World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day was commemorated for the first time on 1 December 20 years ago. In keeping with the theme for World AIDS Day 2008 Leadership Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess has called for stronger leadership across the board.
The Crown Princess emphasised in particular the importance of ensuring adequate youth leadership for the future and of giving people with HIV a voice to be heard:
"- We need national and global leaders to fulfil their commitment to secure universal access to prevention, treatment and care. But today, 26 years after the virus was discovered, we also need to secure leadership for the future. Youth leadership is a key factor in the fight against AIDS. We need youth to follow up and intensify the efforts to stop and reverse the spread of HIV. In my AIDS related work, I meet remarkable young people who have the energy, courage and stamina to address sensitive issues – and to put pressure on those in power.
Still, most important of all: We must give voice to those who are affected, and empower more of them to take leadership. They are the most important contributors in the fight against AIDS. What I have learned about this issue, I have mostly learned from positive people. It is their voices, experience and their expertise we need for sustainable and lasting change. I will encourage leaders on all levels to seek broad partnership and join forces. Only then can we truly lead, empower – and deliver."
Crown Princess Mette-Marit was appointed Special Representative for UNAIDS in April 2006. She had already acquired experience in the AIDS field as an observer at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and as a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and through an official visit to Malawi in 2005, where she paid special attention to the HIV/AIDS situation.
In connection with their marriage in 2001, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess established Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marits Humanitarian Fund. From the very first grant allocations, the fund has provided support to projects seeking to fight HIV and AIDS in developing countries.
In her capacity as Special Representative for UNAIDS the Crown Princess has placed particular focus on combating stigmatisation, which represents a tremendous obstacle in AIDS-related work – both nationally and internationally. In August 2006, Crown Princess Mette-Marit participated in a number of activities in connection with the XVI International AIDS Conference, the worlds largest health conference, which was held in Toronto.
In November 2007, the Crown Princess and Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, travelled to Nicaragua to participate at CONCASIDA, a regional conference organised every other year in Central America. At the XVII International AIDS Conference held this year in Mexico City, the Crown Princess was featured in an anti-stigma awareness campaign, with cards and posters bearing her photo and the caption If I were HIV positive, would you invite me to your home? Other leading AIDS activists also participated in the campaign.
Visits in the field
In October of this year, the Crown Princess once again travelled with Executive Director Peter Piot, this time to Ukraine. Ukraine has the most rapidly spreading HIV epidemic in Europe and Central Asia: one out of every 17 persons is HIV positive. Unfortunately, the Crown Princess sustained a concussion after a fall, and was unable to fulfil a large part of her programme. Nevertheless, the programme was completed by Dr Piot and representatives from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation met with the President of Ukraine and other authorities, as well as with religious leaders, university students, and individuals at a local centre for people with HIV. The Crown Princess was able to meet with young people involved in prevention efforts to discuss the challenges Ukraine is facing. She also met with Ukrainian students at the Scandinavian Gymnasium in Kiev, and in her speech the Crown Princess stressed the importance of young people setting limits regarding their own bodies, thereby protecting themselves from contracting HIV.
The Crown Princess is involved in the Norwegian National AIDS Council, which convenes twice a year and is hosted alternately by the Minister of Health and Care Services and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.