ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

ECOSOC ADOPTS TWO TEXTS ON REPERCUSSIONS OF ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND ON A EUROPE-AFRICA LINK THROUGH THE STRAIGHT OF GIBRALTAR

Starts General Discussion on Coordination, Programme and Other Questions and Hears Introduction of Reports on HIV/AIDS and Tobacco Control
19 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon adopted two resolutions on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Arab population in the Occupied Syrian Golan and on a Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar.  The Council also started its general discussion on its agenda item on coordination, programme and other questions and heard introductions of the report of the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the report of the Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control.

In a resolution on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a vote of 43 in favour, two against and one abstention, the Council called for the full opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip to ensure humanitarian access as well as the sustained and regular flow of persons and goods, and for other urgent measures to be taken to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and called for compliance by Israel, the occupying Power, with all of its legal obligations in that regard. 

In a resolution on a Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar, the Council requested the Executive Secretaries of the Economic Commission for Africa and the Economic Commission for Europe to continue to take an active part in the follow-up to the project and to report to the Economic and Social Council at its substantive session of 2015 on the progress made on the project studies.  It requested the Secretary-General to provide formal support and, to the extent that priorities permit, the resources necessary, from within the regular budget, to the Economic Commission for Europe and the Economic Commission for Africa, to enable them to carry out the activities mentioned above.

Introducing resolutions were Spain on behalf of Spain and Morocco and Fiji on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.  Ecuador introduced a resolution on support to non-self-governing territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations, but action on it was postponed.  Latvia on behalf of the European Union and New Zealand spoke in explanations of the vote before the vote.  The United States spoke in an explanation of the vote after the vote and Palestine spoke in a general comment.

Before taking action on the resolutions, ECOSOC concluded its general discussion on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples; regional cooperation; and economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.
In the general discussion, speakers said that the occupying power, Israel, was continuing to violate international law and the human rights of Palestinians.  The discriminatory policies of the Israeli State, the excessive use of force by Israeli forces, the ill-treatment of civilians and children, the demolition of Palestinian houses, and the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements were all illegal practices.  The continuing settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the apartheid wall, should cease.  In the Occupied Syrian Golan, its inhabitants had been displaced with the remaining ones deprived of their rights, and the territory given to Israeli settlers, in flagrant violation of international law and the Geneva Convention.

One speaker said that the Council should encourage and support regions to step up efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals.  Discussions on the formulation of the post-2015 agenda should focus on unachieved Millennium Development Goals,   poverty eradication, and the promotion of development, which should be the core of the agenda. 

Speaking in the general discussion were Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, South Africa, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Iran, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Israel, Sudan, Bolivia and Kuwait.

Palestine spoke in a right of reply.

The Council also took note of the following reports on regional cooperation: Report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social, and related fields (E/2013/15) and Addendum 1 and Addendum 2; Economic situation in the Economic Commission for Europe region: Europe, North American and the Commonwealth of Independent States (E/2013/16); Overview of economic and social conditions in Africa, 2012-2013 (E/2013/17); Summary of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2013 (E/2013/18); Latin America and the Caribbean: economic situation and outlook 2012-2013 (E/2013/19); Summary of the survey of economic and social developments in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia region 20120-2013 (E/2013/20); and Note by the Secretary-General transmitting the reports of the Executive Secretaries of the Economic Commission for Europe and the Economic Commission for Africa on the project for a Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar: report on activities carried out during the period 2006-2013 and programme proposed for the period 2013-2015 (E/2013/21).

The Council then started its consideration of its agenda item on coordination, programme and other questions. 

Jan Beagle, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, introducing the report of the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said that despite progress, gains remained fragile.  New infection rates continued to rise in several parts of the world, and 1.7 million people still died of AIDS every year.  HIV remained the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide, accounting for an estimated 20 per cent of maternal deaths.  Over the past two years, UNAIDS had evolved to respond to the changing epidemic.  Effectively tackling AIDS was a long-term investment that paid dividends across all sectors of development. 

Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director-General for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, World Health Organization, presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control, said that the report focused on the specific areas of the fight against tobacco and emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation in the political, technical and other areas.  It stressed the importance of efforts to combat tobacco as part of a broader campaign against non-communicable diseases, noted trends, and mentioned the importance of national mechanisms to coordinate inter-agency efforts at the country level.

In the general discussion that followed, speakers expressed support for the advocacy for human rights and equal access to prevention, treatment and care by UNAIDS. 
Speakers also noted that tobacco consumption was a public health problem.  There was proof that not advertising tobacco products had a significant impact on reducing smoking.  Non-communicable diseases were a new challenge for economic and social development.  They significantly impacted on families, health systems and economies in all countries.  A broader, systemic approach on non-communicable diseases was very important to avoid fragmentation of response.

Speaking in the general discussion were Russia, Panama, Austria, Mexico, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, Germany, Australia, France, and Dominican Republic.  Action Canada for Population and Development also took the floor.

The Economic and Social Council will resume its work on Monday 22 July, at 10 a.m., when it is scheduled to hold a panel discussion on the importance of drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, including the issue of human trafficking.  It will resume its consideration of its agenda item on coordination, programme and other questions and take action on draft proposals after the conclusion of the panel.

General Discussion on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations; regional cooperation; and economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan

Lebanon welcomed the report and its conclusions.  Israel, the occupying power, continued to violate international law and the human rights of Palestinians.  The discriminatory policies of the Israeli State, the excessive use of force by Israeli forces, the ill-treatment of civilians and children, the demolition of Palestinian houses, and the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements were all illegal practices.      

Syria said that Israel had occupied the Syrian Golan in 1967, displaced its inhabitants, deprived the remaining citizens of their rights, and given the territory to Israeli settlers, in flagrant violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions.  Israel had also banned Syrian citizens of the Golan from visiting Syria, and tried to alter the history of the region.  Israeli practices should be condemned by the Council to reaffirm the strength of the United Nations Charter.    

Tunisia remained concerned about the continuing violation of the rights of Palestinians by Israel, in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions.  Tunisia had called many times on the Council to call upon Israel to put an end to the racial discrimination, segregation, and all other illegal practices and policies against Palestinians.  The continuing settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the apartheid wall, should cease.    

South Africa said that support for the people of Palestine had long been one of its areas of focus and it had taken note of the report with utter dismay.  The report highlighted the prolonged Israeli occupation and its discriminatory regime and practices, in violation of United Nations resolutions and international law.  It was clear that the discrimination perpetrated by Israel would continue to undermine any chances of peace and justice.  South Africa continued to strongly oppose the Gaza blockade.

Iraq expressed deep concern at the rise of unemployment, the lack of food security, restrictions imposed on movement, and the practice of demolishing Palestinian infrastructure by the Israeli occupation forces.  Iraq was concerned about the deterioration of living conditions of the Palestinian people due to the policies of the occupation; and called for an end to the building of settlements by the occupying power and for an end to violence perpetrated by settlers.

Qatar condemned all the practices including racist practices by Israel which would undoubtedly lead to the further deterioration of the social and economic situation of the Palestinian people.  It was time for the international community to incessantly and firmly move to put an end to the practices that violated the rights of the Palestinian people.  The illegal Israeli occupation had to come to an end, the blockade on Gaza had to be lifted, and all those who had violated the rights of the Palestinian people had to be held accountable.

Bahrain said that the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan constituted the main obstacle to the enjoyment by Palestinians of their right to self-determination.  Bahrain was concerned about the accelerated pace of illegal settlement construction by Israel in the occupied territories, and about the segregation and racist policies pursued by Israel vis-à-vis Palestinian citizens.      

United Arab Emirates welcomed the report, which drew a clear and comprehensive picture of the difficult situation faced by those living under Israeli occupation.  Economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza was unsustainable and remained constrained by severe restrictions imposed by Israel.  The continuing occupation of Palestinian territories had resulted in severe shortages and did not allow the healthcare system to function properly.    

