the world. They believed that more equitable treatment and access was possible, and they made sure that we responded,” Mr. Ban said.

“They broke the silence and shone a light on discrimination, intolerance and stigma. They brought their passion to their fight, and that passion will make the end of AIDS a reality,” he added.

Reiterating that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development affirms the global commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic within 15 years, the Secretary-General stressed that action now could avert an estimated 17.6 million new infections and 11 million premature deaths between 2016 and 2030.

“But we must make a radical change within the next five years, if we are to achieve that goal,” Mr. Ban said. “That requires commitment at every level: from the global health infrastructure, to all Member States, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations, to the United Nations Security Council that has dealt with AIDS as a humanitarian issue and a threat to human and national security.”

The Secretary-General called on the international community to reinforce and expand on the “unique, multi-sector, multi-actor approach” of UNAIDS, and to ensure that the annual target of $26 billion in funding, including $13 billion for the next three years, is met.

“It means continued advocacy to the most vulnerable groups; and approaches that promote gender equality and empower women. It means leaving no one behind and removing punitive laws, policies and practices that violate people’s dignity and human rights,” Mr. Ban said.

‘One of the greatest achievements of our lifetime’

Also speaking at the opening of the high-level meeting was the UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, who emphasized that the meeting was laying the groundwork for future progress in creating healthier outcomes for everyone affected by HIV, as well as building stronger societies prepared for future challenges.

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, chairs the High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“Today is the moment, therefore, that collectively, we signal our intentions to strike out for victory, to fast-track efforts over the next five years and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” he said.

“This is an epidemic that undermines development, significantly impacts on economic growth and can be a major concern in conflict and post-conflict situations,” he added.

Encouraging participants to be mindful of and listen to the various speakers who will be participating in the meeting over the coming days, Mr. Lykketoft called on all stakeholders to “step up to the plate.”

“We have to deliver greater global solidarity, bring more resources and spend them more effectively. We have to bring even greater collaboration and partnership, building on the many excellent initiatives created these past two decades aimed at prevention, treatment, care and support,” he added.

Mr. Lykketoft also stressed that stakeholders must also ensure that key populations are fully included in AIDS responses and that services are made available to them.

“Ending the AIDS epidemic would be one of the greatest achievements of our lifetimes. It can be done and it must be done,” he said.

‘Door of the UN should be open to all’

Also speaking today, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said that the meeting represented an opportunity to end an epidemic that had defined public health for a generation.

“I know it was not easy, I know it was complex, but this political declaration will certainly help us to close a door and open a new one for ending AIDS,” he said.

Referencing the UN Charter, Mr. Sidibé thanked all stakeholders for their collective efforts, commitment and support in combatting the AIDS epidemic.

“We the people have broken the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic,” he stressed.

“We the people made this commitment together, and we delivered this result together. It was not a few of us. It was not some of us. The United Nations must always represent all of us,” he added.

Indeed, he said, the decisions made during the meeting will provide the springboard for the implementation of an innovative and socially just agenda to end the AIDS epidemic.

“One by one, we are breaking the bonds of stigma, discrimination, prejudice and exclusion. We should work to ensure that no one is left behind because of who they are or who they love,” he said.

“The door of the UN should be open to all. We cannot afford to silence their voices as we come together to chart a course towards ending the AIDS epidemic,” he added.

‘It is in our hands’

Participants at today’s meeting also heard from Loyce Maturu, a 24-year-old activist living in Zimbabwe, who shared her story about being born with HIV and later contracting tuberculosis.

Ms. Matura stressed that among the barriers that hinder progress in combating the AIDS epidemic are stigma and access by people living with and affected by the disease to treatment, care and support services.

“For us to accelerate ending AIDS among adolescents and young people, there is a need to invest in evidence-based adherence support interventions,” she said.

The opening ceremony concluded with Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of the late Nelson Mandela, who recalled that, when he was 21 years old, his father had died of AIDS.

Ndaba Mandela, grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela and activist engaged in the response to HIV/AIDS, addresses the General Assembly High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“But my grandfather was not afraid of the truth. Nelson Mandela instead spoke out loudly and with dignity: His only son, Makgatho Lewanika Mandela, had died of AIDS,” he said.

Noting that his father’s death was the beginning of a national dialogue on AIDS in South Africa and global action around the world, Mr. Mandela said he was participating in the meeting to ask stakeholders to continue the legacy of leadership and unity.

“I am here to ask you to ensure that each of the 34 million people who have died of AIDS have not died in vain,” he said.

“Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘It is in our hands,’” he added.

The high-level meeting is being co-facilitated by Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, and Patricia Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Permanent Representative of Zambia to the UN.

Activities will include a series of panel discussions and side events, including on leveraging the end of AIDS for social transformation and sustainable development, financing and sustaining the end of AIDS and stopping new HIV infections.

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