Delegates Also Elect Five Non-Permanent Council Members, Review Progress in Implementing Political Declarations on HIV/AIDS
Delegates in the General Assembly today pressed the Security Council to deliver an annual report that moves beyond a simple compilation of activities and scrutinizes its urgent and critical work to uphold global peace and security, as they reviewed the Council’s 2021 activities after electing five non-permanent members to the 15-member body.
Opening the discussion, Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives) said it is crucial to hold the Council accountable for its actions or lack of them, noting that the United Nations has a responsibility to its 8 billion constituents. He welcomed the Assembly’s meeting on Wednesday, which resulted from the recently established standing mandate for an Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Council by a permanent member. Calling it revolutionary, he added it is in the international community’s common interest to encourage such collaboration.
Ferit Hoxha (Albania), Security Council President for June, introducing the body’s report, said its deliberations in 2021 focused on peace and security in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. It remained fully mobilized despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the second year in a row its annual report was adopted no later than 30 May, a response to the wider membership’s demands to facilitate discussion in the Assembly.
Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, welcomed the report’s valuable overview of the Council’s work, yet encouraged a more analytical account. This would include additional details on the draft resolutions that were not adopted, the grounds of the rejection and the use of the veto. He also wanted information on the Council’s main deliberations during closed sessions to provide more transparency.
Likewise, many delegates, while welcoming the timely adoption of the report, were dissatisfied that it was a simple list of activities and resolutions and did not provide enough analysis of the Council’s work.
The speaker for Liechtenstein said the document had little information about actions taken to address and reverse the trends of increasing international humanitarian law violations and failures to protect civilians. “In various crisis situations the Council has fallen short of its Charter mandate,” he said, citing the decision to restrict cross-border humanitarian aid delivery in Syria, the situations in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and the inability to pass any text addressing the aggression against Ukraine as notable examples. He also praised the Assembly’s recent adoption of resolution 76/262 — known as the “Veto Initiative” — which means that a permanent member of the Council “will now no longer have the last word”, and expressed his hope that it will lead to fewer vetoes in the future.
Noting that the Council’s annual reports are a critical transparency tool, Iran’s representative said that by only providing a descriptive account of its meetings and communications, the Council had prevented the Assembly from comprehensively assessing its performance. Stressing that some countries use thematic issues to interfere in the internal matters of other States, he called on the Council to “stick to its mandate”. The 15-member body has failed to discharge its responsibilities, including in the case of Palestine, where the Israeli regime commits atrocities with the full knowledge of the Council and no accountability.
On that point, South Africa’s delegate said the Council was not able to move ahead on important matters such as the question of Palestine because of its inability to act with one voice. Reform is urgent and the Council must become accountable to the Assembly on long-standing issues such as these, he said, also calling for greater cooperation with the African Union.
Costa Rica’s representative, noting that transparency and accountability are more urgent than ever, stressed the need to effectively codify the Council’s best practices and lessons learned in the current crisis. The paucity of substantive content in the report precludes the possibility of a robust debate on the Council’s internal workings. “This is of little use,” he said, noting the lack of voting results, disagreements or the vetoes that may have occurred during the reporting period. Calling for a more reflective annual report, he said the current one does not explain in detail the obstacles that precede the Council’s inaction on some issues. The international community is kept in the dark as the body continues to hold closed-door meetings, which should only occur in exceptional circumstances. He also questioned why Council members are not present throughout the Assembly’s debate on their report, adding: “We seem to be involved in a dialogue with the dead.”
Prior to the discussion on the Council’s annual report, in one round of voting during the morning session, the Assembly elected five non-permanent Council members to replace members whose terms expire on 31 December 2022. They included Switzerland and Malta, for the two seats open for Western European and other States; Mozambique and Japan to the two seats in the category of African and Asia-Pacific States; and Ecuador to the single seat open for the Latin American and Caribbean States. The two-year terms will end on 1 January 2023.
In the afternoon, the Assembly turned its attention to a critical global health-care issue as it reviewed the progress made in implementing its 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2021 Political Declaration on ending AIDS by 2030. The Assembly President, opening the discussion, said that since the first reported case in 1981, 79 million people have contracted the disease and 36 million people have died. The virus continues to take 13,000 lives every week and millions of people have been lost or impacted by the crisis over the last four decades.
Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica), Chef de Cabinet of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, delivering a statement on his behalf, said the long-running HIV pandemic takes one life every minute and “remains the deadliest pandemic of our times”. The war in Ukraine side-tracked progress towards tackling the disease, already off-track when the COVID-19 pandemic began, further afield. “It is both encouraging and frustrating that we know what works,” he said, emphasizing that the international community can end AIDS if it works together to tackle inequalities.
Many delegates stressed the need to ramp up collective and national efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS by the decade’s end in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being).
The speaker for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the HIV pandemic can seem like a forgotten issue against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Yet it is far from resolved, and the Secretary-General’s report notes that if the international community fails to act on HIV, it will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 on ending epidemics — including AIDS — by 2030.
The representative of Barbados, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that while global AIDS-related deaths and HIV infections have fallen over the last 20 years, they have not decreased at the rate necessary to end the scourge by 2030. He noted that the Caribbean region, along with sub-Saharan Africa, has had the strongest reductions in transmission since 2010 — the result of indigenous policies and approaches consistent with the region’s political, legal, social and cultural environment.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Portugal, Austria, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Poland, Malta, Cuba, Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Italy, Slovenia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Panama (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Namibia (speaking for the African Group), Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Liberia, Cuba, Zambia, Canada, Kenya, India, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Angola, Brazil, United States, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Norway and the United Kingdom.
The representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 10 June to conclude its debate on implementing the Declaration of Commitment and Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, as well as to elect members of the Economic and Social Council and consider its agenda item on multilingualism.
