Former Ghanaian president arrives in Botswana on first mission as eminent volunteer
02 April 2001
Bonn, Germany: Former President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana has arrived in Botswana on his first mission as Eminent Person for the International Year of Volunteers (IYV 2001) to draw attention to the work of volunteers in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Rawlings begins his week-long mission today by meeting with the President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, and government ministers. He will acknowledge the efforts that are being made by the Botswana Government to address HIV/AIDS issues and advocate close cooperation with a range of partners. Furthermore, he will highlight ways information and education can be used to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"Volunteerism carries a lot of moral authority," Mr. Rawlings said. "It is extremely important that we all pitch in and that we all have the courage and willpower -- from governments to each and every one of us -- to contribute ur quota to face the reality [of AIDS]."
During his mission, Mr. Rawlings will also tour hospitals, clinics and local projects to emphasize community-based response to HIV/AIDS and stress the role of volunteering as an integral part of care and support activities. He will advocate better health care systems and underline the importance of behavioural change in HIV/AIDS prevention.
Finally, Mr. Rawlings will meet with UN Volunteers serving in Botswana, volunteer agencies and Botswana's IYV 2001 National Committee to encourage them to continue their efforts to combat the epidemic.
The IYV 2001 National Committee, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Botswana, is organizing Mr. Rawlings' programme in Botswana.
Botswana is one of the countries worst hit by HIV/AIDS. Without AIDS, the life expectancy in Botswana today would be 71 years; but instead, it has dropped to under 40. However, the government is committed to fighting the virus and is cooperating with UN agencies such as UNDP to design national strategies to fight the virus.
In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers and designated the Bonn-based United Nations Volunteers (UNV), which has close to 5,000 UN volunteers serving in the field annually, as the year's focal point. The main objectives of IYV 2001 are to recognize the contributions of the millions of volunteers worldwide and to build close networks among them.
As part of IYV 2001, UN Secretary-General has nominated four Eminent Persons -- Mr. Rawlings, Spain's Crown Prince of Asturias, former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Nafis Sadik, and the founder of the Body Shop, Anita Roddick -- to help the raise the profile of volunteering around the world. Throughout the year, they will act on behalf of the United Nations Volunteers to attract the attention of the media and the public at IYV events and initiatives.
Mr. Rawlings was selected because, in his 19 years as President of Ghana, he worked to help community groups and volunteer services improve social and economic conditions in his country. Former South African President Nelson Mandela has described Mr. Rawlings as one of Africa's remarkable role models who has brought honour and pride to the continent. Mr. Rawlings left office in January.
Mr. Rawlings' visit to Botswana marks the beginning of his activities as an IYV Eminent Person. He will also speak on the potential of volunteering for development at the Third United Nations Conference of Least Developed Countries in Brussels in May and visit several African countries to mobilize volunteers in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
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