SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES PARLIAMENTARIANS ON CHILDREN AND HIV/AIDS
NEW YORK, 12 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is an English translation of the text of a French-language message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the 106th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference, delivered on 9 September on his behalf by Olara Otunnu, his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso:
It is with great pleasure that I extend to you my warm greetings. I am pleased that protection of children and the fight against AIDS are on your agenda.
As you know, the aim of the special session of the General Assembly on children, which is to be held from 19 to 21 September, is to change the way the world views and treats children. To that end, Member States will have to agree on a plan of action and steps to ensure to all children the best possible start in life, a good quality basic education and a chance to participate fully in the life of their society.
More than 70 heads of State and government have already announced that they will come to New York to participate in the special session. I am pleased at the interest countries have expressed in this important meeting. But this wonderful enthusiasm must not be allowed to wane once the special session is over. That is why I urge you to play your role fully as genuine representatives of the people, and to see to it that the commitments which will be taken are effectively followed by concrete actions at the national level.
Accordingly, I welcome your initiative in organizing with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), parallel to the special session, a Parliamentarians' Forum for Children in order to reflect on legislative strategies and measures to achieve the goals that will be set.
The textbook on the worst forms of child labour, which the IPU is in the process of preparing in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), is also an important initiative. I am convinced that it will help to sensitize parliamentarians more fully to the harmful effect that exploitation of child labour has on the economic and social development of countries and to foster the adoption of juridical measures and programmes to eliminate these abominable practices all over the world.
The scourge of HIV/AIDS is another challenge that we will be unable to overcome unless we join forces and efforts. In 2000 alone, AIDS killed 3 million people -- a sad record indeed. As if that were not enough, the epidemic is mowing down, as a matter of preference, those who are in the prime of life and who are in the most productive layers of society.
The epidemic has assumed catastrophic proportions in Africa, but parts of Asia and the Caribbean have been struck almost as hard, and the disease is spreading at an alarming speed in Eastern Europe.
National parliaments have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the commitments made at the special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS last June do not turn out to be empty promises. It is up to you to promote national strategies to prevent and combat HIV/AIDS, to allocate the resources necessary for strengthening national public health services and treatments for AIDS patients, and to ensure that programmes to combat AIDS are given the highest priority in national budgets. You must also do everything within your power at the legislative level to put an end to the discrimination and exclusion from which people living with HIV/AIDS suffer.
The IPU is better equipped than any other body to encourage the public and the private sector to contribute to the Global AIDS and Health Fund and to encourage donor governments and their parliaments to increase official development assistance to poor countries which are devoting increased resources to combating AIDS.
I should like, in conclusion, to encourage you to pursue actively your work to strengthen representative democracy throughout the world. Certainly, democratic legitimacy has been established or restored in many countries in the past 20 years, but democracy is an ongoing work and we must remain vigilant if we want to maintain what has been gained. You represent the peoples and, as such, you are the main depositories of democratic legitimacy. If we want democracy to triumph in the world and if we want the people of all the countries to set aside their differences and to unite in order to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, it is essential that your voice be heard.
It is in that spirit that I am pleased to continue the close cooperation that has been established between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union; I await the outcome of your Conference with interest.
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