Summary: September 22, 2003: Statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations by H.E. Mr. Franco Frattini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, on behalf of the European Union. Fifty-Eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. HIGH-LEVEL PLENARY MEETINGS DEVOTED TO THE FOLLOW-UP TO THE OUTCOME OF THE TWENTY-SIXTH SPECIAL SESSION AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECLARATION OF COMMITMENT ON HIV/AIDS (New York)
Mr. President, Heads of State and Government, Mr. Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have the honour to address the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations on behalf of the European Union, whose Presidency Italy holds until the end of the current calendar year. The acceding countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia, align themselves with this statement.
Pursuant to the Declaration of Commitment at the Twenty-Sixth United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, held on 25 to 27 June 2001, intended to maintain the momentum and monitor progress on HIV/AIDS issues, we are here today to review and address the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects, reaffirm our global commitment and call on all countries to strengthen their partnership and co-ordination in order to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic and make progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
1. Today we have reached a common awareness that the international community has a responsibility not to fall short, once again, of the goal of "health for all". The tragic toll in victims of HIV/AIDS, especially among the poorest and most afflicted, demands a global response. We insist on the term "global" because the globalisation process must be interpreted and governed within a perspective of collaboration with the poorest countries.
2. Strong political leadership is essential to the success of the fight against HIV/AIDS. The commitment of political leaders is particularly important in overcoming stigma and discrimination and in the implementation of national HIV/AIDS strategies and action programmes. The EU recognises the commitment of many leaders here today, particularly in Africa. However, a strong political engagement is still required, including in those countries where the disease is gaining a foothold and where HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are increasing rapidly.
3. Preventing HIV from spreading is difficult but not impossible: some countries have proven this by slowing the growth of the epidemic or even reversing it. We must increase our common efforts to help more nations and people to increase preventive measures in order to break the vicious cycle of disease and poverty worldwide.
4. In the conclusions of the May 2001 Council on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, the European Union defined its policies on the three diseases on the basis of the Commission's Programme for Action on Communicable Diseases adopted in February 2001; the same policies were further stipulated in the EU Regulation on Poverty Diseases adopted in June 2003.
5. As indicated in the conclusions of the UN Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, which were agreed to at the European Summit in Barcelona in March 2002, Member States collectively committed themselves to collectively raise the Official Development Assistance level to 0.39% of the Gross National Income by 2006 as a first significant step toward the UN goal of 0.7% ODA/GNI. This will be achieved thanks to substantial efforts by current EU Member States either to stay above 0.7% ODA/GNI or to strive to achieve at least 0.33% ODA/GNI, depending on each country's starting point.
6. In its May 2002 Council Conclusions, the European Union agreed that a substantial share of the ODA increase should go to support for social development in developing countries, with special emphasis on improving health and education outcomes, including HIV/AIDS.
7. The European Union recalls that, on an annual basis, the European Community and the Member States provide more than 50% of all current development assistance and 65% of world assistance for health, AIDS and population in developing countries.
8. The European Union considers that fighting illnesses such as HIV/AIDS can only be effective and achieve sustainable results if they build upon and harmonise with existing systems and processes at the national and international level.
9. Within this context we recognise that an efficient and effective health care system accessible to all is an absolute priority. Transmissible diseases should be controlled by getting the national and local healthcare systems of each country to adopt sustainable, integrated strategies. In other words, the resources mobilised for specific illnesses should be used to improve and expand health-care systems as a whole. The success of this fight is highly dependent on well-functioning national primary heath care systems.
10. The European Union recognises the importance of assuring, at the single-country level, a process of broad sector-by-sector planning in which public and private partners work together to carefully identify and promote priorities and needs as well as internal and external resources. We feel that a similar process should be enacted at every level, assuring strong co-ordination between bilateral and multilateral donors as well as between UN agencies.
11. With the full support of the Member States and the European Parliament, the European Commission has worked to adopt a regulation to allocate an extra 351 million Euros to the EU Action Programme for four years.
12. The European Commission has allocated more than a billion additional Euros to the Action Programme to date. For the fight against HIV/AIDS, a special budget focusing on reproductive and sexual health and rights, worth a total of 74 million Euros for the next four years has been allocated. If we are to contain the HIV/AIDS pandemic and if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we must pay due attention to the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including services. In this respect, the education of women and girls is of vital importance.
13. The European Union welcomes the WTO agreement on the implementation of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and public health and promotes every possible option for improving the availability and reliability of drugs. This includes lowering prices and supporting local manufacture of drugs-especially anti-retroviral treatments-in order to make the careful distribution of such medicines more effective in the poorest countries. We support and encourage more research development covering new drugs and vaccines for poverty-related diseases. In this context the EU promotes the strengthening of national health care systems to procure, store and distribute drugs.
14. We want to make more progress in tiered pricing of medicines, an idea we introduced a few years ago which has just received a boost through the adoption of ground-breaking EU legislation. This legislation seeks to prevent the re-importing of reduced-price drugs into Europe and therefore to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to get involved. Some laboratories have already done so.
15. The EU Regulation on Poverty Diseases defines the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as an additional financing instrument that targets the three diseases.
16. The European Union re-affirms the urgent need to mobilize international private and public resources for global and other channels addressing the three diseases, on a long-term sustainable and predictable basis.
17. The European Union contributed US$ 472 million to the Global Fund in 2001-2002 and is prepared to make a longer-term sustainable contribution, as indicated at the 16 July Paris Conference on GFATM. Moreover, the European Union acknowledges the essential role of the UN system in general and UNAIDS in particular in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The roles of the Global Fund and the UN system are complementary: a strong Fund requires a strong UN.
18. As outlined in the European Council conclusions in Thessaloniki, the European Union "calls upon each Member State and the Commission to make a substantial contribution, on a long-term basis, to the financing of the Fund", which currently amounts to 2.5 billion dollars. The European Community and its Members States will, subject to their respective budget allocation processes as well as to the performance of the Global Fund, collectively continue their support and, if possible, increase their contribution. In light of the seriousness of the situation, the European Union encourages other donors to do the same.