Report of Security Council for 2021
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, noting the return of in-person high-level meetings in the Council in 2021, said this epitomizes the value of in-person diplomacy. Stressing the importance of inclusivity to the Organization’s work, he highlighted the increased number of women present in the Council meetings in 2021 compared to 2019. Pointing to the string of current international crises, from climate change to the conflict in Ukraine, he said the most vulnerable continue to bear their consequences, including the disruption of food and energy supply chains. Recalling that the Council was created precisely to maintain peace and that the Assembly holds the responsibility to discuss issues related to peace and make recommendations to that body, he stressed that the report is an opportunity for the Assembly to do this. It is crucial to hold the Council accountable for its actions or lack of them, he said, noting that the United Nations has a responsibility to its 8 billion constituents. Welcoming yesterday’s debate, which resulted from the recently established standing mandate for an Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Council by a permanent member, he called it revolutionary, adding that it is in the common interest of the entire international community to encourage such collaboration.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Security Council President for June, said that, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 — both on the Council’s functioning and on the crises on which it is seized — “the Council remained fully mobilized in 2021”. During that time, the organ sought to strike the right balance between transparency and confidentiality while also endeavouring to be more inclusive. Detailing the Council’s hybrid working methods in 2021 and eventual return to normalcy in the second half of that year, he said that the Council adopted 57 resolutions and 24 presidential statements, while also issuing 60 statements to the press over that time. Further, it conducted a mission to Mali and Niger — the first since 2019 — which illustrates the progressive return to the normal conduct of business, along with members’ resolve to remain actively engaged in the resolution of conflicts.
He went on to note that the Council’s deliberations focused on peace and security in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Topics discussed included the fight against terrorism; protecting civilians in armed conflict; peacekeeping; the women, peace and security agenda; cooperation between regional and subregional organizations; and the humanitarian effects of the conflicts on which the Council is seized. Further, the organ considered a range of emerging issues, such as climate security, maritime security and COVID-19. He also pointed out that this marks the second year in a row that the Council’s annual report was adopted no later than 30 May, which is responsive to the demands of the wider membership to facilitate discussion in the General Assembly. The Council’s report is an important aspect of transparency, he added, welcoming today’s discussion.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, welcomed the report, which will create a more transparent and effective United Nations and greater accountability of the Council. The report aims to enhance the Council’s working methods, which is key to upholding the highest standards in the United Nations. The Council should not return to past practices and should aim to support a modern United Nations that delivers. The Group urges that an open debate be held, in preparation of the annual report in January, to assess the Council’s work just after the year-end and before drafting the report’s introduction, he said, adding that the Council’s annual report provides a valuable overview of its work. The Council was fully mobilized in 2021 despite the pandemic. Stressing the importance of preserving institutional memory, he encouraged the codification of best practices and lessons learned and welcomed efforts to restore in-person meetings.
He encouraged a more analytical account of the Council’s work, including additional details on the draft resolutions that were not adopted, the grounds of the rejection and the use of the veto. He also sought information on the main deliberations of the Council during closed sessions as this would provide more transparency. The Group invites all members to contribute to changes in the Council’s working methods and notes the important work of the Department of Political and Peacekeeping Affairs in that regard and the impact of the pandemic on the Council’s working methods. The Council’s annual report should better reflect discussions held under other business, he added.
Speaking in his national capacity, he noted the work completed to strengthen the work of the Assembly and the Council and their relationship.
ANA PAULA BAPTISTA GRADE ZACARIAS (Portugal), aligning herself with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said while there have been noticeable improvements in the Council’s working methods recently, including to allow for effective business continuity during the pandemic, there is room for incremental progress in delivering its mandate with enhanced transparency and efficiency. Recognizing the report’s timely adoption, she agreed with the Group’s suggestion to hold an open debate in preparation of the annual report in January, to assess the Council’s work shortly after the year-end and ahead of the drafting of the report’s introduction. She welcomed the report’s factual approach, but encouraged the codification of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for future contingencies and preserve institutional memory in working methods. She also suggested including further analysis on the draft resolutions that failed to be adopted by the Council, including, when applicable, the use of the veto.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria) aligning himself with the statement of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, welcomed the timely adoption of the report, followed by the current debate. This enables a discussion of the report “when it is fresh on our minds”, he said, adding that it is also a sign of the Council’s respect for the Assembly. Noting that the report deals with the Council’s work in 2021, he drew attention to current dynamics in that body, following the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Highlighting the role of the Council to contribute to finding peaceful solutions, he lamented that lately it has not demonstrated any will to do so. Reaffirming his country’s support for the veto initiative, he noted that while it is a solution to the inaction, “we prefer that the Council does its work.” Turning to the Council’s “wrap-up meetings”, he said that while some Council members might be hesitant to allow more interactive exchanges with non-Council members, it is an opportunity to present their views and listen to those of the wider United Nations membership.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), pointing out that the preparation and consideration of the Council’s annual report appears to have become a “ritual exercise”, called on the Council to provide an annual report that is “more analytical, reflective and incisive rather than a mere narration of events”. Further, the report is still far from being a substantive document that can allow Member States to satisfactorily address the Council’s deliberations during the reporting period. He went on to note that only six Council members submitted their monthly assessments in 2021, calling on all members to make their assessments available to the broader United Nations membership in a timely manner. He also supported the strengthening of the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council on matters concerning the maintenance of international peace and security, spotlighting the recent General Assembly resolution that provides a standing mandate for the Assembly to hold a debate whenever a veto is cast in the Council.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said during the pandemic the Council had to hold virtual meetings and gradually went back to in-person meetings. The participation in open debates of stakeholders that were not Council members was negatively affected by the reduction of in-person meetings. During Mexico’s presidency in November, all United Nations members were able to participate in person during the open debates, he said, noting that one debate focused on preventive diplomacy. The Council’s response to important events in 2021 in Mali, Myanmar and Afghanistan that impacted international peace and security were inconsistent and inadequate. However, he noted progress in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, such as follow up by the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia of sentences issued under that country’s peace agreement and the renewed mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), calling for BINUH to be supported and strengthened. As the veto is a power that only a few have access to, its use must be limited. At the end of every year, the Assembly President should hold a mid-term dialogue in order to analyse the various activities of the Council, without undermining the debate held on the report itself, he said. While relations between the Assembly and Council have improved, there are still many outstanding issues related to transparency and accountability.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), pointing out that the annual report continues to lack an analysis of what the Security Council was not able to achieve or agree on, said that central to this — and of particular concern — is the threat and use of the veto. The Council acts on behalf of all Member States, and vetoes exercised by permanent members “have a wider effect on all of us”, he said, stressing that there must be greater transparency and accountability in the use of the veto. Recalling the Council’s 2021 failure to adopt an important draft resolution on climate-related security risks — co-sponsored by 113 Member States — he expressed particular disappointment that the veto was used to block the adoption of this resolution. Noting that the report recorded this outcome simply as “12 votes in favour and 2 against, with 1 abstention”, he emphasized that it would be more useful for the report to go beyond cataloguing basic details. Rather, it should provide an account of efforts to reach consensus and an analysis of the impact of the Council’s failure to reach agreement on the situation or issue at hand.
