Opening Remarks by Mr. Akira Fujino

Representative, UNODC Regional Centre

 

at

 

the First meeting of the Reconstituted

UN Regional Task Force on IDU and HIV/AIDS for Asia and the Pacific

 

Kunming, 9 November 2005

 


On behalf of all of the UN agencies involved, particularly UNODC, UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF, I would like to welcome you to the First Meeting of the Reconstituted UN Regional Task Force on IDU and HIV/AIDS for Asia and the Pacific.

 

     I would like to thank the host country for having made this meeting possible in China on a very short notice.  It is significant that we meet in China.  China has taken specific and steady measures for scaling up the response to drugs and HIV/AIDS, and we are pleased to have one of the primary movers at our table today, Dr. WU Zunyou, Director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Mr. YANG Hong Sheng, Deputy Director, Yunnan Health Bureau. 

 

               I am also pleased that this meeting could take place back to back with the WHO Bi-regional Partners Meeting on harm reduction, which allows for synergies and cost-efficiency.   I should add that this is not the first time, already in earlier meetings the Task Force made efforts to team up with other regional initiatives.

 

       The Task Force reflects the need for well-coordinated policy development and action, bringing all players to the discussion table, reflecting the over-arching issues that could and should most usefully be addressed at a regional level.  The Task Force is an expression of the commitment of the competent international bodies to that end

 

       As the Representative of the UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific I am particularly pleased to see this Task Force revived as it illustrates the commitment of all partners concerned, the international organizations, Governments and civil society alike, to address the issue of HIV/AIDS and drugs on the basis of a science- and evidence-based comprehensive approach. 

 

       For those at the table who come to this grouping for the first time I would like to briefly retract the history. The Task Force was initiated by the UNAIDS Regional Team in 1998.  In early 2002, UNODC as one of the co-sponsors of UNAIDS and the lead agency on drug control matters took up the role of coordinating the Task Force and four meetings were held until July 2004.  Some pioneering work in countries such as China and Myanmar was closely associated with the work of the Task Force. 

 

       There was a need to restructure the Task Force to make it a more accountable and outcome-oriented mechanism.  For a number of reasons this process could not move ahead as originally planned, partly compounded by limited resources on UNODCfs side.  We were very pleased at that point to get the full support of our colleagues of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and Pacific who rendered their helping hands.  Since then, we have been working further closely with UNAIDS to prepare for the resumed Task Force.  What followed was, in brief was:  

-         UNODC re-confirming its position on the issues in question (i.e. at the 2005 CND meeting)

-         a number of conferences and meetings, such as the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Kobe in July that allowed for further consultations, and

-         the August 2005 Bangkok consultative meeting which set the scene for this meeting here in Kunming.

 

       The adoption, by the UNAIDS Programme Coordination Board,  of the UNAIDS Policy Position Paper on  eIntensifying HIV Preventionf provided additional legitimacy to the comprehensive approach to prevent HIV among IDUs.

 

       As the Head of the Regional Centre of UNODC, which has been entrusted to lead the response to drugs and HIV, I am pleased to see this regional partnership by way of the Task Force, and the significant progress made since Kobe, and I would like to thank all agencies and colleagues involved in this.  I am most pleased that I am co-chairing this Task Force meeting with UNAIDS.  The UNODC Regional Centre in the area of drugs and HIV/AIDS is ready to take on an increasing role among the partner agencies. 

 

       Our challenge today is to define goals, objectives and activities in a way that reflects the scope of the task, the role of a regional grouping, and its limitations, as much as the role of the other partners involved. Over time, we will also have to have a critical review of the usefulness of our work.

 

       This Task Force will contribute substantively to speeding up the required practical responses to HIV/AIDS and drugs in the region.  This is to support national responses, to carry out key activities to bridge gaps in national programmes that are common to the region or to clusters of countries. Obviously, there are many questions to be asked about the task force, its nature, purpose, function, and accountability.  Not all countries of the region could be present, so we at this meeting have an additional responsibility, and that is to consider, to the best of our ability, the needs and requirements for action, not only of our individual organizations and countries, but to develop a perspective for the region. 

 

       How this should be done and what the key components of our future work should be is to be considered by this group today.

 

To conclude:

       We have a demanding task ahead of us.  The family of UN and international organizations is called for action, jointly with the international community as a whole and with civil society.  Our respective organizations have made strong commitments. 

 

The Task Force has the potential to become an essential tool in support of the region.  It will be up to all of us to make it happen.