Venezuela supported the right to self-determination and expressed concern at the existence of colonial situations around the world, which prevented the enjoyment of this right.  Venezuela stressed the negative economic and social impact of the Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians, and called upon Israel to cease its policy of settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.      

Iran said that the Israeli regime continued to violate the United Nations Charter, United Nations resolutions and international law in various fields.  The international community had the responsibility to ensure that the people of Palestine lived in peace and enjoyed their fundamental rights, without intimidation or fear.  The international community should categorically condemn all such violations and take effective measures to put a stop to them; it should also manifest its commitment to the principles of international law, in particular humanitarian law and human rights.

Morocco said that the Israeli authorities impeded any chance of achieving a just and comprehensive peace by imposing a de facto situation and through increasing settlement activities.   The Palestinian people were deprived of their freedom, access to natural resources, and the right to development.  The Israeli authorities worked continuously to change the demographic status of Jerusalem, and Morocco reaffirmed the need to stop any work that changed the status of the city of Jerusalem, which had a special place in the hearts of all religions.

Algeria hoped that the international community would continue its efforts to improve the living standards of people living in a situation of colonialism and stressed the fundamental right of self-determination.  Algeria welcomed the efforts of the international community in favour of the Palestinian people.  The report recalled the injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people and underlined that the main obstacles faced by the Palestinian economy resulted from the occupation.  Economic recovery required substantial and predictable aid from donors.

Egypt said that Israel systematically imposed segregation practices, exploited the natural resources of the Palestinian people, and violated their rights.  Privileges were given to Israeli settlers to encourage them to come to the occupied territories.  Israel controlled and denied Palestinians access to water, imposed restrictions on Palestinian tax revenue transfers, and exacerbated unemployment among Palestinians, over 25 per cent of whom lived in poverty.   

Libya strongly condemned Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, in violation of international law, and which included the destruction of Arab land and the deprivation of Palestinians from access to water.  Libya called on the international community to play a clear role to put an end to illegal Israeli practices and to help the Palestinian people, who continued to suffer human rights violations. 

China said that the Council should encourage and support regions to step up efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals.  Discussions on the formulation of the post-2015 agenda should focus on unachieved Millennium Development Goals,   poverty eradication, and the promotion of development, which should be the core of the agenda.  China wanted to see the United Nations regional commissions closely involved in the post-2015 development process and the post-Rio+20 process.

Indonesia strongly deplored widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law resulting from the Israeli occupation.  Indonesia was deeply concerned about the economic and social situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the Occupied Syrian Golan.  The report painted a vivid picture of realities, challenges and difficulties being faced by the Palestinian people.  As of May 2013 Indonesia had trained around 1,246 Palestinians in a variety of capacity building programmes and was offering scholarships to young Palestinians to study in Indonesia.

Brazil said that for 46 years Israel had been occupying Palestinian and Syrian territories in violation of its obligations under international law.  Under Israeli occupation, prospects for economic and social development would always be limited.  Brazil was deeply concerned about the continuation of the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights, and about reports of repeated violence conducted by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property.  The blockade on Gaza was also a situation of great concern.

Israel said that it was greatly disappointed that the Council had again been exploited to discuss a report and a resolution that were politically motivated and disconnected from reality.  This Palestinian-Syrian venture not only wasted ECOSOC’s valuable time and resources, it seriously undermined this organization’s credibility as an impartial and professional body.  Israel recognized that the situation in the Palestinian territories was not easy, but it was definitely far from being a humanitarian crisis and there were plenty of indicators to prove it.  Israel was committed to achieving peace with the Palestinians.

Sudan strongly condemned the Israeli practice of demolishing Palestinian houses, stealing natural Palestinian resources and destroying infrastructure in blatant violation of international law, and stressed that Israeli impunity must come to an end.  Depriving Palestinian people of their natural water resources, imposing apartheid practices, banning Palestinians from travelling, continuing the blockade of Gaza, and restricting Palestinian access to places of worship were inhuman practices.    