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus), stressing the importance of increased synergy in the distinct but complementary roles of the Assembly and the Council, said: “This report needs to look less like a compilation of records concerning meetings and documents of the Council” and more of a substantive depiction of where the consideration of each agenda item stands. Further, the report should analyze the state of each conflict and the impact of relevant Council action and assess the implementation of Council decisions and compliance with them. Also emphasizing that the report should be an assessment of the Council’s performance in fulfilling its mandate, he noted that it could include strategic insights concerning overall conflict trends and patterns. Welcoming the two resolutions adopted by the Council renewing the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), he said the Cyprus question remains unresolved because the numerous relevant Council texts have not been complied with, without any consequence. It is the responsibility of the Council to shield Member States, small ones in particular, from the fate of being subjugated to the will of a mighty adversary, she underscored.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), aligning himself with the statement of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, stressed the need to strengthen cooperation and communication between the Council and the Assembly. Welcoming the establishment of a standing mandate for the Assembly to hold a debate when veto is used in the Council, he said it is vital to improve that body’s working methods. Calling on the Council to invite male and female civil society representatives to its meetings, he welcomed the practice of information sessions and wrap-up sessions that increase transparency regarding its work. Pointing to the need to bolster the institutional memory of the Council and incorporate the lessons learned during the pandemic so that it can better respond to future crises, he also called for more analytical and substantial points in the report. Highlighting his country’s feminist foreign policy and its commitment to the women, peace and security agenda, he praised Council members who implemented relevant resolutions by ensuring the full participation of women in the body’s activities.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), welcoming the submission of the Council’s annual report, said his delegation would nevertheless have preferred more time between its publishing. “In various crisis situations the Council has fallen short of its Charter mandate,” he said, citing the decision to restrict cross-border humanitarian aid delivery in Syria, the situations in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and the inability to pass any text addressing the aggression against Ukraine as notable examples. There is also little in the Council’s report on what has been done to address and reverse the trends of increasing international humanitarian law violations and failures to protect civilians, he said, welcoming the widespread popularity of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Code of Conduct and encouraging other States to join it. He also praised the Assembly’s recent adoption of resolution 76/262 — known as the “Veto Initiative” — which means that a permanent member of the Security Council “will now no longer have the last word”, and expressed his hope that it will lead to the casting of fewer vetoes in the future.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) said the report shows the Council has carried out its mandate despite a period that is still marked by the pandemic. There has been a positive shift to open debates and greater participation of civil society, which shows a progressive approach, he noted. The Council visited the Sahel region, which was a positive development. The Council should use the lessons learned during the pandemic to strengthen its working method, he said, stressing the importance of transparency and accountability and endorsing the statement of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group in that regard. He underscored the importance of the Council’s work to protect civilians, as they pay a high price during conflicts. The Council’s work on the impact of climate change needs to be clarified, he said, expressing regret that the body failed to adopt a draft resolution on climate change, which is an urgent matter.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), emphasizing that the link between the Assembly and the Security Council should be strengthened, said good progress is being made towards that goal in both the present meeting and the one held on 8 June. Commending efforts to allow the in-person participation of non-Council members in open debates — which had been previously restricted to written submissions due to COVID-19 mitigation measures — he said their active engagement not only underpins the legitimacy of the Council but also safeguards the very foundations of multilateralism. Noting a significant rise in the number of informal Council meetings in recent years, he proposed including information on Arria formula meetings in future annual reports, which would provide an even more thorough overview of the Council’s work and dynamics. That same report should also take note of the General Assembly’s meetings convened after the use of the veto in the Security Council, he added.
PAYMAN GHADIRKHOMI (Iran), noting that the annual reports of the Council are a critical transparency tool, expressed regret that this year’s text is merely a descriptive account of the body’s meetings and communications. That does not conform to the expectations envisaged by the Charter, he pointed out, adding that it prevents the Assembly from substantively and comprehensively assessing the Council’s performance. Also expressing concerns about the humanitarian impact of sanctions, he noted the abuse of that tool by some Member States and called for the full compliance of all Member States with the Charter. Some countries use thematic issues to expand their influence outside their territories and to interfere in the internal matters of other States, he said, calling on the Council to “stick to its mandate”. Also expressing concern that the Council has failed to discharge its responsibilities, including in the case of Palestine, he said the Israeli regime commits atrocities with the full knowledge of the Council and no accountability.
ADAM KUYMIZAKIS (Malta) said the Assembly, as the only United Nations body with universal representation, has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the Security Council is transparent and accountable to the wider membership. “The Council carries out its mandate on behalf of all Member States, and must remain accessible,” she said, noting that while the annual report provides a thorough and factual outline of the 15-member organ’s work, considerations, communications and products, more can still be done to provide a better analytical assessment. In the long term, such an exercise could also contribute towards making the Council a more effective and efficient body. Noting that Malta was just elected to serve as a non-permanent member of the Council in 2023-2024, she vowed to uphold that responsibility and promised to welcome the Assembly’s ongoing role in assessing the Council’s effectiveness.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) expressed regret that the Council’s report presents activities and resolutions even though most Member States want a report that is analytical and evaluates the Council’s decisions. This would contribute to real accountability. For example, the report overlooks the deadlock on Palestine and the violations by Israel of Council resolutions as Israel expands illegal settlements, annexes territory and continues its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The presentation of annual reports should not be a descriptive exercise, he said, adding that more transparency would enable the Council to foster greater peace and security. Though there have been more open meetings and open debates, the Council has a tendency to work in closed meetings and take decisions without heeding the views of Member States, he observed, stressing that the Council needs to reform its working methods. Doing so would ensure transparency and provide for the representation of the interests of more Member States.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), stressing the Council’s responsibility to the broader membership of the United Nations, welcomed its resumption of normal functioning, with in-person participation of member States in open debates. Regretting that the current report serves merely as a record of the Council’s meetings during the reporting period, he echoed the call for a more analytical report that would enable the international community to gather a realistic view of the body. Noting that during the reporting period, the Council was not able to make progress on important matters such as the question of Palestine because of its inability to act with one voice, he underscored the urgent need for reform and said the body must become accountable to the Assembly on long-standing issues such as these. Calling for genuine text-based negotiations on Council reform, he highlighted the crucial role played by its elected members and called for more cooperation between the Council and the African Union.
MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina) said the Council has a responsibility that comes from the Charter and it is critical for all Members States to assess its work and make it accountable for its actions. He welcomed that the report was presented in a timely manner, hoping the practice will be continued to ensure predictability. The year 2021 was marked by many crises in the world, yet the Council was divided and could not respond to many of them adequately. It did not uphold its responsibilities to maintain international peace and security. For many people around the world, the Council is the face of the United Nations. As such, its ability to successfully carry out its mandate is critical. He expressed regret that the Council’s report is still a list of activities and not an analytical assessment to let Member States evaluate its work. The body should also be reformed to make it more inclusive.
SANDRO INASHVILI (Georgia), noting that the Council’s report is a necessary practice that provides an opportunity to reflect on the most pressing issues under its consideration, stressed that the organs’s reform is particularly urgent when it comes to the use of veto power. The failed attempt to pass a Council resolution to stop the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine is a clear attestation to this, he said, also recalling his country’s experience a decade ago with the detrimental impact of the veto’s abuse. The Council was briefed about the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case concerning the August 2008 war between Georgia and the Russian Federation, and provided with other relevant materials, including a 2020 compilation report on human rights violations in the Russian Federation-occupied territories of Georgia. Given the grave human rights situation as well as the ongoing militarization in those regions, it is of utmost importance that the Council continues to be seized of that matter, he said, calling for a dedicated agenda item on “The situation in Georgia”.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia) stressed the need to enhance effective interaction between the Council and the Assembly, both during and beyond the discussion and presentation of the Council’s annual report. He encouraged greater interaction between regional organizations and the Council, pointing to the growing regionalization of conflicts across the globe and the fractured relationship between Council-mandated missions and their respective host country. Urging the Council to include regional or subregional organization in the discussion of issues in their respective region, he also emphasized the need for better work to ensure unity of the Council. The Council’s inability to reach a unified response to breaches of Member States of the Council’s own resolutions is disappointing. This reflects not only on the ineffectiveness of the Council, but also the United Nations as whole, he said.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), noting that the Security Council acts on behalf of Member States, stressed the importance of the Council remaining accountable to the wider United Nations membership. While the annual report is comprehensive in scope, it does not — like in the past — address the underlying reasons why the Council has become increasingly paralyzed, nor does it address the central issue of the Council’s increasing inability to deliver on many urgent matters of international peace and security. A more analytical approach in the report would allow more substantial debate on the root causes of the Council’s inaction, which is closely linked to the veto power — regardless of whether such power is used or simply threatened. He pointed out that vetoes recently cast in the Council pertaining to Russian aggression in Ukraine and to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea provide further evidence of the paralysis resulting from this power. Against that backdrop, he supported any initiatives designed to restrain the exercise of the veto.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), welcoming the progress made towards the timely adoption of the Council’s report, encouraged the body to make further improvements in the preparation of that text. An earlier adoption would allow Assembly members to discuss the report while it is fresh, he said, also calling for more substantial and analytical insight into the working of the body, including more details on the draft resolutions that were not adopted. Welcoming the mandate for an Assembly debate when there’s a Council veto, he said the active participation of Member States in yesterday’s debate demonstrates the vital need for such a mandate. Welcoming efforts for resumption of in-person participation by Member States in open debates, he said that is crucial to ensure inclusivity. Also stressing the importance of women’s full and equal participation in the Council’s activities, he welcomed the increased number of women briefers and applauded the initiative by the elected members Ireland, Kenya and Mexico to have a trio of women Council Presidents.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine) commended the work of Albania’s representative, the current Council President, in steering the activities of the body this month and in presenting the 2021 report. He noted that his successor will need to present the 2022 report. The year has been marked by the Council’s failure to prevent and effectively address the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, which as of June, is the worst security crisis since the Second World War. The Russian Federation, a permanent Council member, attacked peaceful Ukraine on the same night the Council met in a last-ditch effort to prevent the war. This is a verdict of the Council’s inefficiency, he said, stressing the need to enhance the analytical assessment of the Council’s work, which is long overdue. The report should not be just a compilation of activities. He encouraged Council members to keep exploring new ways to upgrade its overall working methods and expressed confidence that new Council members will be active participants in this regard.
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica), noting that transparency and accountability are more urgent than ever, stressed the need for the effective codification of the Council’s best practices and lessons learned in the current crisis. Noting that the total lack of substantive content in the report precludes the possibility of a robust debate on the internal workings of the Council, he said what is presented is not a report, it is a simple list of documents and activities and agendas. “This is of little use,” he said, pointing out that the report does not include the results of votes, nor the disagreements or the vetoes that may have occurred during the reporting period. Calling for a more reflective annual report, he said the current document does not explain in detail the obstacles that precede the Council’s inaction on some issues. The Council keeps the international community in the dark about how it acts, he said, noting that it continues to hold closed-door meetings even though they should only take place in exceptional circumstances. Condemning such exclusion and apathy, he questioned why Council members are not present throughout the Assembly’s debate in their report, adding: “We seem to be involved in a dialogue with the dead.”
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) drew attention to the territorial claims, aggression and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law by Armenia against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, noting that the Council responded by adopting numerous resolutions condemning that use of force. However, those have been simply ignored by Armenia, which continued to colonize the occupied territories and erase Azerbaijani cultural heritage in clear violation of international law. From 2015 on, there was a re-escalation in and around the occupied territories and on the border between the two States. Outlining further acts of aggression, he said Azerbaijan has instituted legal proceedings — including at the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights — and simultaneously initiated the process of normalizing inter-State relations with Armenia. Unfortunately, the Council’s present report relies on outdated terminology, erroneously referring to the non-existent “Nagorny Karabakh”, whereas in 2021 the President of Azerbaijan established the Karabakh and East Zangazur economic regions. In that context, he underlined the critical principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), recalling the Council’s history, said that the organ has been controversial from its inception for several reasons. Those include the prevalent perception that the Council is the one place in the United Nations system that really matters; frustration that the organ has never fulfilled the overly high expectations placed upon it; and unresolved tensions over how the Council should function. He pointed out that many political scientists have said that few institutions are as well-known and as little-understood as the Security Council, which “habitually disappoints, regroups and then surprises”. Its actions are heralded and then disdained, celebrated by some and despaired by others, and there is a belief that, as it triumphs in one arena, it turns its back on several more. Against that backdrop, he expressed hope that the Council still possesses the capacity and potential to deliver on the expectations of Member States and to ensure that all countries and people can live in dignity, peace and prosperity.
