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Delegates at UN meeting on world's poorest States back global anti-AIDS fund

Delegates at UN meeting on world's poorest States back global anti-AIDS fund

At a major United Nations meeting on the world's poorest countries being held in Brussels, participants today expressed strong support for the establishment of a global fund to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases which was first proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month.

The firm backing was voiced during an interactive session on "the role of health in enhancing productive capacities" held as part of the Third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries, which runs through Sunday. Many speakers noted that the Fund would help those countries, which are known collectively as LDCs, but stressed that the Fund must receive resources beyond current expenditures on AIDS.

"The time for business as usual is past," said K.Y. Amoako, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. "To meet our goals, we need more money and better systems."

Mr. Amoako said the LDCs should be spending a minimum of about $45-$60 per person on health each year. That would require a major increase over current levels, which average approximately $5-$10 per person per year from government funds, matched by contributions from households themselves. While LDCs could mobilize more resources, the international community would need to shoulder the greater part of the burden, he said.

The Conference also held an interactive session on the vital role of education in development. Addressing the session, Rubens Ricupero, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), pointed out that very often families failed to send their children to school not because they did not value education, but because they were desperate for money. In some African countries, for example, children earned as much as 45 per cent of the total household income. Minimum incomes must be guaranteed to families to give them the incentive to send their kids to school, he said.

Meanwhile, business concerns topped the agenda at another one of today's meetings, which attracted the participation of some 75 entrepreneurs and senior policy-makers from LDCs and their counterparts from other countries. Numerous speakers addressing that event called for measures to overcome the trade barriers currently faced by LDCs.

Also today, a group of more than 200 mayors from throughout the world formally committed themselves to the fight against poverty in their cities while expressing their determination to actively promote city-to-city cooperation. Adopting a declaration at the conclusion of a day-and-a-half-long "Meeting of Mayors," the participants took special note of the particular structural difficulties facing cities in LDCs, and stressed that the fight against urban poverty must be viewed as a shared commitment.