Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Auckland Regional Council's stuffed stoat.

A stuffed stoat devouring a bird's nest (pictured above) is part of four displays taken from an Auckland Regional Council car on Saturday night in Pt Chevalier and may have turned up in a lounge near you. The taxidermy animals are used by the ARC biosecurity team to educate the community about pests. All four displays are in distinctive curved perspex cases and include a ferret with a quail in its mouth, a possum and a scene of four rats. The ARC says they have no commercial value. If you'd like to return them, no questions asked, call Richard Gribble at the Auckland Regional Council on 366-2000 ext 8775. He'll swing by, pick them up and promise not to hand the matter on to police.

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The Community Leisure Management Support Office staff in Panmure were bemused by the burglars who robbed them: "We had (very proudly) an All Blacks training jersey and Warriors playing jersey displayed in our office. The All Blacks training jersey was donated to us by Saimone Taumoepeau through one of our employees, Jaye Puia, and the Warriors jersey was provided as we were an associate sponsor. When we arrived at work we found that the burglars had ripped the All Black training jersey from the case, but the Warriors jersey hadn't been touched."

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Michelle Vaughan of Remuera would like to communicate the following message to the well-heeled woman and her husband who walk their poodle-type dog past her house: "Please stop depositing your little blue packets of dog poo in my lavender hedge. My young children were understandably somewhat disappointed in the disgusting presents left by the white-haired stranger."

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Perhaps ACC had something different in mind with the Playing our Part - To get your rubbish sorted logo on their STREETSMART recycling trucks? A reader writes: "Our local trucks crew found time to stop and leap on to a neighbouring house lawn to raid a fruit tree, then spent the next 10-15 minutes mid-road in a feeding frenzy before driving on to continue their good recycling work, leaving a colourful pile of peelings in their wake."

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An imaginative excuse for DIC: Nyararia Mukandiwa, 33, was stopped after driving erratically in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield but refused to give officers a blood sample on the grounds that as a witch doctor it was likely to send him into a zombie-like state.

John Armstrong: National plays with fire on foreshore law

In flirting with the idea of backing the Maori Party's bid to repeal the foreshore and seabed law, the National Party is courting trouble.

Unnecessarily so. National risks losing far more than it might gain from reopening this particular Pandora's box.

The party may derive some joy in watching the Labour-led minority Government - particularly its Maori component - squirming in embarrassment again.

But that spin-off has to be weighed against the danger of National provoking a backlash from its own supporters annoyed and confused by what the party's opponents are already saying is a u-turn on its previous insistence that the foreshore remains in Crown ownership.

At best, National will be seen to be playing politics for politics' sake. At worst, it will be accused of ripping the scab off a sore. It took Labour the best part of 18 months to come up with a compromise with which most people could live.

Thinking aloud about reviewing the law - as Gerry Brownlee did this week - is therefore high-risk stuff. More so when Pita Sharples' measure may never be drawn in the ballot of numerous private member's bills competing for the few available slots on Parliament's order paper.

In Mr Brownlee's defence, National knows it must take a step back from Don Brash's uncompromising language on race to function as an effective broad-based party - something acknowledged in the maiden speeches of many of the party's new intake of MPs.

Still, there must be other, safer ways to stage a mild retreat, rather than confuse voters by being seen figuratively arm-in-arm with Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia after previously complaining Labour's foreshore law pandered to Maori.

However, National would dearly love to inflict a psychological blow on the new Government early in its term with a major parliamentary defeat.

Unfortunately for National, Labour will not oblige by bringing legislation before the House without a guaranteed majority. Enter Dr Sharples. His bill is the opportunity National is looking for because several Opposition parties want the law repealed, although for very different reasons.

With National, Act and the Greens on board, the Maori Party would fall just one vote short. However, a close vote would put even more pressure on Labour's Maori MPs to cross the floor.

National has other reasons for helping Dr Sharples. If he and National can strike a deal over his bill, that bodes well for further co-operation which might ultimately see the two parties as partners in some future Government.

However, though it may be possible to cobble together a temporary coalition to wipe the foreshore law off the statute books, there would be little agreement on what would replace it.

That would leave National terribly exposed to charges from Labour that it had been grossly irresponsible.

Conscious of that, Mr Brownlee seems to be saying his party is working on a solution that might allow Maori something more than just customary rights to small parts of the foreshore, but in very few instances.