Right of Reply
The representative of Armenia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected attempts by the representative of Azerbaijan to hijack the meeting’s agenda by propagating distorted narratives relating to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in an effort to conceal its responsibility for numerous atrocity crimes. Recalling the history of that conflict — which included the first identity-based mass crimes since the Second World War — he stressed that Azerbaijan’s attempts to misrepresent Nagorno-Karabakh as a fake entity are null and void, and pointed out that Azerbaijan has for many years ignored the Council’s requests to refrain from the use of force, ensure unimpeded humanitarian relief efforts and commit to a political settlement.
The representative of Azerbaijan, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it is ironic that Armenia’s delegate is enthusiastically talking about the norms and principles of international law. Such attempts will not whitewash that country’s image as a persistent violator of human rights, he said, adding that the “so-called Nagorno-Karabakh” is an integral territory of his country. Armenia's claims in relation to self-determination are ill-founded, he stressed, also rejecting allegations of anti-Armenian hatred and the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage.
The representative of Armenia, taking the floor again, said the very fact that Azerbaijan denies the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh testifies to that country’s genocidal intent towards its people. He also cited the Council of Europe’s report referring to systemic hate speech towards Armenia prevailing in the public discourse of Azerbaijan.
Responding, the representative of Azerbaijan described the representative of Armenia’s response as groundless, shameful and deceitful. Instead of wasting time and energy on lecturing others, Armenia must stop violating international norms, he said.
Implementation of Commitment/Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS
Mr. SHAHID, Assembly President, then took the floor again as the Assembly considered the agenda item “Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the political declaration on HIV/AIDS.” Mr. Shahid said that since the first reported case of HIV/AIDS, 79 million people have contracted the disease and 36 million people have died. AIDS continues to take 13,000 lives every week. Millions of lives have been lost or impacted by the crisis over the last four decades. The Assembly is meeting as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shown the inequalities that exist and how health services are essential. Investments in public health are necessary, he said, adding that the lessons learned from the pandemic can be used to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis and vice versa. Negative attitudes towards people with AIDS still exist and there are unfounded fears of contagion, which can result in refusing health care services to people living with the disease. “No one is safe until we all are safe,” he said. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the HIV/AIDS epidemic will take 7.7 million lives over the current decade. The intersection of the COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS crises is an opportunity to tackle them together. The international community needs to take the necessary steps to close the funding gaps, he said, asking each Member State to end inequality and AIDS by 2030.
COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), Chef de Cabinet of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, delivering a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General, said that the long-running HIV pandemic takes one life every minute and “remains the deadliest pandemic of our times”. It has killed some 36 million people over the last 40 years, and 2021 saw 1.5 million new HIV infections while scientists remain concerned about the evolution of more-transmissible variants. Progress towards tackling the disease was already lacking when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the war in Ukraine has knocked that progress even further off-track. “It is both encouraging and frustrating that we know what works,” he said, emphasizing that the international community can end AIDS if it works together to tackle inequalities.
He went on to point out that gender inequality and gender-based violence contribute to the high risk of infection faced by women and girls, also stressing that Governments and partners need to tackle the stigmatization and marginalization of vulnerable communities. Further, global access to pandemic-ending, life-saving health technologies must be ensured in both the global South and North, and increased resources must be made available to tackle AIDS. He underscored that policies which end AIDS “will go far beyond one disease”, helping to reduce the risks of future pandemics of all kinds. He added that, if the international community works together to address the inequalities that perpetuate HIV/AIDS, the disease can cease to be a public health threat by 2030.
SILVIO GONZATO, on behalf of the European Union in its capacity as observer, noted that against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the HIV pandemic can seem a forgotten issue. However, it is far from resolved, he pointed out, highlighting the urgent call for action in the Secretary-General’s report and noting that if the international community fails to act on HIV it will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 on ending epidemics — including AIDS — by 2030. Stressing the importance of keeping key populations in focus and pointing to the lack of adequate services including HIV prevention and treatment, he underscored the importance of avoiding stigma linked to sexual orientation. He also noted the need for comprehensive, evidence-based sex education and called for a strong focus on the overall prevention agenda.
Reaffirming the European Union’s commitment to continue working towards ending the inequalities that exacerbate the HIV crisis, he said it will do so by putting people at the centre of its efforts. Sustainable and resilient health systems are needed, he said, adding that community health is a major focus for the bloc. Expressing concern that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent global health sector strategy on HIV was adopted not by consensus but by a vote for the first time, he highlighted the need for global solidarity and multi-stakeholder engagement. Today, people with HIV can lead long and fulfilling lives, he said, calling for more contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
FRANÇOIS JACKMAN (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that while global AIDS-related deaths and HIV infections have fallen over the last 20 years, they have not decreased at the rate necessary to end the scourge by 2030. However, he noted that the Caribbean region, along with sub-Saharan Africa, has had the strongest reductions in transmission since 2010 — the result of indigenous policies and approaches consistent with the region’s political, legal, social and cultural environment. Over the last year in particular, the Caribbean has prioritized strengthening national and regional governance of the HIV response and expanding HIV services, including for testing and treatment. The region has also improved data collection and is working to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and ensure the revalidation of countries in the Caribbean Community. CARICOM remains focused on tackling inequalities, he added, including in health financing and health systems, and improving access to medicines and health technologies.
MARKOVA CONCEPCIÓN JARAMILLO (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said the international community needs to step up its commitment to end AIDS by the end of the decade. It is necessary to accelerate progress on this health issue in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). The increase in medicine prices is a critical obstacle, he said, noting that the region’s countries have made strides to negotiate prices and improve access to needed health-care systems. The System has used guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) to carry out prevention practices. There are gaps in health care throughout the region, he said, stressing the need for funding for preventive health care and mental and emotional support to people. More financing is vital to end inequality and to end AIDS by 2030.
