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Two highlights at the next 17-20 February 2004 meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee will be an in-depth presentation of WCC work on HIV/AIDS, and the formal installation of the council's new general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. The committee will also review the progress of work to prepare the next WCC assembly, and consider actions on public issues.

Kobia, who took up his new post in January, will report to the committee for the first time as WCC general secretary on 17 February. He will be officially installed during a service in the Ecumenical Centre chapel at 18:00 on Wednesday 18 February.

The HIV/AIDS presentation is being programmed to allow executive committee members to fully appreciate and take on board - in ways appropriate to their own churches and ecumenical contexts - the intensive work on this issue undertaken over the past year by the WCC Health and Healing desk.

The work aims at bridging a perceived gap between policy and action as far as faith communities' responses to HIV/AIDS are concerned. It consists of an Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA), and of other regional and global HIV/AIDS activities, all of which will be profiled for the executive committee. Their input will assist in the strategy direction the council will take on the issue in the future.

The committee will also review preparations for the council's ninth assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006. Besides reviewing developments in the assembly programme, it will decide how many delegates member churches are to send to the assembly; for each church, that number will be based on membership figures submitted on or before 31 January 2004. It will also set the policy on subsidies for assembly attendance, and consider other assembly-related finance matters.

Another part of the committee's work is to consider actions on public issues. At this meeting, it will be analyzing nuclear disarmament, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the situation in Sudan, Zimbabwe, India & Pakistan, and is likely to issue a statement, or minute, on each.

In relation to the role of the churches in nuclear disarmament, the committee will address the fact that international institutions and rules created to achieve consensus, confidence and common strategies among global and national actors on how to meet threats to peace and security, including the rules to govern the use of force, have been weakened.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will consider the position of churches in Israel and the Occupied Territories and of the Middle East Council of Churches, the status of the US-sponsored "road map", the "Geneva Initiative" and other alternative peace plans, and the implications of Israel's construction of a so-called "security fence".

In its supervisory role, the executive committee will review overall WCC work since its last, August 2003, meeting, the council's financial situation, and organizational questions that, in this case, will include procedures for applying a consensus model of reaching decisions.

The committee will also be asked to approve the procedure for WCC central committee to replace one of eight WCC presidents, Rev. Kathryn K. Bannister from the USA, who has announced her decision to step down from the co-presidency for personal reasons.