Statement by Mark Malloch Brown Administrator United Nations Development Programme and Chairman of the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations of UNAIDS


Security Council

New York, 10 January 2000

Mr. Vice-President, Mr. Secretary-General, Jim Wolfensohn, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. Vice-President, on behalf of all of us in the UN community, thank you for being here in this room, on this issue at this time.

You have heard the statistics and also what can be said, in words, of the human impact: HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa amounts to 23.3 million of the 36 million affected individuals worldwide, 69 per cent of the total number of HIV/AIDS cases.

At a time when the industrialized world has relaxed in the face of a declining incidence of new HIV infections, Africa is under siege: many times more people are being killed from the disease in sub-Saharan Africa each year than in the world's wars. This is a new security frontline and I congratulate Richard Holbrooke for the vision to go beyond old definitions to bring to this table a discussion of the world's most dangerous insurgency.

HIV/AIDS has a qualitatively different impact than a traditional health killer such as malaria. It rips across social structures, targeting a young continent's young people, particularly its girls; by cutting deep into all sectors of society it undermines vital economic growth – perhaps reducing future national GDP size in the region by a third over the next twenty years. And by putting huge additional demand on already weak, hard to access, public services it is setting up the terms of a desperate conflict over inadequate resources.

Today this is Africa's drama. Unmet it becomes the world's. So there is real resonance that at this first Security Council meeting of the new millenium it is health – not war and peace – that brings us here. But it does so because of the proposition that, in this new globalised century, one will beget the other. And that in the final years of the last, we have woefully neglected the new causes of conflict.

View this as a three-front war: the classrooms and clinics of Africa, the families of Africa; and, third, international action – the critical support needed to back Africa's frontline.

An extraordinary depletion of the region's human capital is underway. There are estimates that the number of active doctors and teachers in the most affected countries could be reduced by up to a third in the coming years.

Yet schools and clinics are not only at the heart of any defensive strategy for dealing with the consequences of the epidemic, they spearhead the offensive for cultural and behavioral change. We see the possibilities. In Uganda, there is now a real prospect of an almost AIDS-free generation of high school age children. Countries are strung out along a continuum from effective action at one end to at least acknowledgement and awareness at the other. Yet even with better national awareness, in too many places individual ostracism, and hence denial, still prevail confounding good tracking and management of the disease.

Behavior change requires uncompromising, often painfully embarrassing, honesty. For there is too often a lethal cultural double standard when it comes to AIDS of: too much unsafe sex; and too little willingness to talk about it or face its consequences. Change must begin by confronting the region's troubled inheritance: extensive migrant labor, social norms and gender inequality making it hard for women and girls to deny men sex - leading to HIV incidence rates among girls three or four times higher than boys.

Let me propose to this council a set of actions:

Members of the Council, at this first Security Council session of the century you have brought Development into your chamber. You have elevated it from long-term economic and social issue to current danger, a vulnerability to be addressed as a matter of political priority. HIV/AIDS is a particularly cruel manifestation of the wider Development challenge. It vividly demonstrates the broader point: no other challenge can perhaps so shape the overall direction of this new century – either towards a globalisation for all; or back to a century of walls and fences.

Thank you.