In his national capacity, he said that many people with AIDS in Panama still face great stigmatization and more efforts are needed to eliminate AIDS by the decade’s end. Panama is carrying out measures with the help of UNAIDS. There are now seven clinics in the country that provide treatment and there is a national plan to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of AIDS. The crisis in HIV/AIDs reveals the social prejudices that many people still face, he observed, adding that AIDS crisis has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that with eight years remaining until 2030, all people living with HIV must be reached and put on treatment. Simultaneously, new HIV infections must be eliminated, advocacy and education is needed, and people should be empowered to access the HIV-related health-care services they need. Expressing support for the African Union Road Map on shared responsibility and global solidarity for AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, he noted the bloc’s commitment to allocate 15 per cent of funds to health sectors. However, the African Group remains concerned that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is still responsible for more than 13,000 deaths every week, undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. States must immediately end restrictive and discriminatory social, economic and racial laws and practices. Large gaps in treatment coverage in countries across West and Central Africa must also be addressed, as should substandard public health systems and persistent stigma and discrimination.
Noting that sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst-affected region in the world, he said AIDS continues to be the leading cause of death for adolescent girls and women between 15 and 49 years old in the region. Universal access to HIV and AIDS life-saving treatment, testing, care, support and cures remain paramount in the global response strategies, and constitutes a fundamental human right. Advocating for more innovation to produce better, optimized and long-lasting formulations of antiretroviral medicines, vaccines and cures for other common infections, he also called for capacity-building and more access to health technologies for developing countries. Efforts should also continue to develop an HIV vaccine before 2030, to make pre-exposure prophylaxis available and affordable to all countries — including in Africa — and better market access is needed to make the fullest use of existing Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) flexibilities. He also called for more resources to be devoted to HIV/AIDS health-care responses and the fulfilment of all official development assistance (ODA) commitments in that regard.
MITCH FIFIELD (Australia), recalling the collective gains against HIV made since 2002, pointed to the 56 per cent drop in AIDS-related deaths between 2010 and 2020 alone in the Indo-Pacific region. Through the Global Fund partnership, 2.4 million people were provided with antiretroviral therapy in 2020, including 34,000 people in the Pacific region. Pointing to the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and the “95-95-95” goals, he noted that in the Asia-Pacific region only 75 per cent of people are aware of their HIV status, and of those, only 80 per cent are in treatment. Noting that COVID-19 has also set back the HIV response, with an 11 per cent drop in people receiving HIV treatment globally and 22 per cent drop in people being tested, he stressed the need for scaled-up efforts to advance HIV prevention actions, community-led responses, and equitable access to medicines, vaccines, and health technologies. Commending those delivering HIV services and key innovations, such as the Global Fund’s “Breaking Down Barriers” programme, he also noted that his country has provided over 920 million Australian dollars since the creation of the upcoming Global Fund replenishment.
NICHAMON MAY HSIEH (Thailand) noted that ending inequalities, particularly through eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination, is key to ending AIDS. Calling on States to continue working towards the vision of zero discrimination, he said Thailand has joined the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination as a pioneer country. Citing the finding in the Secretary-General’s report that the COVID-19 response sparked innovative approaches to HIV service delivery around the world — including community-led services — he said in his country, community-led and key population-led health services have been instrumental in expanding HIV service coverage and promoting the right to health care. He also stressed that universal health coverage remains a key tool and called upon Member States to take action to make full use of related TRIPS agreements.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said eradicating HIV/AIDS requires not only a scientific solution but also practical and holistic policy approaches that involve a cross section of society. Action on AIDS has been truly transformational for public health, he said, describing it as the era’s most extreme public health issue. Noting that early engagement of political leadership at all levels is essential to addressing such a challenge, he highlighted the paramount importance of global efforts to bring AIDS-related deaths to under 250,000 by 2025. He went on to note that Sri Lanka was able to achieve a 57 per cent reduction in new cases and a 56 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths, as compared to a 2010 baseline. The country also eliminated the vertical transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis, beginning in 2020, and has recorded zero cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission since 2017, he said.
ROZELIN ROCHETTE DE JESUS SOL (Philippines) called for sustainable financing for both the AIDS response and other pandemic-prevention measures, noting that COVID-19 and the response to it have disrupted the delivery of health services. She also urged extended access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services; the integration of safe, quality treatment and care services within health-care provider networks; and strengthened multisectoral support and civil-society inclusion in the development and implementation of relevant policies. For its part, the Philippines has enacted legislation to ensure non-discriminatory access to HIV/AIDS services by eliminating the stigmatization of people living with HIV as well as those directly and indirectly affected by it. The Government also enacted universal health-care to ensure that all citizens have equitable access to quality health-care goods and services without causing financial hardship. She added that her country will continue to pursue the best possible outcomes for persons living with HIV and for vulnerable populations.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said his country was the first in Africa to approve the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, which has been key to its prevention programme. On the “90-90-90” cascades, South Africa had a score of 93-76-89 by June 2021, meaning that while it is doing well in the first category, strategies must be improved to initiate clients and keep them on treatment until they are virally suppressed. South Africa is implementing innovative strategies to reach the “95-95-95” targets by 2025, he said, adding that stakeholder and community engagement have been key to its HIV/AIDS response. Noting that community organizations can help break some of the barriers caused by traditional laws and cultural stigmas, he said South Africa continues to make significant domestic investments in fighting HIV/AIDS. He also expressed appreciation for the continued investment by the Global Fund in his country.
CECILIA FORGBE MC GILL (Liberia) noted that her country’s approach to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic emphasizes interventions for key population groups. Citing assessment estimates that 93 per cent of pregnant women in Liberia who need antiretroviral treatment are on it, she noted that mother-to-child HIV transmission has been on a steady decline. She also highlighted the country’s Zero Discrimination Action Plan, which aims to accelerate the implementation of commitments made to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination. The plan focuses on six priority areas: health, household and community; the legal and justice arena; education; the workplace; and humanitarian settings. She also pointed out that Liberia’s response efforts continue to be impeded by inadequate funding, weak supply chain management systems and a struggle to keep people living with HIV on treatment. Poverty is another crucial challenge, resulting in inadequate nutrition and insufficient access to medical facilities due to long travel distances.
ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ BEHMARAS (Cuba), noting that the international community has the resources, technology and knowledge it needs to tackle diseases such as AIDS, pointed to the lack of political will to do so. Millions of dollars are devoted to military spending while millions of people around the world lack access to quality health care, he said, noting that COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated health-care inequalities. Highlighting the need for international solidarity in the fight against AIDS, he reaffirmed his country’s support for UNAIDS’ efforts. His country’s response to the disease begins with the public health approach of its primary health-care system, as a result of which mortality rates related to HIV/AIDS are gradually declining, he said. In 2015, Cuba became the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of AIDS and syphilis, he recalled, despite the impact of the six-decade-long criminal financial blockade imposed by the United States. How much more could Cuba have done for the health of its people without this obstacle? he asked, stressing that the real solution to HIV/AIDS depends on multilateralism.
