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AFRO-NETS> UN Adress by James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> UN Adress by James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank
  • From: Dieter Neuvians MD <neuvians@harare.iafrica.com>
  • Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 03:28:37 -0500 (EST)

UN Adress by James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank

Address by James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, United
Nations Security Council meeting on HIV/AIDS in Africa, 10 January

Mr. President of the Security Council, Mr. Secretary-General, Ambas-
sador Holbrooke, Distinguished Permanent Representatives,

Let me first congratulate you, Vice-President Gore, most warmly for
putting the subject of AIDS in Africa on the agenda of the Security
Council, and let me thank you for the invitation to speak at this
meeting - the first time ever for a president of the World Bank.

I appreciate very much your unyielding support for our institution
and the cause of development. It is also a further example of the
growing cooperation between the Bank and the United Nations - and I
pay tribute to the leadership of the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan -
now brought to a new level by a link between the World Bank and the
Security Council.

For me this is not surprising. I do not know very much about the
workings of the Council or how agendas are set. I have an image of
midnight meetings, of responses to urgent crises, of conflict resolu-
tion at the highest and most sophisticated level of diplomacy and
power politics. Like many, I am in awe of your efforts.

And yet, Mr. President, in a very real sense I believe that what my
colleagues and I do every day is to address the issue of global peace
and security. We do it by addressing the source of the most fundamen-
tal and pervasive causes of conflict, namely the issue of poverty and

One does not have to be a social scientist or a diplomat to know that
people who live in orderly, well-governed, representative societies
where there is economic opportunity, social justice, human rights,
and declining poverty are less likely to be fighting, less likely to
be angry, less likely to be frustrated than those who live in chaotic
or poorly managed societies, where opportunity is denied, where pov-
erty is pervasive, and where there is little hope of good or effec-
tive government.

We believe that combating poverty, giving opportunity to citizens,
and providing effective development programs are the true key to se-
curity and peace. If this belief is justified we should be in closer
touch with this august body.

Mr. President, as we meet here today, much is at stake. We will be
judged by our actions on three broad counts:

First, we will be judged on whether we are serious about Africa's de-
velopment and inclusion. Whether we are serious about working with
Africans to give their continent a chance in the 21st century.
Whether Africa, that suffered so badly so long under oppression and
racism, can at last free itself of poverty and integrate with the
modern open global economy. Africans must lead, but we must partner
with the strong new generations in Africa to build the institutions,
the structures, the rule of law, the human rights, the governance
that are needed for people to take hold of their future. Only if we
beat back AIDS can Africa take that step.

Second, we will be judged on whether we globally understand the na-
ture of human security and sustainable development. Security develops
from within societies. If we want to prevent violent conflict, we
need a comprehensive, equitable and inclusive approach to develop-
ment. A culture of prevention needs to permeate our work. Security,
empowerment and opportunity must be recognized as key to freedom from
poverty - just as freedom from poverty is key to security. Communi-
ties that are riven apart by disease are weak communities. Weak com-
munities are subject to strife. Beating back AIDS in Africa will sup-
port a culture of peace.

Third, we will be judged on whether the international community can
face up to global challenges. AIDS is a global issue. It forces us to
bring all our understanding together - of security, health, econom-
ics, social and cultural change. It forces us to bring all actors to-
gether - from developed and developing countries, communities and
governments, business and NGOs, science, faith and civil society.

Across the world, there is a wave of concern about whether we can
come together and deal with the pace of globalization. How we beat
back AIDS will show whether we are truly able to lead jointly to face
global challenges.

Mr. President, I come here today because AIDS in Africa is not only
claiming lives, it is changing the very nature of development. As one
farmer in southern Africa put it: "Today, we are spending more time
turning the bodies of the sick than we are turning the soil."

More than 13 million Africans have already died of AIDS, 23 million
are now living with HIV/AIDS, and 10 million African children have
been orphaned by AIDS. The 21 countries with the highest rates of HIV
are all in Africa. The arithmetic of risk is chilling. A child born
in Zambia or Zimbabwe today is more likely than not to die of AIDS.

Many of us used to think of AIDS as a health issue. We were wrong.
AIDS can no longer be confined to the health or social sector portfo-
lios. Across Africa, AIDS is turning back the clock on development.

Over the last four decades in Africa we have seen life expectancy in-
crease by 24 years, and education and health programs extended to im-
prove literacy and give greater opportunity. We have seen the growth
of a new generation of African leaders, greater voice for the people,
and more democratic regimes. But today Africa is in crisis of a type
never seen before. Nothing will put Africa back more quickly, reverse
the gains, and throw countries into turmoil than the current AIDS

In too many countries the gains of life expectancy won are being
wiped out. In too many countries more teachers are dying each week
than can be trained. Judges, government officials, military person-
nel, women and girls, and the young are being ravaged with enormous
economic reversal of development gains.

Nothing we have seen is a greater challenge to the peace and stabil-
ity of African societies than the epidemic of AIDS. African leader-
ship must recognize it, they must fight it, they must overcome social
mores and admit that the countries are at war. We must support them.
The Security Council must take note. Together we must act.

Mr. President, in AIDS we face a war more debilitating than war it-
self because in so many countries it is seldom spoken of, because it
does not catch the headlines, because the voices of its victims do
not reach the corridors of power.

