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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2003 > October

Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-Being

John Doyle Ong, Ambassador to Norway
Remarks to the Northern Dimension Partnership
Oslo, Norway
October 27, 2003

It is my pleasure to represent the United States at the establishment of a Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-Being. I would like to thank Prime Minister Bondevik and Health Minister Høybraten for organizing and hosting this meeting.

I arrived this morning from the United States and I am pleased that the timing of my return allows me to participate in this important dialogue. The topics we will discuss today -- the prevention of major public health problems and the creation of public policies to enhance health and social well-being -- are of great importance to each country represented in this room and serve as further evidence of our common interests and shared values. The United States has worked closely with the countries of this region to address these issues and we will continue to do so through forums such as the Northern Dimension.

The United States welcomes this Northern Dimension partnership as another example of the multilateral network of cooperation that has developed in this region over the past decade. Much has changed in the last ten years. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, not long ago reborn as democracies, have now earned invitations to NATO and the EU. But it would be a mistake to believe that these positive changes have diminished the commitment of the United States in Northern Europe. Challenges remain in the region, and we want to work with our friends to build upon previous successes.

One of the greatest challenges we now face is to prevent HIV/AIDS from becoming a regional scourge, not only to health but to the security and continued economic growth of our societies. Failure to do so will expose every country in the region to a major health risk. We must step up and recognize the potential severity of the problem. Let me cite some jarring statistics in this regard:

UNAIDS has reported that the states of the former Soviet Union and the Baltics have the highest growth of HIV infections in any part of the world today. Official statistics list roughly 200,000 Russians as HIV positive, although some experts believe the number is much higher, probably between one and two million already. Patterns of risky behavior, especially among the young, are on the rise in all of our societies. Now is the time for decisive action through regional cooperation to stem a potential health and humanitarian crisis.

The United States is strongly committed to fighting HIV/AIDS worldwide. The United States was the first country to pledge to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and is the world’s biggest investor in the fund, contributing $623 million of the $1.47 billion thus far contributed to the fund, 42 percent of the total.

In addition, in May of this year President Bush introduced the Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, the largest, single up front commitment in history for an international public health initiative involving a specific disease. The plan establishes a five-year, $15 billion initiative -- including almost $10 billion in new funds -- tripling the U.S. commitment to international AIDS assistance.

The Emergency Plan for AIDS relief represents the first large-scale effort to integrate prevention, advanced antiretroviral treatment and care in 14 African and Caribbean countries heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. It will prevent seven million new HIV infections, treat two million persons living with HIV/AIDS, and care for 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans. The Plan represents an expansion of our commitment to fighting this disease, not a replacement of existing efforts. Indeed the United States will continue its programs to fight HIV/AIDS throughout the world. Five billion dollars from the Emergency Plan will be spent to support HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs currently active in more than 75 countries. An additional $1 billion will be contributed to the Global Fund, underscoring our unwavering support to make the fund a major success.

In the next year the United States will also continue its other health efforts in Northern Europe. The United States Center for Disease Control will further implement its programs to combat tuberculosis, including multiple drug resistant tuberculosis, and will increase efforts to address issues such as HIV/TB co-infection. Many agencies, including our Department of Defense, are also deeply involved in addressing environmental health problems in the region, from water and sanitation to clean up of military nuclear waste sites.

In addition, earlier this month in Washington we launched the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE), a framework for U.S. engagement with the eight Baltic and Nordic nations. We call one of the three broad areas of focus under e-PINE “healthy societies, healthy neighbors” in recognition of problems threatening society that fall beyond the realm of traditional political-military security, but are just as important to the lives of individuals and the overall well-being of nations. The focus in this area will be on health issues, corruption, trafficking in persons, the environment, and strengthening civil society. Obviously, our priorities are very similar to those expressed in the Northern Dimension Partnership. The U.S.-Nordic-Baltic consultative mechanism that we have established is a good forum in which to discuss cooperation to address these issues.

Thank you for the invitation to come here today to speak and to listen. I am proud of the leadership the United States has shown in the fight against communicable diseases. President Bush and Secretary of State Powell are strongly and personally committed to this effort and have said that the fight against communicable diseases and the creation of healthier societies are critical parts of our foreign policy agenda. We look forward to facing these challenges hand in hand with our partners in the region to create an even brighter future for Northern Europe.


Released on November 3, 2003

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