UN chief highlights key role in fighting HIV/Aids

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 12:00am

Kofi Annan says the mainland is also crucial in the global battle on poverty

China will play a vital role in fighting HIV/Aids, not only for itself but for all humanity, according to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Speaking to students at Tsinghua University yesterday, Mr Annan said China had played a great part in a UN-led initiative to reduce poverty and attain a set of sustainable development targets by 2015 - the Millennium Development Goals.

Whether UN members as a whole could reach the targets would largely depend on China, he said.

'Your population is so large and your economy is growing so rapidly, that your impact on all global statistics is enormous,' Mr Annan said. 'It is theoretically possible that we might succeed in halving the proportion of very poor people in the world by 2015 simply because China has succeeded in lifting almost all its people out of that category, even if most countries in Africa still had the same proportion.

'Conversely, many countries might, by 2015, have made great strides in combating HIV/Aids or adopting sustainable models of development. But if China had failed to do those things, there would still be terrible consequences for humanity.'

Without commenting on the controversy surrounding pressure on Beijing to revalue the yuan, Mr Annan warned of China's responsibility in handling its currency and its international counterparts.

'Foreign investment plays an essential role in your growth, while your holdings of foreign currencies - and your management of your own currency - are coming to play a vital part in the international monetary system,' he said.

Mr Annan also highlighted China's responsibility as a 'rich' country in helping poorer ones, most of them in Africa, to achieve sustainable growth.

'That places a big responsibility on the rich countries - and it is one that China shares.'

Speaking earlier in the day after meeting Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing , Mr Annan said he hoped the new UN high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, would be able to make an early visit to the country.

He noted that a group of UN human rights experts had recently been to the mainland.

Ms Arbour, a former member of the Canadian Supreme Court, took over the position in July.