In the same breath, he is ruling out the kind of large territorial claims to the foreshore which the Maori Party asserts as of right.

The message is clear. If the Maori Party wants its bill to progress, it is going to have to compromise big-time.

It also has to accept it is being used as a pawn in National's wider strategy of destabilising the new multi-party Government.

Even so, Mr Brownlee must proceed cautiously. It is not only Labour which risks being destabilised by the shifting sands of the foreshore.

Editorial: Right brand but wrong reasoning

Should it be compulsory for food, or any products on sale, to carry a label stating their country of origin? An advisory body, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, believes it should be compulsory and the Australian Government has agreed. Ours has decided against it, on the grounds that the safety of food on sale has little to do with its country of origin. The Green Party, which is about to start a "Buy NZ" campaign, is naturally aggrieved.

The New Zealand Government is right. The power to regulate any activity should be resisted unless there is good reason to regulate and the requirement would effectively serve the stated purpose. Otherwise regulations may be made for a purpose that is a mere pretext for trade protection, as would be the case with country-of-origin labels mandated in the name of food safety.

The Greens food safety spokeswoman, Sue Kedgley, gave the game away last month when she said it was "crucial to a successful Buy Kiwi-made campaign because without it consumers won't be able to figure out whether they are buying local or imported produce". Almost as an afterthought she added that it would "enable consumers to know where their food comes from and, by association, what's in it".

Consumers have every right to know what is in manufactured food products but by what "association" does knowing the country of origin advance that knowledge? Is it really important in an assessment of the safety and quality of the ingredients, or is it merely pandering to certain prejudices and snobbishness about the origins of food?

It might be argued that people have a perfect right to be fussy about where food has come from and they have a right to have the information supplied by manufacturers. But if there is no better reason than that for compulsory labelling, it is a dangerous principle. Do they have a right to know the ethnicity of those involved in the production? Of course not, though country of origin could be a proxy for that sort of prejudice too.

The Greens' interest is simply to help consumers avoid imported products, thereby supporting local industry and avoiding "the environmental damage caused by transporting food around the globe". Local industry, of course, is quite capable of advertising the origin of its products voluntarily if it believes that information will boost sales. And in many cases that is done, without need of regulatory compulsion. In other cases, where the status of the product might not be on a par with imported rivals, mandatory labelling could be cruel to local producers.

More often probably, specifying the place of manufacture will be beneficial at home and of dubious value abroad. Those whose business it is to know the various markets are best placed to decide whether it is in the interests of any New Zealand product to advertise its origin, and the Government has rightly decided to leave it to them.

The image of this country is such that its food usually advertises its country of origin prominently and proudly. New Zealand is effectively a brand in food production and, far from making that brand compulsory, the law may need to prohibit its use sometimes. Exporters possibly should not be allowed to state their product country of origin if they do not measure up to the freshness and quality associated with the New Zealand brand.

As a result of the Australian decision, of course, all food exported from this country to there will have to state its country or origin, as will theirs coming here. It will be interesting to see which country gains more from the mandatory label. But "interesting" is not sufficient reason for an imposition that would merely serve some idle curiosity.

Fran O'Sullivan: Don't go crackers this Christmas

It's the time of year when Kiwis go on Christmas credit card sprees only to wake up with a huge debt hangover in the New Year that no amount of Berroca will make disappear.

Should we order in the champagne and turkey or the beer and barbecue sausages, or should we tear up the credit cards, stay home and pay cash for the presents this year?

The warnings have been flooding in over our propensity to ignore relatively high personal debt levels in favour of living for today.

Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard (who controversially got the ball rolling once the election was out of the way) will be watching nervously to see if his admonitions against the high debt levels New Zealanders have incurred to service big home mortgages and fund excessive spending through inexhaustible credit card funds have any effect.

Retailers, who frequently sell up to twice as much in December as they do through the winter months, will also be waiting nervously. So, too, the beer barons, wine purveyors, travel companies and tourist lodges who beckon people to splash out in a raft of inviting advertisements.

But if we consumers heed Bollard's warnings, the cash registers will not ring so frequently, further fuelling the extraordinary loss of business confidence in the past couple of months.

Changing the habits of a lifetime is not simple - whether sex, alcohol or debt be the source of the addiction.

