12 January 2000


In Address to Security Council, Secretary-General Says Fight Against AIDS in Africa Immediate Priority
In Global Effort against Disease

Kofi Annan Says Efforts Must Be Part and Parcel of Work
For Peace and Security in Continent

NEW YORK, 11 January (UN Headquarters) C Following is the text of a statement by Secretary- General Kofi Annan, which he delivered on Monday, 10 January, at an open meeting of the Security Council on the subject of "The Situation in Africa: the impact of AIDS on peace and security":

Thank you, Mr. Vice-President, [United States Vice President Al Gore] for that thoughtful statement. Your presence here today is a promising start indeed to the New Year, and welcome evidence of your country's commitment to the United Nations.

As we open this new millennium, many of us have much to be thankful for. Most of the world is at peace. Most of us are better educated than our parents or grandparents. We can expect to live longer lives, with greater freedom and a wider range of choices.

But we also face new challenges -- or old ones in new and alarming forms. For instance:

  • environmental degradation;
  • ethnic conflicts;
  • bad or inadequate governance;
  • widespread violations of human rights;
  • illiteracy and ill health;
  • the growing problem of inequality both within and between States;
  • and, above all, the exclusion of too many of the world's people from the benefits of globalization, whereby nearly half the human race is condemned to remain in lingering, stubborn poverty.

No part of the world is exempt from these problems. But Africa, it seems, has more than its share:

  • Of the 48 least developed countries in the world, 33 are in Africa.
  • Out of two dozen or more conflicts raging around the world, roughly half are in Africa.
  • Fifteen sub-Saharan African countries are currently faced with exceptional food emergencies. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, over 10 million people's food supplies are threatened by civil strife.
  • And out of 11 million orphans so far left by the global AIDS epidemic, 90 per cent are African children.

Mr. Vice-President, those figures speak for themselves. They amply justify your country's decision to make this first month of new era a "Month of Africa" in the Security Council -- just as the Organisation of African Unity has declared this whole year the Year of Peace, Security and Solidarity in Africa. It is good that Africans are taking the lead, because the inspiration for genuine and viable peace must spring from within the peoples that are in conflict, and especially from their leaders.

Many parts of the continent are making impressive progress. There is no need to give way to "Afro-pessimism". On the contrary, there could be no better moment for the international community to rally to Africa's support.

And within its Month of Africa, it is entirely appropriate that this Council should be devoting its first session to the problem of AIDS.

Some may say that such a topic should be left to other United Nations bodies. I believe, however, that this Council would not do itself justice if it held a Month of Africa without discussing what Ambassador Holbrooke has called "the number one problem facing Africa today".

Not that AIDS is a purely African problem. There are many countries outside Africa, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, where it is spreading at an alarming rate.

But nowhere else has AIDS yet become a threat to economic, social and political stability on the scale that it now is in southern and eastern Africa.

The impact of AIDS in that region is no less destructive than that of warfare itself. Indeed, by some measures it is far worse. Last year, AIDS killed about ten times more people in Africa than did armed conflict.

By overwhelming the continent's health services, by creating millions of orphans and by decimating health workers and teachers, AIDS is causing social and economic crises which in turn threaten political stability. It also threatens good governance, through high death rates among the elites, both public and private.

In already unstable societies, this cocktail of disasters is a sure recipe for more conflict. And conflict, in turn, provides fertile ground for further infections. The breakdown of health and education services, the obstruction of humanitarian assistance, the displacement of whole populations and a high infection rate among soldiers -- as in other groups which move back and forth across the continent -- all these ensure that the epidemic spreads ever further and faster.

In short, Mr. Vice-President, HIV/AIDS is not only an African problem. It is global and must be recognized as such. But within that international obligation the fight against AIDS in Africa is an immediate priority, which must be part and parcel of our work for peace and security in that continent.

As most African governments have now understood, the first battle to be won in the war against AIDS is the battle to smash the wall of silence and stigma surrounding it.

A month ago, here at United Nations Headquarters, we held the first high-level meeting of African governments and United Nations agencies directly involved in the fight against AIDS, along with donor governments, private corporations and non-governmental organizations. I called on them to formulate, by next May, a response commensurate with the scale of the crisis; and I spelled out the specific responsibility of each partner in the struggle.

It now gives me great pleasure to welcome this Council as an additional partner. Your role, I suggest, must be to prevent conflict from contributing to the spread of AIDS, and from impeding the efforts that other partners are making to control it.

I hope today's meeting will help make it clear to the whole world that the United Nations system, in all its parts, is today giving Africa's problems the attention they need, and which Africans deserve.

Later in this session, you will be hearing more about the economic and social, as well as the more strictly health-related aspects of the epidemic, from my colleagues Jim Wolfensohn, Mark Malloch Brown and Peter Piot. I believe their contributions -- alongside you own, Mr. Vice-President, and those of other Member States -- will help make it clear to the whole world that the United Nations system, in all its parts, is giving Africa’s problems the attention they need, and which Africans deserve


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* Reissued as delivered