Bolivia said that the report had shown once again the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people, victims of a prolonged occupation which violated their human rights.  Following 46 years of occupation, Israel still denied the Palestinian people their right to social and economic development and their right to self-determination.  Israel must put an end to all settlement activity unconditionally, but there were no signs that things were moving in that direction.  

Kuwait condemned the inhuman practices of Israeli authorities against the Palestinian people, including the destruction of infrastructure, the demolition of houses, the construction of the apartheid wall and numerous other segregation practices.  Israeli occupation of Palestine was the only obstacle to Palestinians achieving sustainable development.  Kuwait called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to end the ongoing violation of human rights in Palestine.   

Palestine, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Council had listened to Israel, which said it was disappointed.  The right word to use should have been ‘ashamed’.  Israel also said that all statements made by countries were far away from realities.  Israel had forgotten that occupation was the ugliest form of racism and terrorism.  Israel was a State of terror and its army was an army of terror.  It was not possible to combine democracy and terrorism.  A few days ago, the world saw in the media a five-year old Palestinian being taken as a prisoner by Israel. 

Action on Resolutions

Action on Resolution on Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Specialized Agencies and International Institutions Associated with the United Nations

Ecuador, introducing draft resolution E/2013/L.24 on support to non-self-governing territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations, said that the main aim was to facilitate cooperation between United Nations bodies and administering powers in providing assistance to non-self-governing people.  Inter alia, the resolution recommended intensifying efforts to ensure full and effective implementation of the declaration granting independence to colonial countries and peoples.  The text reaffirmed the recognition by United Nations bodies of the legitimate aspiration of non-self-governing people to their right to self-determination.  It expressed appreciation to the specialized agencies and other organizations and bodies of the United Nations that had been applying ECOSOC and General Assembly resolutions with regards to assistance to such territories, and urged specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations system that had not yet provided assistance to such territories to do so, as quickly as possible.  All members of this body were invited to approve this draft resolution by consensus.

MARTIN SAJDIK, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that action on this draft resolution would be taken at a different stage. 

Action on Resolution on Europe-Africa Fixed Link through the Strait of Gibraltar

In a resolution on Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar (E/2013/L.28), adopted by consensus, the Council welcomes the cooperation on the project for the link through the Strait of Gibraltar between the Economic Commission for Africa, the Economic Commission for Europe, the Governments of Morocco and Spain, and specialized international organizations; also welcomes the progress made in the project studies as a result, and that a new Action Plan 2013-2016 will be adopted; commends the Economic Commission for Europe and the Economic Commission for Africa for the work done in preparing the project follow-up report requested by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 2011/12; renews its invitation to the competent organizations of the United Nations system and to specialized governmental and non-governmental organizations to participate in the studies and work on the fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar; requests the Executive Secretaries of the Economic Commission for Africa and the Economic Commission for Europe to continue to take an active part in the follow-up to the project and to report to the Economic and Social Council at its substantive session of 2015 on the progress made on the project studies; requests the Secretary-General to provide formal support and, to the extent that priorities permit, the resources necessary, from within the regular budget, to the Economic Commission for Europe and the Economic Commission for Africa, to enable them to carry out the activities mentioned above.

Spain, introducing draft resolution L. 28, on behalf of Spain and Morocco, said that since the beginning of studies carried out on the issue, a mixed Spanish-Moroccan Committee had been created to examine the link.  Selection of the option of a rail tunnel in 1996 had given impetus to the endeavour.  Building a rail tunnel could benefit tourism and result in increased economic links between the two regions.  There were significant financial, geological and climatic challenges.  However, the continuous coordination of the various parties involved would contribute to the realization of the project.  The most recent report under the direction of the Joint Committee confirmed that progress had been achieved.  The benefits at all levels of the project would reinforce links between the two peoples across the two coasts of the Mediterranean. 