Bollard's latest interest rates rise - expected on Thursday next week - is not likely to stymie domestic inflationary pressures. These are already overcooked and should have been tackled much earlier in the monetary policy cycle.

The media has gone big on the danger of household debt and how to keep it in check since Bollard threatened that he is willing to raise rates in a way which will really hurt in order to force behavioural change.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen has invoked the spectre of a return to Muldoonism with his request to the central bank and the Treasury to examine options to get mortgage debt to sustainable levels.

Cullen and Bollard are worried that the property market is at unsustainable levels, which would see many people lose their equity if house prices took a big tumble. Their concerns are justified.

House prices did just that in the early 1970s, reducing entry prices to such a level that those previously barred were able to get a toehold.

But all the jawboning from the top floors of the Beehive and No 2 The Terrace will not convince business that the Government is on the right track unless it leads from the front by taking an axe to its own budget.

The Reserve Bank used its briefing to the incoming Government to warn of major imbalances in the economy which must be brought under control if the central bank was to keep inflation within a 1 to 3 per cent guideline.

The trouble is that - apart from petrol price rises - much of that upcoming inflationary pressure is of the Labour-led Government's own making.

The election promises Labour and its coalition partners have made to spend up large on holiday pay, student loans, more family bribes, increases to the minimum wage rate and superannuation were not properly costed by the Treasury.

Production capacity is under pressure and there are signs the current account deficit will worsen before it self-corrects.

The Government's election goodies - in the same way as our Christmas goodies - must be urgently rerated and shelved if need be, if Cullen's and Bollard's warnings that the economy might face a hard landing are to have credibility. The difficulty is that even more cost pressures are emerging.

Issue one: Price gouging by Transpower

Business is already up in arms over the state transmission monopoly's plan to put up its charges by 19 per cent. Transpower does face a huge financial burden because of the need to invest in new transmission lines to carry more electricity to fuel growth in demand.

The Commerce Commission is investigating Transpower's decision.

But surely the Government as shareholder should be underwriting a big chunk of this investment through new equity rather than adding to inflationary pressures by allowing Transpower to simply apply the old cost-plus approach of the Muldoon era.

After all, Transpower's net profit after tax for 2004-2005 was 88 per cent above budget - thanks to higher than forecast demand leading to increased revenues - according to a recent Government briefing paper.

This exacerbates breaches of the commission thresholds as a result of pricing methodologies that do not allow for charges to be transferred back when demand is higher than expected.

Would that all business had the same semantic and legal out for rampant gouging.

Issue two: The law of unintended consequences

Labour - much to Cullen's chagrin - has been forced to take court action to stop beneficiary families double-dipping by claiming up to $3000 a year under the Working for Families package.

The Government had clearly intended the payment to go to families who are not on benefits rather than giving beneficiaries a back-door rise.

But whereas Cullen will bring down legislation whenever a tax loophole emerges, he has been politically correct where beneficiary abuse is concerned. This will have a cost.

Bollard cannot yet count on much real help from the Finance Minister - which is what worries business.

Just raising interest rates is a blunt instrument - the proverbial sledge-hammer to crack a nut - just as likely to hit deserving borrowers as undeserving spendthrifts.

Unless Cullen puts his money where his mouth is and tears up the Government's own credit card, we'll all be paying penalty interest after Christmas, no matter how scrupulously we run our own accounts.

Tapu Misa: You're as free as a bird - if that's the way you want it

What's a feminist to do? The veteran women's campaigner Sandra Coney tries to get a little respect by pointing out that advertising which refers to women as "nice birds" is sexist and Herald readers tell her: "get a life".

The next day, "rampant feminism" gets the blame for shutting out GPs from our seriously out of whack birthing business.

I'm sure it's the fault of feminists, too, that the risk-averse airlines won't let men sit next to unaccompanied children for safety reasons. Let's also add political correctness to the list of charges while we're at it. That, surely, was a feminist innovation.

In fact, is there anything we can't lay at the feet of feminists and their anti-men, anti-family agenda that's made the country so toxic for men and such a haven for powerful women? Not according to the conspiracy theorists.

Strange, then, that at the Women's Studies Association Conference in Auckland last weekend, titled Sustaining Women - Regenerating Feminism, there was talk about the decline of the women's movement and feminism's lack of relevance for many women today.

For women engaged in the devil's work, and with such untrammelled power, they seemed remarkably low-key and lacking in horns. But perhaps they were just trying to lure me in.

