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Wolfensohn Calls for ‘War on AIDS’

To learn more about HIV/AIDS and the World Bank’s work on the issue,
click here

In an historic appearance Monday before the UN Security Council in New York, World Bank President James Wolfensohn called for a “War on AIDS.”  Citing the devastation that AIDS has caused in developing countriesmost notably in AfricaWolfensohn asserted that the effort and resources being devoted to the epidemic are grossly inadequate.

“We estimate that the total sum needed for prevention in Africa annually is on the order of $1 billion to $2.3 billion and yet at present Africa is receiving only $160 million a year in official assistance for HIV/AIDS,” Wolfensohn said at a special Security Council meeting on HIV/AIDS in Africa chaired by US Vice-President Al Gore. “Every war needs a war chest, but that provided by the international community is woefully empty.”

Noting that in many countries AIDS has dealt a powerful blow to development, Wolfensohn argued that AIDS is contributing to instability in societies and creating fertile ground for both internal and cross-border conflict.

“Many of us used to think of AIDS as a health issue,” he said. We were wrong. AIDS can no longer be confined to the health or social sector portfolios. AIDS is turning back the clock on development.”

Wolfensohn used his appearance at the Security Council—the first time that a World Bank president has spoken before the Council—to argue strongly that poverty and development are the counterparts of peace and security.

“When we think about security we need to think beyond battalions and borders. We need to think about human security, about winning a different war, the fight against poverty,” said Wolfensohn.

The Bank president called for a grand coalition, with Africans in the lead, to step up the fight against AIDS in Africa, which has already claimed 13 million African lives, and orphaned 10 million children. Noting that today in Africa 23 million are living with HIV/AIDS, Wolfensohn said, “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.”

Wolfensohn said the Bank is ready and anxious to work with the Security Council on a range of human security issues now and in the future.

“We will be judged on whether we understand the nature of human security and sustainable development,” he said. “Security develops from within societies. If we want to prevent violent conflict, we need a comprehensive, equitable, and inclusive approach to development. 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 must be recognized as key to security.”

Wolfensohn outlined the Bank's action plan against AIDS launched three months ago in Lusaka: “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 partnership.”

But, he went on to say, “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 resources.”

Helpful links: To read the full text of Wolfensohn's remarks,
click here.

To read news coverage of the UN Security Council meeting, see today´s DevNews press review.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS and the World Bank’s work on the issue,
click here.

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