Sport for Development Conference

UNAIDS plenary speech.

Good morning!

While I work for UNAIDS here in Viet Nam, I’m here today representing UNAIDS at the regional level, and I bring with me the warm greetings of our Regional Director Steve Kraus. On behalf of UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), I’d like to thank the Asian Football Confederation, along with other partners, for organizing this conference! It is such an honour to be with you, and to be part of this inspiring effort!

It’s an exciting year for football, and it’s an exciting year for global development.

For football, we have the Women’s Asian Cup, the AFF Suzuki Cup, and of course, the FIFA World Cup.

In the world of global development, we are reaching the end of the Millennium Development Goals effort, and the global community is in the process of establishing new and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years.

The Millennium Development Goals include a global commitment to halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015, which is the deadline for achieving these goals.

But the story of AIDS over the last 15 years has been a rollercoaster of triumph and tragedy:

The triumph is related to bold leadership and unprecedented achievements, especially in areas such as the scale up of treatment, and of non-conventional resource mobilization, but also in the broader advocacy effort which many now view as a model for collective action on other public health and development issues.

The tragedy is that stigma and discrimination block our efforts to prevent new HIV infections and threaten the future. The truth is that we are still not preventing enough HIV infections to reach our target. So it’s NOT over!

What’s so frustrating about this is that the ultimate goal of ending AIDS can be seen on the horizon.

It is within our grasp.

But reaching that goal requires a new generation of leadership against AIDS.

A young, 21st-century generation, who have the savvy and the strength to effectively combat the persistent stigma and discrimination that has so challenged us in the fight against HIV since the very beginning.

I don’t have to remind all of YOU that sport inspires us to work together to achieve greatness. Sport brings together people of different cultures, different ethnicities, and different socio-economic backgrounds. And this week, in this room, people from the world of football and people from the world of development have come together in a bid to create synergies between our two worlds. This is truly exciting.

I’d like to tell you about another exciting initiative that is very much related to what we’re doing here today. UNAIDS is proud to join hands with football federations around the globe within what we call the “Protect the Goal” campaign.

“Protect the Goal” aims to use the popularity and the convening power of football to promote HIV prevention, particularly among young people. It is about empowering young people to be the 21st century leaders that we need to take us through to the end of the epidemic.

In 2013, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé and the President of the Confederation of African Football, Issa Hayatou launched the “Protect the Goal” initiative at the opening ceremony of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations in Johannesburg. Since then, the campaign has inspired major programmes and events in a number of the African and Latin American countries that have qualified for the World Cup in Brazil.

More recently, the Asian Football Confederation, the Asian Development Bank and UNAIDS launched the Protect the Goal campaign in this region. This partnership aims to scale up the promotion of HIV prevention and zero discrimination in the region. Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines have all committed to carrying out activities within the Programme.

Let me take the opportunity now to thank AFC Deputy Secretary General Datuk Windsor Paul John for his leadership in this partnership! I also want to recognize the support of Urs Zanitti and others who are involved, and I’d like to recognize in particular the presence of Dany So and Sam Schweingruber who recently worked so hard on the campaign in Cambodia.

While it’s true that the Protect the Goal campaign focuses on HIV, and One Goal is focusing on nutrition, essentially what we’re all talking about is empowerment. We’re talking about supporting young people to make healthy lifestyle decisions and choices, and we’re using the platform of football to accelerate that empowerment. Since yesterday I’ve been so impressed with your stories of innovation and inspiration: Street Football World, and Mighty Girls, in Cambodia; Football United in Australia; and Football for All here in Viet Nam. And that’s only to name a few. What you’re doing is just fantastic!

I want to end with a comment on the special need to focus on the empowerment of girls and young women.

Across the region, most women simply do not have the same freedom as men to shape their own destinies. Asian women struggle in particular to protect their sexual and reproductive rights.

There are an estimated 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific. The majority of these women acquired HIV through their partners – through their husbands and boyfriends — who engage in high-risk behaviours.

Through our collective efforts, we can start to change this—by supporting young people in general, and young women in particular, to be part of that new generation of confident young leaders who are empowered to shape their own futures, and the future of the region.

Let me end by thanking you once again for inviting UNAIDS to be part of this meeting. Through the partnerships that we’re learning about at this conference, and new partnerships that will be created as a result of this conference, we can make a real difference for the lives of so many.

Thank you all for everything you are doing to make this world a better place!

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