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High-Level Event of the General Assembly: Keynote speech

Speech by Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess on “Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Post-2015 Development Agenda” at a High-Level Event of the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, June 9 2014.

President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Guests,
members of civil society,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today – it is a great honour.

The event today is indeed very important, and it addresses issues that affect the daily life of millions of people all around the world.

Ending AIDS is of fundamental importance if we are to safeguard human rights for all. For many people, it is a question of their basic right to life and right to live in dignity.

Combating HIV/AIDS is vital to creating healthy societies that can grow and prosper.

We need to finish the “unfinished” agenda for MDG 6.

We need to maintain a strong focus on health beyond 2015.

As UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, I have been supporting the AIDS response and human rights issues for many years. It has been important for me to engage with young people affected by HIV, to listen to their experiences and support them in their work. I would like to advocate that young people should be better included in forming policies.

The world currently holds the largest generation of young people in history, with 1.8 billion adolescents and youth making up one quarter of the world’s population. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40 % of the population is under 15 years old.

Despite this, young people’s health and needs remain largely ignored. While we can celebrate recent progress in the response to HIV, young people are being left behind.

Every day, there are 2 100 new HIV infections among young people between the ages 15 and 24 across the world.

In sub-Saharan Africa, only 36 % of young men – and even more alarmingly – only 28% of young women are able to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge about HIV.

While HIV mortality is decreasing in all other age groups, it remains the second biggest contributor to adolescent mortality globally. HIV testing and counselling is the critical entry point to the continuum of care for adolescents living with HIV, yet the majority are still unaware of their HIV status.

In nine of the world’s highest prevalence countries, less than 20% of young boys and 30% of young girls have been tested and know their HIV status.

Various factors contribute to this situation. Stigma, and moral and social judgements on the part of communities and service providers have a negative impact on young people, particularly young people living with HIV.

Stigma and discrimination undermine our efforts in the response to AIDS.

When managing the health and wellbeing of young people living with HIV, their sexual, reproductive and other human rights must be a key focus.

We should take a holistic approach to prevention and treatment, and work to promote both simultaneously.

It is clear to me that we need to continue to invest in the leadership of young people. Young people have in-depth knowledge of the challenges in their own communities and are often able to establish contact with those who are hardest to reach.

In my own work, I have focused particularly on empowering young people and supporting the development of leadership skills.

I am proud to say that over the past few years, we have seen an incredible expansion of the youth movement in the AIDS response.

A strong international group of youth leaders have formed the PACT for social transformation, a coalition of 25 youth organisations, working together and better organised than ever before.

They are linking local and global level advocacy for treatment scale-up.

They are addressing the legal barriers and policies that prevent young people from accessing services in many countries.

And they are working to ensure that there is a commitment to ending AIDS in the post-2015 era.

The AIDS response is unique:
in that civil society movement to a large extent drives it;
in the unprecedented resources it has mobilised;
in the multi-sectorial partnerships between scientists, activists, communities, and the public and private sectors;
in its effective advocacy for change in public policies;
and, most importantly, in the impact it has had on delivering health, welfare and human dignity to millions of people.

Activism has changed the way health services are delivered. It has shown that tackling the determinants of HIV risk, poverty, and vulnerability is the key to healthier and more secure societies.

Across the world, and in the case of high-burden epidemics in particular, we have seen a drop in the number of new HIV infections. This tells us that sustained, evidence-informed prevention programmes, which address the immediate as well as the social determinants of risk, are having an impact.

Now more than ever, no one should be left behind.

We cannot afford to allow the global AIDS response to lose its momentum.

We need to maintain a strong vision, remain committed to our ideals and be decisive in our actions.

Ending the AIDS epidemic is possible in the post-2015 era.

And it is indeed an issue of human rights.

In closing, I would like to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, who once said:

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?

In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.

Yet they are the world of the individual person, the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.

Unless those rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere."



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