Moses Magadza in Mahe, Seychelles
The world has made remarkable progress towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 but there is still need to ensure that no one falls through the cracks or is left behind, the executive director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr Michel Sidibe, has said.
Hemade these remarks when he became the first United Nations staff member below the rank of Secretary General to address a special sitting of the National Assembly of Seychelles here on Friday morning. He said with an unprecedented HIV and AIDS epidemic, the world was at a critical moment characterized by rapid transformation.
“We are faced with seismic political change because from the north to the south, we are seeing growing conservatism; geopolitical, demographic, climate, technological and socio-economic changes; protectionism; and isolationism becoming the words we are faced with every day,” Sidibe said.
He said young people, who make approximately 60 percent of the world’s population, bore the brunt of this rapid transformation.
“This is translating into lack of economic opportunities for young people. The major challenges we are facing are lack of cohesiveness and governance systems which could allow us to redistribute (resources) to make sure that we have true social justice and greater access for people who are left behind.” His view was that there was poor integration of young people in the mainstream economies of many countries, with many people aged below 25 years being jobless, hopeless and vulnerable to HIV infection. According to him, many such young people faced, also, lack of knowledge, information or skills to protect themselves or accessessential services. He said Members of Parliament in Seychelles and elsewhere had a unique role to play in creating links between different aspects of the lives of young people in a transformative manner.
He suggested that MPs make access to food, health, productive lives, jobs and education priorities if they value peace and stability, saying that neglected young people had a tendency to abuse alcohol and drugs.
“We know that in this region people who inject drugs are the major vectors of HIV transmission. Reflect critically on these issues and use your critical leadership and the vision you have set for your country to (enact) laws that can address these issues,” he advised.
In addition to creating opportunities for young people, Sidibe said MPs could lead efforts towards eradicating stigma and exclusion.
He cautioned: “When people — particularly young people — are vulnerable, stigmatised, discriminated and in some cases criminalized, they go underground. They are left behind, faced with prejudice and don’t access services.”
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is on record as saying that while drugs had destroyed many lives, wrong government policies had destroyed many more.
Moses Magadza is Communications and Advocacy Specialist at the SADC Parliamentary Forum.