The UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Permanent, Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki made a welcoming speech at the technical meeting "Presentation and Discussion of the New Edition of the Information Strategy on HIV/AIDS"on the occasion of the international Zero discrimination day.

"Dear Friends!

I am glad to welcome all the participants of today’s event!

It is my great pleasure speaking at this meeting today on behalf of the United Nations Organization and to celebrate together the Zero Discrimination Day, which is yearly observed by the UN and other international organizations. This day is aimed at promoting equality of everyone before the law and securing real equality in practice in all UN member states. This day was proclaimed by the UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on 27 February 2014, and has been celebrated yearly since 1 March 1, 2014.

This year, the slogan of the Day is “Act to Change Laws that Discriminate”. On this day UNAIDS and all UN organizations are interested in collaborative work with governments, parliamentarians, judicial authorities, Civil Society organizations, and mass media to enable people with HIV to live with dignity and to not face the problems of discrimination.

Both people living with HIV and those taking drugs have the same rights and responsibilities all other people have, and their status, sexual orientation, or behaviour should not prevent them from living full and productive life and making plans for the future. Nothing should have an adverse effect on the level of health and social services they receive, so that they could work, travel, and live with dignity.

People living with HIV are especially vulnerable to discrimination due to the whole range of factors including their HIV-positive status (and the problem of its disclosure or non-disclosure), sexual orientation, or drug abuse. UN helps Belarus to examine its legislation in this sphere through the working group created at the Ministry of Health. I hope this will help to ensure that the laws work for all those who face HIV-related problems.

In the broader sense, United Nations endorses the idea of developing a universal law on discrimination, which would ensure proper protection for all people from all forms of discrimination. Such a law could help Belarus fulfil the obligations under the international treaties on human rights starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Belarus is a participant of a wide range of international anti-discrimination treaties including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In 2016, the Republic of Belarus ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which enshrines an important principle of non-discrimination: the principle of equal opportunities that are available to all.

It is possible to stop discrimination and to achieve changes in discriminatory laws. There are many ways for it both for the states and individuals ranging from overall and practical implementation of international obligations and use of the best international practices to creation of inclusion mechanisms and use of human rights based approaches to decision making.

Sustainable development goals are of key importance too. In particular, “leave no one behind” principle implies work with vulnerable groups including people living with HIV, drug addicts, and LGBTI people. Working with them does not only mean providing services to these groups but also enabling their active engagement in discussions and decision making about the most effective measures and approaches based upon human rights and gender factors.

The Agenda for Sustainable Development for the period until 2030 outlines the rising complexity and interdependency of health and sustainable development including growing social inequality and the

burden of HIV and other transmissible diseases. Fighting HIV and other transmissible diseases remains the priority of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On Zero Discrimination Day, let me call everyone for solidarity, empathy, and joint or individual actions aimed at elimination of discriminatory practices and laws in the country".

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