ECOSOC Notes Reports

The Council also took note of the following reports on regional cooperation: Report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social, and related fields (E/2013/15) and Addendum 1 and Addendum 2; Economic situation in the Economic Commission for Europe region: Europe, North American and the Commonwealth of Independent States (E/2013/16); Overview of economic and social conditions in Africa, 2012-2013 (E/2013/17); Summary of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2013 (E/2013/18); Latin America and the Caribbean: economic situation and outlook 2012-2013 (E/2013/19); Summary of the survey of economic and social developments in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia region 20120-2013 (E/2013/20); and Note by the Secretary-General transmitting the reports of the Executive Secretaries of the Economic Commission for Europe and the Economic Commission for Africa on the project for a Europe-Africa fixed link through the Strait of Gibraltar: report on activities carried out during the period 2006-2013 and programme proposed for the period 2013-2015 (E/2013/21).

Action on Resolution on Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation on the Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab Population in the Occupied Syrian Golan

In a resolution on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/2013/L.16), adopted by 43 votes in favour, 2 against (United States and Canada), and 1 abstention (Haiti), the Council calls for the full opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip to ensure humanitarian access as well as the sustained and regular flow of persons and goods, and for other urgent measures to be taken to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and calls for compliance by Israel, the occupying Power, with all of its legal obligations in that regard; stresses the need to preserve the territorial contiguity, unity and integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as to and from the outside world; demands that Israel comply with the Protocol on Economic Relations between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, signed in Paris on 29 April 1994; reiterates the importance of the revival and accelerated advancement of negotiations of the peace process on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions; and requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session, through the Economic and Social Council, a report on the implementation of the present resolution and to continue to include in the report of the United Nations Special Coordinator an update on the living conditions of the Palestinian people; and decides to include the item entitled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” on the agenda of its substantive session of 2014.

Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introducing draft resolution (E/2013/L.16), on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, said that guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter, and affirming the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and recalling all relevant resolutions, the Group of 77 and China expressed concern over the persistence of the economic and social situation of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in Jerusalem, and stressed the need to preserve the integrity of all occupied Palestinian territory, to guarantee freedom of movement, and to safeguard the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.  The Group of 77 and China reiterated the need for international assistance to support Palestinian development efforts in the economic and social fields and called on the international donor community to deliver this assistance to the Palestinian Authority.  The text also called for the full and speedy implementation of agreements reached, and to accelerate and revive the peace process on the basis of United Nations resolutions and from the point at which it was stopped. 

Latvia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the resolution addressed important economic and social issues, so the European Union would vote in favour of the resolution.  However, it clarified that it took the term “Palestinian Government” as referring to the Palestinian Authority.  

New Zealand, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it supported the resolution because it shared the concerns expressed within it about the prevailing social and economic conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories.  New Zealand clarified that it took the term “Palestinian Government” used in the resolution as referring to the Palestinian Authority.

United States, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that it was disappointed at the adoption of yet another biased resolution, which it could not support.  The resolution, like others before it, failed to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an objective and even-handed manner and would not contribute to securing a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis.  The United States supported a two-State agreement and had been working to find an enduring solution to the conflict, whilst treating both parties fairly and with respect and being careful not to single out either party.  The United States would continue to work with the Palestinian Authority, Israel and international partners to find a fair solution, and remained trouble by one-sided condemnations.   The United States also called on all Member States to take constructive action to promote peace and to avoid actions which undermined trust.

Palestine, in a general comment, thanked the countries which voted in favour of the resolution and said it was committed to continuing to work with the countries which had voted against the resolution or had abstained from the vote.  The resolution was important and Palestine welcomed its outcome, but as long as Israeli occupation persisted, Palestine would continue to use all existing mechanisms in an appropriate manner.
 
Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination at its fifty-third session (3-28 June 2013) (A/68/16).

The Council has before it the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2012 (E/2013/60). 

The Council has before it the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 (A/68/6) [Currently unavailable]

The Council has before it a note by the United Nations Secretary-General on the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) (E/2013/62).

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control (E/2013/61).

The Council has before it a letter dated 10 July 2013 from the Chair of the Committee on Conferences to the President of the Economic and Social Council (E/2013/93).