I, who had never called myself a feminist, had been invited into the inner sanctum, where I chose to theorise about why Pacific women had never really taken to feminism.

It did not require much perspicacity on my part to figure out why most Pacific women had never seen the individualistic Western model of feminism espoused by white, middle-class women as being a particularly good fit.

Feminism was "whining with white women", to borrow the words of the talented Tongan-Palagi-Samoa poet Karlo Mila. Even back in the 80s, many Pacific women - who didn't even own a bra they could burn - were inclined to view feminism as anti-family and anti-children, therefore at odds with their identities as Pacific women. Besides, like Maori women, they were more interested in advancing whole communities. They weren't inclined to divorce their struggle as women from their struggle as a people, or to leave their men out in the cold.

As the late Hana Jackson told the first Pacific Women's Conference in 1975: Maori women were fighting for "economic, social and cultural survival", and Maori women suffered "with our men in their battle to survive as men".

You can still spot the cultural disconnect - as when Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright was accused of cultural imperialism for drawing attention to the back-seat relegation of women at this year's Waitangi Day celebrations.

Maramena Roderick, a former Herald and TVNZ journalist, wrote that she and her Maori mates - all strong, capable Maori women who did not need liberating, thanks very much - were outraged by the G-G's comments. What many saw as sexism, Roderick protested, was in fact protection. The frontline was the firing line. Men sat in the front row to shield the women.

I'm not sure why such strong, capable Maori women should need a shield in the 21st century, but perhaps Roderick's embrace of culture over feminism is part of a wider malaise facing feminism.

Feminists aren't the united group of the 1970s. Tania Domett and Jacqui True, of Auckland University, say feminists have fractured into distinct groups with fundamental differences about what gender equality looks like and might be achieved. That might explain why some women think feminism is dead, or at least in need of regeneration. And why others believe the revolution wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

In her controversial book Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, Maureen Dowd, the New York Times' only female editorial columnist, writes that women's progress has been "more of a zigzag than a superhighway", and that the triumph of feminism lasted a "nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40 years".

Dowd wonders if feminism has been trumped by narcissism and whether, as a still-single 53-year-old, feminism was some cruel hoax which forgot to tell her she would get less desirable as she became more successful.

I agree with Dowd that there are some ominous signs, as the Bush administration pulls back some of the gains made by the women's movement on abortion and contraception.

But I don't share her bleak view. She would be less pessimistic if she had a daughter, like mine, who is a living testament to the triumphs of feminism - confident of her ability to achieve alongside the best of the boys, yet undeniably female and a girl who likes to have fun.

Feminism's greatest triumph is getting women to the point where we have the freedom to choose. That includes the freedom to be "birds", if that's what some women really want.

Brian Rudman: Khartoum Place bureaucrats perform a General Gordon

Auckland's Khartoum Place is named after one of those disastrous last stands that British imperial spin-doctors managed to convert into a proud and glorious historic moment.

Back in 1884, instead of doing the sensible thing and retreating in the face of overwhelming odds, poor old pig-headed General "Chinese" Gordon decided to dig into the Sudanese desert and fight.

It was a bad move. Eight awful months on, his head was being paraded around the liberated town of Khartoum on a spike.

Tomorrow, the Auckland City bureaucrats on the losing side of the battle to remove the Khartoum Place suffragist memorial seem determined to replay the General Gordon moment, and go down fighting. They're fronting up to the urban strategy and governance committee with yet more plans to dicker with the layout of the controversial square.

One of the four proposals being mooted even revisits their rejected dream to "upgrade the entire space". That option involves removing the memorial.

General Gordon would have admired their foolhardiness given that this committee is chaired by Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker, who just last week declared his support for the existing memorial, adding "and I have the numbers".

Nodding approvingly alongside as he said this were Mayor Dick Hubbard and assorted dames and other influential women.

Admitting the groundswell for retaining the tiles, the report confesses "the importance of the tile art to women's groups in its current location was underestimated.

"In light of this, options for keeping the tiles in situ need to be considered."

Having conceded that, project leader Cameron Rennie then recommends as the preferred option an "additional set of stairs [be installed] with art kept in current location and configuration".

Now, at the risk of being labelled querulous, where, pray, is this new set of stairs going to go?