We face a major development crisis, and more than that, a security
crisis. For without economic and social hope we will not have peace,
and AIDS surely undermines both.

We need to break that vicious circle of AIDS, poverty, conflict,
AIDS. For the truth is that not only does AIDS threaten stability,
but when peace breaks down it fuels AIDS. Of the countries in Africa
with the highest prevalence of AIDS, half are engaged in conflict of
one kind or another.

AIDS spreads through the military. It spreads even when conflict ends
and when populations move. It spreads rapidly among refugees - 75
percent of whom are women and children making them especially vulner-
able. There are too many refugees in Africa. Too many refugees and
too many conflicts and AIDS is their handmaiden.

Mr. President, it is a grim picture. But that is the reality of AIDS.

To beat it, we must be convinced of two things:

One, we can win. We can stop its spread. We can prevent new infec-
tions. We can treat those who suffer better. In time we can hope to
find a cure. I propose to confidently hold up the prospect of a world
free of AIDS.

For that, we know, we need a world free of poverty.

Two, we must build on the dignity of the human individual and the ca-
pacity of her community. For far too long, all over the world, and in
too many places still, AIDS is faced with silence, shame and denial.
If we fail, that will be the reason.

Care, not fear. Dignity, not denial. This is where winning starts, in
families, communities, governments, nations.

And we in the international community must work together with only
one purpose in mind, winning. Each institution bringing its best
strengths, aligning with others, adding value as we concert our ef-

We have come a long way. UNAIDS, in which the World Bank was a part-
ner from the outset, was a major innovative step. The Partnership
Against HIV/AIDS in Africa launched here at the UN last month brings
us even further. And we are partnering with many African governments
in new ways.

We pledge to walk together with Africa on this journey - knowing it
will be long.

Mr. President, each step of that journey demands that we do things

When we think about security we must think beyond battalions or bor-
ders. We must think about human security, about winning a different
war, the fight against poverty. The World Bank is ready and anxious
to work with the Security Council now and in the future on a broad
range of issues affecting human security.

We must shine a spotlight on the AIDS issue, put it front and center.
Break the silence; destigmatize it. And build coalitions with govern-
ments, the private sector and civil society to fight it.

We must find innovative ways to make care and treatment available,
including affordable drugs. The science is difficult and the market
incentives are weak, but we must create new win-win strategies with
the private sector in order to address this critical market failure.

We must speak openly about sex and gender inequalities, and about

We must raise more resources - recognizing that it makes no sense to
give aid with one hand if we do nothing to stem AIDS with the other.

We must put prevention at the center. We estimate that the cost of
prevention is between $1.5 and $3.5 per capita per year - compared to
over $7 per capita per year needed for basic treatment - and, of
course, the cost of treatment per patient is astronomically higher.

Africans must lead. I say it again because it is so crucial. We know
it can be done and done successfully. We have the examples of Uganda
and Senegal, important strides in Malawi and elsewhere, and further
afield we know of the ground-breaking work in Thailand.

And we must acknowledge that without peace and stability in Africa
the chances of staunching this epidemic will be much slimmer.

Three months ago in Lusaka, the World Bank launched a new strategy
for HIV/AIDS in Africa. I bring it to this table.

This strategy declares AIDS as a top priority for the Bank in Africa
and commits us to an unprecedented effort, in partnership with
UNAIDS, to support countries and communities in this struggle.

We will mainstream AIDS in all our work in Africa, recognizing that
AIDS and development are inextricably tied together; we will back
this commitment with increased funding and with a long-term partner-

We must recognize that if we provide the resources and the enabling
environment, solutions will come from communities. No community wants
to dash the dreams of its children. AIDS will do nothing to change
that bedrock bond between generations.

But communities need financial support; and their programs need to be
scaled up - we estimate that the total sum needed for prevention in
Africa is in the order of $1 billion to $2.3 billion and yet at pre-
sent Africa is receiving only $160 million in official assistance for
HIV/AIDS. Every war needs a war chest, but that provided by the in-
ternational community is woefully empty.

I have told all my offices in Africa that we will provide governments
with the maximum available funding to create and implement programs.
We can make a very big difference but we cannot do the job alone.

We will discuss AIDS at the meeting of the Development Committee in
April, and I hope that there too we can see action on the issue of

We must build a coalition for change. As surely as if we mobilized
for peace, we must now mobilize for war. A war against AIDS. A war
for Africa's future and for our own.

Let me leave you with the voice of a young African woman whose vil-
lage has been all but destroyed by AIDS. "We do not think," she said,
"that life will become any better for our children and even for gen-
erations to come."

Mr President, I believe that with a concerted international effort we
can prove her wrong. Let us align our strengths to one day see a
world free of AIDS.

Together, we can extend local information programs, educate for safer
behavior, distribute condoms. Together with the private sector we can
expand low cost treatments.

We know it can be done. But we do not have much time. The cost of in-
action will be great. The cost of action is relatively small, but the
rewards are priceless. A better chance of peace and stability and
hope for millions who now live with none. That is surely the true
meaning of security.

Thank you.

Reprinted under the fair use doctrine of international copyright law:


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