U.N.-NGO Conference On MDGs Kicks Off In Australia

Ahead of next month’s U.N. Summit in New York, a joint U.N.-NGO conference tracking the world’s progress toward reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) kicked off in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday, ABC News reports (8/30).

“The three-day conference aims to promote ways in which civil society, in partnership with those in business, academia, philanthropy, media and medicine, can work together to create conditions conducive to improving global health,” PressTV reports (8/30).

“The 63rd annual DPI/NGO Conference … has attracted more than 2,200 participants from some 70 countries,” according to U.N. News Centre. “In all, 41 [NGOs] from the Asia-Pacific region were associated this year, including 32 from Australia, one from Fiji, five from the Philippines, and three from the Pacific Islands,” the news service adds.

“The new U.N. policy to offer association to non-governmental organizations in the region where the conference is being held also presents a chance for ‘solidifying the trend of increasing geographic diversity and greater networking opportunities for NGOs affiliated with the Department of Public Information,’ said UN Chief of NGO Relations Maria-Luisa Chavez,” U.N. News Centre adds (8/29).

The meeting will focus on the topics of improving global health needs, “particularly saving the lives of mothers and infants and preventing HIV/AIDS,” a topic that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon highlighted as an area where many countries have struggled to close gaps to meet MDGs during a video-link address to the conference, Australian Associated Press/Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe told the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) represented [at the conference] that they had played a vital role in breaking the conspiracy of silence about [HIV/AIDS], and rolling out treatment programs in the remotest parts of the world,” the news service writes. Sidibe also spoke about the additional efforts necessary to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) HIV/AIDS and the need to integrate HIV/AIDS programs into other disease programs, the news service writes (Alexander/Rose, 8/30). ABC Radio Australia features an interview with Sidibe, who addresses how discrimination against groups at high risk for HIV, such as men who have sex with men (MSM), can fuel the spread of the disease (8/30).

Meanwhile, ABC Radio Australia News reports on the 34,000 people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea. According to Bill Bowtell, head of the advocacy group Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, three-quarters of people living with HIV/AID in PNG receive treatment for the disease. However, “Bowtell says more money is needed by international donors to help fight HIV/AIDS in poorer countries like PNG” (8/29).

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