No concept designs are provided in the copy that has fallen into my hands, but with the memorial tiles stretching across practically the whole width of the square, the only obvious place for new stairs, as far as I can see, is up and over the top of the whole memorial.

And while that might satisfy, in a literal sense, the public clamour to leave the monument in situ, it hardly respects the spirit of the campaign.

What's the difference between burying it out of sight under a stairway and burying it in Myers Park next to the brothel?

Not a lot.

The four options going before tomorrow's meeting are: 1. Tidy up the existing space; 2. Refit existing space with art and stairs kept in current location and configuration; 3. Additional set of stairs with art kept in current location and configuration; 4. Upgrade entire space.

Option 3, the new set of stairs, would "provide a sight line through to the [public art] gallery to enhance the connection between Lorne St and the proposed new gallery ... "

The report recommends the committee approve the completion of a proposed design for Option 3, which has already been started.

Nervously, it adds, "there is no guarantee that option three will work". If it doesn't, "it may be necessary to follow option two".

Never giving up, the report writer adds, that when Option 2 or 3 is put up for public consultation early next year, "the design with the stairs removed can also be made available to the public".

That harks back to a reference earlier in the report that "a design for Khartoum Place without the stairs and tile art is in part developed".

The bureaucrats are recommending that this design be finished (even though the politicians have agreed it's a non-starter) "for the purposes of public consultation, so that the public can debate the issue of the tile art from both sides".

Talk about digging in like General Gordon and failing to see the game is up.

Here they are recommending to the politicians that whichever option they select tomorrow, it should then be put out to public consultation alongside the rejected and discredited, "get rid of the memorial" option.

Why can't they get it into their heads that removing the memorial is off the agenda?

The politicians, led by the Mayor Dick Hubbard and majority leader Dr Hucker, have said it's a non-starter. So have a cross-section of women's leaders.

So have many Herald readers.

The obvious answer is to give the square and memorial a spring clean and then, for a change, look after it.

Achilleas Antoniades: Cyprus wants a peaceful life

In 1974, Turkey invaded the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, occupying 37 per cent of its land and displacing many thousands of Greek Cypriots from their homes. Despite this, the Government of Cyprus is supporting Turkey's bid for accession to the European Union, expecting that it will meet its obligations towards the EU.

Why? Clearly, Cyprus is not happy with the continuing occupation of its land by more than 43,000 Turkish troops, or the terrible and continuing injustice of denying Greek Cypriots rights to their homes and properties. However, the Government of Cyprus, which has been an EU member since May 1, 2004, has decided that the moment does not call for the exercise of negative power; that greater gains can be had by engaging Turkey constructively on the road to accession.

It is inevitable that the paths of Cyprus and Turkey will cross around the negotiating table. And this is bound to happen earlier than later in the negotiations. The decision to commence accession negotiations was a decision not without controversy or tension, both in Europe and Turkey itself. However, now that the decision has been made, one thing is certain - neither Turkey nor Europe will be the same again.

The question of whether Turkey is a suitable candidate is still in many people's minds. Whether it will finally make it and when, is still a question without a definitive answer. However, no matter which side of the argument one takes, there can be no doubt of the merits of a Turkey finally integrated to the western values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and international law.

Such a development would not only have positive outcomes for Cyprus, but also auger well for stability and progress in the Eastern Mediterranean. The imperatives of membership cannot leave unaffected the festering sore of Cyprus. As predicted by a top American policy maker, changing the context in which the problem has been set for the past three decades, would produce fresh hope that it will finally be resolved.

To be sure, Cyprus is not happy with the continuing occupation of its land by Turkish troops. Greek Cypriots are still angry at the injustice of the continuing denial of their rights to homes and properties illegally taken over and still inhabited by those who don't own them. It should be noted that some of these displaced people live here in New Zealand or have close relatives and friends among New Zealand's Greek Cypriot community.

Moreover, Turkey continues to refuse to recognise the rights of Cyprus as a state, something that puts Turkey in the position of a lonely minority of one in the whole world. Its ports and airports still remain closed to Cyprus ships and airplanes despite international obligations as well as European mandatory requirements under the mutually agreed Negotiating Framework.

All this is part of a pursuit to establish a separate state in the territories of Cyprus which Turkey has occupied by force since 1974, behind an imposed line of artificial division.

The time has come to pose the serious question: How much longer can Turkey maintain this untenable position especially as it tries to join the European family?