CHOLA MILAMBO (Zambia), associating himself with the African Group, noted that his country — alongside the entire global community — has been ravaged by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic during the last two years. “The response to HIV has not been spared,” he said, noting that COVID-19 caused shortages and disruptions in global supply chains, including of items needed for the HIV response. In addition, the health workforce needed to fight HIV was depleted, either through COVID-19 sickness, death or through the redistribution of health professionals. HIV services have been scaled down in order to focus efforts on the COVID-19 response and reduce COVID-19 transmissions. Outlining resilient national efforts to combat those changes, he said the Zambian Ministry of Health is in the process of developing a new HIV strategic framework and an Eighth National Development Plan, which will protect gains made on the UNAIDS “95-95-95” targets, reduce stigma and discrimination, accelerate prevention efforts and increase health financing. In addition, COVID-19 vaccines are now being provided to people living with HIV and those on treatment, he said.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) recalled that one year ago, the General Assembly responded to this particularly challenging moment for the global fight against HIV/AIDS by adopting a Political Declaration on ending inequalities which limit progress towards an AIDS-free world by 2030. For efforts to be successful, it is indeed crucial to remove societal barriers to services for those communities in greatest need, she said. Discriminatory laws targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) populations in many countries remain an obstacle to effectively address the pandemic. Economic and social marginalization of groups at higher risk of HIV infection, such as people who inject drugs, sex workers, prisoners, transgender people and men who have sex with men, often prevent them from fully enjoying their fundamental freedoms and human rights, above all the right to health.
GEOFFREY BLACK (Canada) called on the international community to remain laser-focused on its commitments, particularly to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. He noted that last year’s Political Declaration pledged that by 2026, 95 per cent of people in humanitarian settings would have access to treatment and prevention options, to eliminate gender inequalities, and increase the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves from HIV infection — commitments that must not just be words on a page. Member States must be guided by evidence, as people facing discrimination are most at risk, with HIV services grounded in human rights. He expressed concern over the alarming number of girls not returning to school after COVID-19 lockdowns; as evidence confirms, girls and their communities reap manifold benefits from their continued schooling — which must include education on bodily autonomy and the right to safe abortion. As Canada has lost nearly 30,000 people to overdose deaths since 2016, he stressed that addressing substance use must be seen as pressing health issue, not a criminal one. Urging the international community to maintain its momentum, with Member States’ making brave political decisions, he noted Canada will host the AIDS 2022 Conference in Montreal in July.
JOHN KYOVI MUTUA (Kenya), aligning himself with Namibia’s statement made on behalf of the African Group, said the international community needs to keep its commitments on track to fight the HIV/AIDS scourge. HIV/AIDS is one of the world’s major public health concerns and disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable, including the poor, marginalized groups and women and children. Efforts to end the disease by 2030 have been challenged by the pandemic, he noted, stressing that these two health issues underscore the need to expedite action in order to meet the global goals. He also called for a renewed commitment to provide financing to help youth and vulnerable groups, such as women and girls. In that regard, Kenya is using an approach that is centred on people and driven by data. It has developed a strategic framework to accelerate progress and is focusing on HIV education and awareness as important components of AIDS prevention. Unhindered access to medicine is also necessary as the international community works to achieve the global goals, he said.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) underscored the need for strong political leadership to address the inequalities and gaps in the global response to the AIDS epidemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, India involved communities, civil society and development partners to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the provision of HIV services. Further, domestic law safeguards the human rights of affected populations, and he spotlighted the national concept of social contracting that provides targeted intervention with the support of civil society. Detailing other national successes, he said that communities have always been at the centre of — and considered equal partners in — the national AIDS-control programme, and initiatives such as community-based HIV screening ensure the uninterrupted delivery of services. Noting that annual new rates of HIV infection declined by 46 per cent between 2010 and 2021 and that AIDS-related deaths declined by almost 76 per cent over the last decade, he said that this demonstrates the impact of national AIDS-response efforts.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina), noting that it is important to take stock of what has been achieved since the adoption of the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, said that in order to put an end to the epidemic by 2030, “we have to tackle inequality”. Stressing the importance of placing people at the centre of the international community’s response, she highlighted the need to respect sexual and reproductive rights as well as bodily autonomy. It is essential to implement a gender equality and human rights-based approach that guarantees the dignity of people who live with HIV. Also emphasizing the importance of combating multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion, based on age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, among others, she called on the international community to work to reduce the criminalization of people with AIDS. Her country is considering a new bill that focuses on multiple epidemics, in consultation with relevant civil society organizations and key populations, in order to integrate a human rights-based approach, she said.
MOHAMMED ABDULAZIZ H. ALATEEK (Saudi Arabia) said his country is promoting HIV/AIDS prevention and therapeutic initiatives, as well as countering the stigma associated with the virus. In 1994, Saudi Arabia established a national programme with 20 care units throughout the country, providing services to prevent transmission and medical and psychosocial treatment, as well as social awareness campaigns. He noted that in 2018, the country enacted AIDS-related reforms, addressing prevention as well as the rights and duties of infected persons and their contacts, including rehabilitation and the right to continue with education and work. Authorities raised awareness of the virus, with article 6 of the reform prohibiting infected pregnant women from being compelled to have abortions. He also noted that Saudi Arabia has one of world’s lowest rates of HIV/AIDS — with the country’s laws prohibiting any act of discrimination against anyone living with the disease — and supports international and regional strategies to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) welcomed this discussion to tackle the obstacles and challenges that are impeding the elimination of AIDS by the end of the decade. Additional investment is necessary to bolster health-care systems around the world and improve treatment of the disease and achieve the goal of ending inequality, he said. Despite the unilateral coercive measures in place, the Nicaraguan Government has always guaranteed free access to health services for its entire population. Nicaragua is working to reduce rates of infection among young people and promote responsible sexual health practices. Outlining efforts, he said the Nicaraguan AIDS commission promotes efforts against HIV/AID, a national strategic plan works towards that end and the Ministry of Health provides quality care through 105 comprehensive care clinics across the country. The Government also works to take care of the emotional well-being and mental health of people with AIDS. Lastly, he noted that there is still no effective vaccine for HIV/AIDS four decades after the initial cases of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were reported in 1981. Yet with the COVID-19 pandemic, a vaccine was in place after a year.