The Council has before it a note by the United Nations Secretary-General regarding the provisional calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields for 2014 and 2015 (E/2013/L.6).

Presentation of Reports on Coordination, Programme and Other Questions

MARTIN SAJDIK, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the Chair of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its fifty-third session regretted not being able to attend this session of the Council in order to introduce the report.  He had however requested that his statement outlining the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report be circulated to the members of the Council.  It was also recalled that the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2012 was introduced on 9 July 2013 under the Coordination Segment. 

JAN BEAGLE, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, introducing the report of the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said that the world was less than 900 days away from the deadline of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the ambitious targets of the 2011 United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.  If countries were to achieve their common goals and targets, it was essential that the global community sustained and scaled up the gains already made, and further strengthened its commitment to the response.  Since UNAIDS’ last report to the Council in 2011, the pace of progress towards combating HIV had quickened, and unprecedented successes allowed them to look optimistically into the future.  Despite progress, gains remained fragile and Millennium Development Goal 6 had not yet been reached.  New infection rates continued to rise in several parts of the world, and 1.7 million people still died of AIDS every year.  HIV remained the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide, accounting for an estimated 20 per cent of maternal deaths.  Over the past two years, UNAIDS had evolved to respond to the changing epidemic.  The Joint Programme’s cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach drew on the expertise of its co-sponsors, and a largely field-based Secretariat, to address the complex issue of HIV from multiple perspectives.  The global response to AIDS was built on a foundation of collaboration across a wide range of stakeholders at global, regional and country levels.  Through an innovative CrowdOutAIDS initiative, young people from around the world used social media tools and crowd-sourcing technology to develop a new strategy that enabled the Secretariat to work more effectively with young people.   UNAIDS was also leveraging the power of the private sector and convening public private partnerships.

Given the global community’s broad commitment to completing the “unfinished business” of the Millennium Development Goals, the UNAIDS governing body stressed last month that HIV and AIDS had to be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda.  The critical lessons learned through the global AIDS response had significant value to the new agenda, including the experiences honed from the Joint Programme’s multisectoral and rights-based approach.  Effectively tackling AIDS was a long-term investment that paid dividends across all sectors of development. 

OLEG CHESTNOV, Assistant Director-General for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, World Health Organization, presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control, said that the Task Force was set up in 1999 under a relevant Council resolution with the aim of strengthening global support.  The report focused on the specific areas of the fight against tobacco where inter-agency cooperation was an important component and emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation in the political, technical and other areas.  The report stressed the importance of efforts to combat tobacco as part of a broader campaign against non-communicable diseases, noted trends, mentioned the importance of national mechanisms to coordinate inter-agency efforts at the country level, and made a recommendation to the Council to expand the Task Force so as to include the prevention of non-communicable diseases and to include non-communicable diseases in the design of the development agenda.

General Discussion on Coordination, Programme and Other Questions

Russia welcomed efforts of the Chief Executive Board for Coordination to enhance transparency and accountability of activities.  Also noted were efforts to ensure coordination of the United Nations system in the area of sustainable development.  Russia also welcomed that there was greater access to retroviral drugs with regards to HIV/AIDS and underlined the need for respect for the sovereignty of countries and their right to design their way of addressing the issue. On tobacco control, Russia supported the recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General.

Panama said that tobacco consumption was a public health problem and led to a conflict of interest between defending health and commercial concerns.  Panama had taken proven measures to achieve real health protection.  There was proof that not advertising tobacco products had a significant impact on reducing smoking.  Panama welcomed the work that had been done and tangible measures taken by the Ad-Hoc Task Force, in particular to encourage anti-tobacco policies and assistance mechanisms as part of a multi-sectoral commitment. 

Austria said that the aim of the Joint UNAIDS Programme was to inspire and encourage equal access to prevention, treatment and care for all concerned, and reiterated its support to the advocacy for human rights and equal access to prevention, treatment and care by UNAIDS.  Non-communicable diseases were a new challenge for economic and social development.  They significantly impacted on families, health systems and economies in all countries.  A broader, systemic approach on non-communicable diseases was very important to avoid fragmentation of response.