Triumphal statements by Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to the effect that, despite the acceptance by Turkey of the Annan plan, not a single soldier has been removed from Cyprus, and Prime Minister Recep Tuyyip Erdogan's uncompromising statement that only a confederation of two separate, sovereign states is acceptable to Turkey, are not exactly sources of great optimism. Turkey will have to look at reality as the difficult task of successfully negotiating the multitude of serious accession issues with the EU draws near.

What happened in the past two years in Cyprus, when the Turkish Army allowed a small number of crossing points on the dividing line to open and limited freedom of movement to begin, is a serious step in the process of reconciliation that has broken down the myth that the two communities cannot live together.

It has already proven that the Turkish attempt to keep the island artificially divided is bankrupt and that there is no alternative but to allow the two communities in free negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations to reach a mutually acceptable compromise within the framework of a bicommunal, bizonal federation.

It is time for Turkey to normalise its relations with Cyprus, remove its troops from the soil of an EU member state and let all people of Cyprus get on with life in peace and security as members of the European family.

This is the way to end the so called "isolation" of the Turkish Cypriots. Not through the imposition of state structures demanding separate sovereignty which is not recognised by any country in the world. It is this separatist policy which, by definition, results in self-imposed blockage of legitimate political and trade relations with the outside world. Not the self-evident defensive measures of the Republic of Cyprus.

Erdogan should be reminded of these facts whenever the opportunity arises, more so by a friendly country like New Zealand, which has shown a long and consistent commitment to a fair solution in Cyprus.

The ball is in Turkey's court to show that she can put the past behind, abandon anachronistic policies and move forward with the times, as can be expected of a prospective European member state.

* Achilleas Antoniades is the Cyprus High Commissioner to New Zealand

Amalia Fawcett: Aids forgotten in race for bird flu protection

As we brace ourselves for bird flu and store treatments for this disease we think may reach epidemic proportions, we are ignoring another disease that affects more than 40 million people and has killed more than 3 million people this year alone.

Aids is destroying communities and economies throughout the world.

In preparation for World Aids Day tomorrow, UNaids and the World Health Organisation have released a report providing evidence that some countries are experiencing a decrease in HIV infection rates, but even with these small triumphs, the global rate continues to rise.

HIV/Aids pays no attention to gender, colour, sexual orientation, borders or age and is wreaking havoc on fragile economies in low- and middle-income countries.

While some communities are stretched to their limits to care for those affected by the virus and their governments struggle to respond, industrialised countries are experiencing the difference anti-retroviral treatment (ARVs) makes.

Already, mother-to-child transmission has been almost eliminated by increased access to ARVs in these countries. Mothers in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, are still unable to protect their babies to the same degree.

Many of those who have succumbed to the disease, those fighting it, and those who have been orphaned by it would have fared better had treatment been accessible.

It is clear that increased efforts must be made to ensure treatment is more accessible if the fight against Aids is to be successful.

The UNaids/WHO report did have some cause for optimism as improvements have been made in access to treatment for more than 1 million people in low- and middle-income countries. Because of this, these people live longer. But this still falls short of the aim of 3 million to receive treatment by the end of this year.

The ultimate goal is universal access to anti-retroviral treatment, a crucial step to halt and reverse the pandemic. This not only calls for reduction of cost, but also the strengthening of medical infrastructure, elimination of stigma and discrimination and increased prevention and education programmes.

Four years ago, 189 countries adopted the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/Aids (DoC) at a United Nations General Assembly special session.

While preparing for the DoC review next year, the General Assembly has reaffirmed its concern that not enough is being done to stop the spread of HIV.

Increased condom use, reduction of mother-to-child transmission and a fall in prevalence rates have been spotted in some countries, but the pandemic is, by no means, close to the aim of halting and reversing by 2015.

The quick reaction and resources that have been directed to avian flu have not been seen for HIV/Aids. Resources to increase knowledge of safer sex and HIV prevention measures, as well as increasing care and treatment of those already affected, are desperately needed.

The HIV/Aids pandemic is already reversing development gains and damaging economies. This is not just a prediction of a possible scenario, it is a reality that will worsen if more is not done to stop it.

* Amalia Fawcett writes on behalf of the International HIV/Aids Advocacy Group, a coalition of NZ-based NGOs working with HIV-affected people worldwide.