Delivered by Wangari Tharao, North America, on behalf of the PCB NGO Delegation
We all understand the importance of a strong and accountable UNAIDS, particularly in the current context of COVID-19. We recall the recent history of turmoil and crisis of credibility the organization has been through and the fundamental role of staff in all rebuilding efforts. The Statement of the Representative of the UNAIDS Staff Association (USSA) is a good measure of the progress made in the implementation of the Management Action Plan (MAP).
Though the USSA statement shows improvement in a number of areas, we focus on 4 issues that require urgent attention:
1) Issues around COVID-19 and any return to work strategies are highlighted as a major concern for staff. Supporting staff wellbeing is paramount during this trying time. We are gratified that the staff request for accommodation to continue working remotely where necessary, will be considered as indicated by Winnie in her ED report. This is a good safety and cost saving measure.
2) Lack of fairness and transparency which may enable favoritism, continue to be an issue, particularly in areas of recruitment, promotion, and job mobility. These issues have been at the core of staff dissatisfaction for several years. The NGO Delegation is concerned that this continues to persist. We call for expedited implementation of the MAP to eliminate the problem.
3) Increasing workload is identified as a growing problem. This has worsened compared to what was reported in 2019. We were very disheartened yesterday when Winnie indicated that one of the strategies for dealing with budget shortfall is leaving vacancies unfilled. Overwork may lead to stress, low morale, decreased motivation, lower productivity and poor health. We call on UNAIDS to fill vacant positions and explore other ways of eliminating the budget deficit.
4) Issues of discrimination, incivility and gender discrimination and abuse of authority continue to persist. To understand better which staff are impacted by these issues specifically, we call on USSA to disaggregate the data further to highlight how race and gender across the gender spectrum may influence survey responses. UNAIDS can use the generated information to build a more robust staff capacity building and support program.
We are heartened to see discussions of race and racism emerge at this PCB meeting in alignment with what is happening globally. With enriched data, the USSA survey can help inform these discussions.
The NGO Delegation calls for strategic, concerted, and expedited efforts to deal with all identified issues to ensure a fair, healthy, and enabling work environment for staff.
Tags: 46th PCB Meeting
Delivered by Andrew Spieldenner, North America, on behalf of the PCB NGO Delegation
I am delivering this on behalf of the entire NGO Delegation. Our written intervention has already been submitted. Based on the interventions made in this PCB Meeting thus far, we would like to expand on one issue.
We applaud UNAIDS for its successful external audit as one way of demonstrating accountability to the Program Coordinating Board and other constituents. We want to address External Audit item 52 more explicitly.
In our current moment, there has been an increase in criminalising key populations, as well as a reduction in resources aimed at supporting people living with HIV, gay men and men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, migrants and adolescent girls and young women to have meaningful involvement in the HIV responses.
The reporting from UBRAF is inconsistent and relies on self-reporting from various sources. As the NGO Delegation, we see and experience challenges on the ground - including shifting policies in treatment distribution, overlapping and sometimes conflicting government and multinational organisations claiming to respond to the needs of people living with HIV and other marginalised groups, and the legal challenges to many key populations globally.
In 2018, my country passed vast and sweeping laws in order, ostensibly, to stop sex trafficking. These laws made all sex workers more vulnerable to criminal prosecution and law enforcement, driving people engaged in sex work farther from healthcare and other HIV services. In the last two weeks, the federal government has removed a law that explicitly outlines protections for people of trans experience in healthcare settings. We are currently in massive social protests to recognize that Black Lives Matter and addressing disparities in the criminal justice system. These are critical challenges in human-rights and people centered HIV responses.
We encourage UNAIDS to look at including measurable outcomes about structures for every reporting country: gender parity in education, laws that criminalize key populations, laws that explicitly protect key populations, and resourcing the Greater Involvement of People with HIV/AIDS and other key populations. The ways that our voices are encouraged - or silenced - must be - at the bare minimum - acknowledged. As the writer James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Delivered by Dr. Karen BADALYAN, Europe, on behalf of the PCB NGO Delegation
I am delivering this statement on behalf of the NGO Delegation.
The PCB NGO Delegation appreciates the Secretariat’s input to move forward with its ambitious agenda across the four pillars of the 2016– 2021 Human Resources Management (HRM) Strategy. We also recognize the immense ongoing efforts of the HRM department to uphold dignity, accountability, and wellbeing in the UNAIDS workplace, and to provide an environment in which staff members feel safe and happy to work, and are supported and empowered to perform to the best of their abilities.
