HIV and AIDS : information meeting for Permanent Delegations

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koichiro Matsuura, yesterday convened an information meeting for Permanent Delegations in order to provide an update on UNESCO’s role, aims and programme regarding HIV and AIDS.

On this occasion, he was joined by Mrs Cristina Owen-Jones, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and AIDS Prevention Education; he praised her work on UNESCO’s behalf, especially regarding the development of the collaboration between UNESCO and the Global Business Coalition (GBC) on HIV/AIDS.

After outlining global trends concerning the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS, the Director-General said that “unless strong action is taken, particularly through massively expanded and intensified prevention efforts, the pandemic will continue to spread and threaten sustainable development, including progress towards achieving EFA”. Nevertheless, despite the continuing seriousness and urgency of the situation, Mr Matsuura saw signs of improvement in several aspects of the struggle to contain and reverse the spread of the epidemic.

He drew particular attention to the work last year of the Global Task Team, comprising 24 Member States, UN agencies and civil society organizations, saying that “the Global Task Team recommendations are framed by the UN reform process, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the OECD/DAC Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness … and seek to improve coordination (particularly within the multilateral system), to resolve areas of duplication and gaps in the global response to AIDS, and to propose ways to streamline, simplify and harmonize procedures and practices to improve country effectiveness”. The Director-General expressed his gratitude for the Executive Board’s recent decision to strongly endorse the recommendations, which include the designation of UNESCO as the ‘lead organization’ for HIV prevention in educational institutions within the wider framework of a UNAIDS division of labour. The Global Task Team recommendations will “improve country effectiveness in the response to AIDS, and ultimately support the scaling-up of prevention and treatment programmes”, he said, adding that they will also help UNESCO to focus its work for improved impact.

Mr Matsuura also highlighted the commitment made by world leaders at last year’s World Summit to support a massive scaling-up of comprehensive AIDS services, with the aim of achieving the goal of universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. He affirmed UNESCO’s strong support for the universal access process, in which prevention is an integral feature and for which EDUCAIDS - the Global Initiative for Education on HIV and AIDS - is a key mechanism to ensure strengthened collaboration. The Director-General reminded the Permanent Delegations that EDUCAIDS is a UNAIDS initiative led by UNESCO with the collaboration of key stakeholders and in full compliance with the agreed UN division of labour. Focused strongly on supporting national efforts against HIV and AIDS, “EDUCAIDS has two primary aims: first, to use education to prevent the spread of HIV and, second, to protect the core functions of the education system from the worst effects of the epidemic”, he explained. Mr Matsuura noted that interest in participating in EDUCAIDS was coming from countries in all regions.

The Director-General proceeded to outline how “UNESCO’s distinctive combination of expertise gives it an interdisciplinary, organizational and technical capacity that enhances and strengthens our work in the key area of education”. He gave examples of UNESCO’s interdisciplinary approach and of the specific contributions of the different sectors and services, at Headquarters and in the field.

The Director-General pointed out that UNESCO is strongly reliant upon extrabudgetary funds for pursuing its work on HIV and AIDS, in particular the Unified Budget and Workplan of UNAIDS and its Programme Acceleration Fund for country level action. He also noted the contributions of Italy, Japan, the OPEC Fund and the USA, and highlighted Italy’s support for the “Families First Africa” project.

With regard to the coordination of UNESCO’s activities on HIV and AIDS, the Director-General reminded the Permanent Delegates that this responsibility had been transferred to the Education Sector following the retirement of IIEP’s Director Gudmund Hernes late last year. The new UNESCO Global Coordinator is Mary Pigozzi, Director of ED/PEQ.

Mr Matsuura concluded his remarks by noting the good news that, for the second year in a row, “global HIV prevalence is leveling off”, thanks in part to “the unprecedented increase in resources and intensified efforts at the country, regional and international levels”. However, he cautioned against complacency, stating that “despite some important progress, much more work needs to be done and must be sustained for some considerable time”.

Following his speech, the Director-General responded to questions from Permanent Delegations and gave an opportunity for a representative of “Families First Africa” to speak to the meeting. He called upon Mrs Owen-Jones to make some remarks, in which she focused on the GBC initiative and its potential, and on UNESCO’s collaboration with L’Oreal, notably in the area of including HIV and AIDS orientation in the training of hairdressers. The UNESCO Global Coordinator, Ms Pigozzi, said that UNESCO was presently well-placed within UNAIDS in the context of a rapidly changing UN landscape. She highlighted the need to focus efforts on the country level but, in so doing, to harness the support and contributions of UNESCO’s regional and cluster offices. She also stressed the importance of a single coherent UNESCO approach that harmonized the concerns and contributions of different sectors and services.

  • Source:Flash Info n°070-2006
  • 10-05-2006
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