Minister of State Kitt outlines Presidency Priorities to European Parliament and announces HIV/AIDS Conference
Mr Tom Kitt T.D., the Minister of State for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, outlined the priorities for Ireland's EU Presidency in the development cooperation field when he addressed the Development Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this week.
The Minister made clear that a key priority will be the challenge presented by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in developing countries. He will be using the Presidency to highlight the scale of this crisis and the need for a concerted European Union response to it.
He drew attention to a major conference which the Irish Presidency will be hosting in Dublin Castle on 23-24 February on the specific theme of the threat posed by HIV/AIDS to the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Minister of State Kitt said: “the fight against HIV/AIDS is one of our key EU Presidency priorities. We have been in close contact with the UN agencies involved in dealing with HIV/AIDS, such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. These agencies strongly urged us to use our Presidency to highlight the fact that the disease is now a very serious problem in some European, particularly Eastern European, countries and in Central Asia. It is also, once again, on the increase in Western Europe.
HIV/AIDS is increasing at the fastest rate in the world in the European and Central Asian region. Strong political leadership is required if we are not to face a profound crisis in the coming years.
I have agreed that Irish Presidency will host a major international conference in Dublin to discuss the HIV/AIDS threat in the European and Central Asian region. Every other region of the world, including Asia, Latin America and Africa have held such regional meetings to promote cooperation between their countries in the face of a disease which primarily threatens young people.
This Conference” Breaking the Barriers: partnership to fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia” will take place in Dublin Castle on 23-24 February 2004. We have invited Ministers from 55 countries across the region to come to Dublin to cooperate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Already over 2.1 million people in Europe and Central Asia have the disease.
The Conference has attracted huge interest within the EU and across the region. We have secured the participation of among others, Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, Commissioner David Byrne, President Jorge Sampiao of Portugal, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of Romania, Dr. Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr, Lee, the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Ms. Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of UNICEF and Mary Robinson, Director of the Ethical Globalisation initiative.
In addition Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bob Geldof will prove a global perspective to the Conference on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In organising the Conference we have tried to ensure that the voice of young people from across the region will be heard. We are, therefore, bringing 10 young people from Western and Eastern Europe and Central Asia to Dublin to share their views and experiences with us.
The Dublin HIV/AIDS Conference will be the biggest single meeting in Ireland during our Presidency. It will focus on an issue, the threat of HIV/AIDS, which requires far greater coordination and collective action in our region. We want the Conference to adopt a document, the Dublin Declaration, which will set out an action plan and targets designed to ensure that HIV/AIDS is tackled effectively through prevention, treatment and care.
The Dublin Conference on HIV/AIDS will be an example of effective multilateral cooperation. We are organising the conference in cooperation with UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. We will also have support from the World Bank, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN office on Drugs and Crime. All of these organisations are leading the global response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. They will be working with the Irish EU Presidency, Development Cooperation Ireland and the Governments of the European and Central Asian region to push the issue of HIV/AIDS higher up the political agenda in all of our countries and in the region. We are determined to work closely with the UN system to ensure an effective response to a crisis which has not, hitherto, received sufficient political attention.”
The members of the Development Committee warmly welcomed the initiative announced by the Minister and hoped that the Irish Presidency would help to deepen the Union's response to the HIV/AIDS crisis on its own doorstep, in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.
In his remarks to the Committee Minister Kitt also covered a range of other Presidency priorities, including conflict prevention, the need to press on with the Doha Development Agenda, debt relief for developing countries and the importance of maintaining a continued focus on poverty reduction in the development cooperation programmes of the Union and member States.