It is important also to acknowledge that women’s empowerment has been mainstreamed with the overall proportion of female staff members in UNAIDS standing at 55% for the past 5 years, and 68% of the internship positions offered to women.
Despite these achievements, we must raise your attention to the gender equality issues within HRM. Gender parity at all levels is an important goal in the UNAIDS 2018–2023 Gender Action Plan. We are extremely disappointed with being informed that the Staff members’ biological sex has been automatically taken as an indicator to identify people’s gender self-identification, as well as the binary approach to the gender with a diversification of Staff members only to men and women. These are so out of date, so retrogressive, so cis-normative. We must, as a global health programme, recognise gender identities and gender expressions in all their diversities and must collect data appropriately. We call upon the Secretariat to include gender diversity in its full spectrum in all future human resource management reports. What we ensure and demand internally, we must work for externally.
I strongly believe that who hasn’t actually walked a mile in transgender, non-binary, intersex, gender queer, gender non-conforming, bigender people’s shoes, hasn’t full understanding of their needs and problems inside out.
We must do better. We must recognise the wonderful diversity in our communities and our constituencies and we must structure our response to work with this diversity, and to protect, and serve all of our constituencies.
Delivered by Alexander Pastoors, Europe Delegate, on behalf of the NGO Delegation
Thank you Chair, Madame Executive Director,
I am delivering this statement on behalf of the entire NGO Delegation.
The NGO Delegation welcomes the progress being made with the implementation of the Management Action Plan for a healthy, equitable and enabling workplace for all UNAIDS staff. We note with appreciation that in many areas, significant progress has been made since the last meeting of the PCB.
The NGO Delegation however notes that there are a number of issues in which progress seems to stagnate. We reiterate therefore the recommendation in the reports on oversight and audit to push forward the implementation of the MAP especially on the areas where there is less progress, to address, among others, the staff priority issues and concerns identified in staff surveys, with the end view of achieving the vision of a healthy, equitable and enabling workplace for all UNAIDS staff.
We note with particular concern that the staff survey shows three cases of perceived discrimination based on a worker’s actual or assumed HIV status. There is no room for such workplace discrimination anywhere, but especially in the UN’s Joint Programme on HIV.
Furthermore, we request the Secretariat to speed up the recruitment process of the position of the director of the independent ethics office. According to the MAP, the recruitment process is foreseen to be finalised in the second quarter of 2021. Given the importance of the office within the MAP the recruitment shouldn’t be postponed until next year.
Delivered by Aditia Taslim Lim, NGO Asia-Pacific on behalf of the NGO Delegation
Thank you Chair. I would like to begin my statement with a personal story. I started using drugs when I was 12. At 14, I started injecting heroin, often picking up used needles. Back then, heroin was easier to find than needles.
At 16, my parents would accompany me to psychiatrists and doctors. If not, I would not have been able to access the services. I was asked to get tested, but I refused. A year later, I was diagnosed with hepatitis-C, and was told to do an HIV test. Again, I refused. Only after I turned 18, I got tested, without my parents’ approval. Since then, I have lived with HIV. I am 35 now.
This story is from 20 years ago, but the reality remains the same today. Young people continue to be denied access to services because of age of consent laws. And many, never return to services.
UBRAF reports 88% of the 33 Fast Track Countries have adopted supportive SRH policies for adolescent and young people. However, age of consent laws to access SRH services are still in place; 52% in Asia Pacific, 53% in East and South Africa, 92% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 59% in Latin America, 90% in the Caribbean, 58% in Middle East and North Africa, 61% in West and Central Africa and 57% in Western Europe and North America.
If we are serious in reaching the last mile, this must change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a new reality. The Joint Programme focuses on integrating HIV in national emergency preparedness and response, but none of us were prepared. I applaud UNAIDS for pushing countries to provide 3 to 6 months supply of ARV, but this is not the case in Indonesia. This month, I was given one-week, two-week and another one-week supply of my ARV. This also happened earlier in January and November last year. We are living in fear of going to the clinic, not knowing how much ARV we will get.
A recent WHO study found 12 of 18 countries showing evidence on pre-treatment drug resistance beyond the 10% threshold. UBRAF reports 95% of 88 countries have policies and strategies for ART retention and adherence. But having policies and strategies in place is not enough. With the current state in my country, for instance, I fear more people will have treatment disruption and never return to services.
UBRAF indicators alone, do not tell us the full story. As UNAIDS is embarking on the next strategy, let’s rethink what we are measuring. We need to get the right numbers and data. And behind those numbers and data, there are names and people. We need to bring the stories to the table. We need to ensure transparency and G/MIPA should remain in the core of the process.
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