Mexico said that the problems under discussion were global problems and of particular relevance to Mexico.  Better and more coordinated action was needed to help the 34 million persons who lived with HIV/AIDS around the world.  Mexico would continue to actively promote a response to HIV/AIDS which focused on respect for human rights, combating discrimination in particular.  Medical care, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs to patients, was important.

Bulgaria said that the number of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2012 was 20 per cent lower worldwide, which showed that progress had been made.  Nevertheless, they needed to remain aware of the challenges lying ahead.  Addressing the needs of young persons and members of groups most at risk should be part of their strategy.  Bulgaria was part of a region where new HIV infections were increasing, but had a strong political will and a national action plan to fight against the spread of the disease.

Venezuela said that it remained committed to combating HIV/AIDS through public policy and the provision of appropriate treatment.  In March last year Venezuela presented its programme guaranteeing universal access to treatment and information in order to stop the spread of the disease.  Concerning the consumption of tobacco, Venezuela had taken many measures to deal with the problem of exposure to smoke in public places and to tackle the smuggling of tobacco products.
 
Uruguay emphasized that through expanding the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control to include all non-communicable diseases, they were not losing sight of the importance of tobacco control.  Uruguay supported the guidelines to avoid conflict of interest with regards to tobacco.  Uruguay also urged all stakeholders to support these efforts.

Cuba noted inconsistencies and lack of rigour in the report of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination which made it impossible for it to be considered in detail.  Cuba also noted the importance of the General Assembly.  The size of the budget had to correspond to the figure approved and correspond to the intergovernmental mandate.  The budget could not constitute an instrument for reducing posts or redistributing resources within programmes unless there was a corresponding decision of the General Assembly.  There was a need for total transparency in the presentation of the budget.

South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed its strong commitment to strengthen international cooperation for enhancing capacities of developing countries to prevent and control non-communicable diseases as well as the vital importance of access to medicines, including generics, and medical technologies to control non-communicable diseases.  The Task Force should promote south-south and triangular cooperation.  National production of medicines and other products should also be encouraged.  On HIV/AIDS, whilst recognizing achievements made, concerted efforts were needed. 
                
Germany said that the major advances of the AIDS response had changed the global health landscape, and had offered an entry point for addressing issues of equity and human rights.  However, many challenges remained, as new HIV infection rates steadily increased in many regions.  Forty per cent of the new infections reported occurred in young persons, so offering comprehensive sexual education was an important measure in the fight against the spread of the disease. 

Australia said that UNAIDS had helped States to make progress in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.  Nonetheless, more needed to be done and Member States should continue to strengthen efforts to achieve their objectives in that regard.  Australia thanked Russia for its leadership in initiating action on non-communicable diseases, and underlined the continuing importance of tobacco control.  

France said that the HIV/AIDS programme was in line with the relevant United Nations strategy and with the General Assembly Declaration on HIV/AIDS.  France, which had made the fight against HIV/AIDS a national priority, thanked India and Australia who had led the negotiations on the text relating to that issue.  France also said that States should work together to fight against homophobia and all other forms of discrimination.    
 
Dominican Republic said that it had been implementing a campaign against smoking and tobacco use involving an increase in taxes, public education, prohibition of consumption of tobacco products in public places, and other actions that had succeeded in reducing tobacco use as an industrial manufactured product.  The Dominican Republic was a tobacco producer and exporter.  Tobacco had been smoked by its indigenous peoples for medicinal purposes and recently even for gastronomic purposes.  When speaking of consumption, it was one thing to consume tobacco and another to be an addict or abuse tobacco.

Action Canada for Population and Development said that the health and well-being of all was central to the achievement of sustainable development and human rights.  The neglect of sexual and reproductive rights and health hindered the achievement of sustainable development.  The post-2015 development framework had to be grounded in international human rights standards and a human rights-based approach had to be used.


For use of the information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/030E


Related Information