SYLVIA PAOLA MENDOZA ELGUEA (Mexico) said that the advance of HIV within communities is accelerating every year due to deep inequalities that prevent access to health care services. An effective response to the epidemic requires the reduction of such inequalities and gaps, which increase the risk of contracting the disease, and the prioritization of vulnerable groups. Further, comprehensive sex education with a transformative gender approach is essential to preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and, for its part, Mexico is promoting programmes to increase young people’s health, well-being and capacity for critical thought. Such initiatives can help prevent gender-based violence, increase the use of contraceptives, reduce the number of irresponsible sexual partners and empower young people to take responsibility for their own health decisions. She went on to say that prevention is fundamental, and that Mexico is promoting public policies with combined prevention strategies.
JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said some 340,000 adults and 30,000 children live with HIV in Angola, of whom 100,000 have infections that are under control. The country has 800 HIV/AIDS treatment units, carries out youth training programmes aimed at awareness-raising and ensures full access to HIV-related health services. The Government also adopted a plan based on education, information and communication, and the capital, Luanda, is part of the global initiative “Fast Track Cities” which seeks to accelerate the end of the HIV epidemic and achieve the goal of “95-95-95” by 2030. Outlining a number of additional programmes and policies, he said like in many other parts of the world stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV still pose barriers to fighting the disease in Angola. Efforts and are therefore needed to advance HIV vaccine innovation and increase the resources of sub-Saharan countries to combat the disease.
MATEUSZ SAKOWICZ (Poland), reaffirming her country’s commitment to the global AIDS strategy, highlighted its achievements in prevention and control of that epidemic. Poland was among the very first countries in the region to provide wide, free-of-charge access to medical care for people living with HIV and AIDS, she said, noting that national efforts include prevention strategies and prioritize combating mother-to-child transmission. It also focuses on people at risk for infection, working with community-based organizations, she said, highlighting in particular the access to antiretroviral treatments. Further, the nation-wide system of anonymous and free HIV testing and counseling is open to all, including migrants, she said, noting that the large number of refugees from Ukraine who have arrived in recent months due to the Russian Federation’s aggression will also have this access.
LUÍS GUILHERME PARGA CINTRA (Brazil), describing his/her country’s State policy on HIV, said that over the past 30 years Brazil has consistently advanced the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS thanks to a health system that guarantees universal and free-of-charge access to treatment and diagnosis. More than 700,000 people are assisted with antiretroviral drugs and the free distribution of HIV self-tests has begun in public health units, in addition to the national distribution of HIV rapid tests. In 2021, about 360,000 self-tests and some 13 million rapid tests were distributed. Meanwhile, 342 million male condoms and 13 million female condoms were handed out by health authorities. Given that Brazil’s HIV epidemic is concentrated in key populations, the participation of civil society has been instrumental in guaranteeing the inclusiveness and effectiveness of public policies, s/he added.
JASON MACK (United States) honoured the 36 million people worldwide and 700,000 Americans who have died of AIDS, as well as the 38 million living with HIV around the globe today. He urged the international community to work to ensure equitable access to services, especially for vulnerable communities including LGBTIQ people, drug users, sex workers, women and girls. Noting that 2021 was a benchmark year for UNAIDS, he expressed support for the United Nations strategies on the issue. While HIV/AIDS exacerbates vulnerabilities, he pointed to peer-led civil society efforts during the pandemic. Community involvement is central, and the pandemic reminded the international community to accelerate services, such as conducting viral load testing while providing treatment. Citing the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR — which has provided $100 billion in funding to transform the global AIDS response — he noted that his country will host the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment fundraising conference later in 2022.
RODRIGO ANDRÉS MÉNDEZ BOCANEGRA (Colombia), detailing Government efforts to respond to HIV/AIDS, said that Colombia’s legislative and constitutional framework fights any type of discrimination against those who live with the virus or those who belong to vulnerable groups. Further, the Government has updated clinic practices, treatment schemes and combined prevention programmes, and has also implemented measures to guarantee treatment for the migrant population coming from Venezuela. He went on to say that Colombia continues to coordinate efforts to broaden community response to the HIV pandemic, generating regulatory frameworks for the implementation of prevention strategies and diagnostic tests through community-based organizations. The global response to the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic should be part of efforts directed at achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he added, spotlighting that of providing universal health care.
VICTORIA MANGAY SULIMANI (Sierra Leone), associating herself with the African Group, noted that inequalities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to fuel new HIV infections, particularly among adolescent girls, young women and key populations. In Sierra Leone, the epidemic is feminized, with HIV infections among women being twice as high (2.2 per cent) as against men (1.1 per cent), she said, adding that adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys and men of the same age. Highlighting Sierra Leone’s continued efforts to create opportunities to address HIV-related inequalities among vulnerable groups and key populations, she stressed that protecting girls from child marriage, teenage pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence remains a critical priority for her Government. Creating equal access to HIV services also remains the bedrock of its national response to HIV/AIDS, she added.
ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway), noting that the AIDS crisis is responsible for 13,000 deaths every week, said that insufficient investments in health infrastructure have left the world unprepared for pandemics. HIV infections are not declining fast enough to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, he cautioned, reaffirming his country’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 3.3. Stressing the importance of universal access to sexual and reproductive services, including family planning, he highlighted the need for increased access to male and female condoms as well as comprehensive harm reduction services for people who use drugs. Calling on the international community to work towards safe and affordable medicines and vaccines for all, he said it is vital to integrate HIV treatment into maternal and child health. Expressing concern about the criminalization of men who have sex with men, he said the international community must address such inequalities.
Ms. ANDERSON (United Kingdom) noted that for the third year in a row, her country has met the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target, a trajectory that sets it on course to achieve net zero new HIV transmissions by 2030 — the first nation to do so. However, domestic strides must be paired with global action. She cited the importance of global comprehensive sexuality education in preventing HIV among young people and empowering them to recognize sexual violence and abuse — urging the international community to ensure that UNAIDS achieves its global strategy target of reaching 90 per cent of young people with sexual education by 2026. There must also be a more focused and integrated approach to preventing new infections in key communities including sex workers, intravenous drug users, prisoners, transgender people, gay men, and other men who have sex with men. The international community must make up lost ground due to the pandemic and understand how it has affected HIV prevention, testing, diagnosis and care, with a tailored and adaptive UNAIDS approach.
Source: United Nations