UN special session: Activists successfully push for a Global Fund
The 2001 special session on HIV and AIDS marked the first time in history that a disease had been treated as a security issue, rather than just a social or humanitarian problem. In an unprecedented move, the UN invited speakers representing civil society from both the North and South.
Festus Mogae, then president of Botswana, spoke about the need for urgent action. “The future of our continent is bleak, to say the least. The prospect of extinction of the entire population looms larger and larger,” he said. “We do not have the choice but to contemplate exceptional measures to contain the spread and devastation of HIV/AIDS.”
At the end of the session, all UN member states signed the call for a global HIV and AIDS and health fund to finance an urgent response. Thanks to the leadership of the then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and tireless pressure from activists, the final declaration included the key phrase: “We need a Global Fund for this disease.”
Activists from both developing and resource-rich countries rallied outside the meeting to monitor and cajole governments into action. This practice was to become routine at all subsequent UN meetings on HIV and AIDS.
Just a few weeks later, Annan charged the first working group with defining the new organization. He gave the group just six months to get the new Global Fund up and running.