The NGO Delegation's Communique for the 44th UNAIDS PCB Meeting is already out. The Communique contains the following sections: Report of the Executive Director; Report by the Chair of the Committee of Cosponsoring Organisations; UNAIDS Strategy beyond 2021; Unified Budget, Results and Accountability Framework (UBRAF); Progress report on establishment of the Task Team on Community-led responses; Report of the working group on the Joint Inspection Unit management and administration review of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); Update on the implementation of the Management Action Plan; Update on strategic human resources management issues; Organisational oversight reports - external audit report; Statement by the representative of the UNAIDS Secretariat Staff Association
You may download a PDF version of the Communique (with photos from the virtual PCB Meeting) here.
Alexander Pastoors, Europe Delegate
The 46th PCB Meeting was held virtually from June 23-25, 2020. Because the COVID-19 pandemic made an in-person meeting in Geneva impossible, the meeting used the Interprefy platform. Having a virtual PCB came with a series of challenges both for the UNAIDS Secretariat and the PCB members, not to mention the civil society observers and observer member states.
The biggest implication of organising a virtual PCB meeting was the reduced amount of meeting time allotted to each meeting day, compared to an in-person meeting. This meant that a lot of agenda items were pushed to the December meeting, including the NGO Delegation Report and the Thematic segment on cervical cancer and HIV. It also did not allow for much negotiation on decision points that had to be agreed on per agenda item.
Another consequence of the shift to a virtual meeting was the conduct of pre-meetings that emerged in the weeks prior to the PCB, in which the agenda items were presented and board members could ask questions. The Delegation also had to stagger bilateral meetings with PCB Member States, as well as with Cosponsors, Civil Society, and UNAIDS Executive Director, among others. For most of the members of the delegation, this was very challenging, both in workload, as well as having to attend either very early or very late in their respective time zones in calls for many days in a row.
In retrospect, given the many challenges, the virtual PCB meeting went well. Especially because the NGO Delegation succeeded in its advocacy to extend the timeline of the development of the new UNAIDS strategy, enabling better participation of civil society throughout the entire process.
AGENDA 1.3: REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Jules Kim, Asia and the Pacific Delegate
Winnie Byanyima delivered her second Executive Director’s Report since assuming the role as UNAIDS ED in November 2019. Her report highlighted the impacts of COVID-19, and how the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of investment in HIV principles, approaches, infrastructure, and expertise that extend far beyond the AIDS response. Winnie spoke to the inequities that have become further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She spoke of how off track we were in relation to targets with too many countries not on track to meet 90-90-90 targets. There are still too many AIDS related deaths, the gains in preventing new pediatric infections and accelerating treatment for children living with HIV have stalled and the serious gap in prevention for key populations and adolescent girls and young women continues. Winnie highlighted how “HIV is an epidemic of inequalities.”
The NGO Delegation interventions emphasized the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV and key populations, including disruptions to services and access to ARV’s and increases in human rights abuses, marginalisation and stigma and discrimination.
Winnie addressed the unfinished business within the UNAIDS Strategy that informs the approach to the next UNAIDS Strategy development process. She spoke to the advantages of maintaining the critical pillars that have delivered results in the current strategy, to the end of 2025, but also enhance the current strategy to prioritise critical areas that are lagging behind and need greater attention, e.g., protecting human rights to ensure that AIDS responses are tailored to the needs of those most affected. Towards thid end, Winnie urged Member States to join the Global Partnership for Action to End HIV Related Stigma and Discrimination and to take immediate actions, such as declaring a moratorium on the application of harmful laws that impact people living with HIV, LGBTIQ persons, sex workers, people who use drugs.
AGENDA 1.4: REPORT OF THE CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE OF COSPONSORING ORGANISATIONS (CCO)
Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, Africa Delegate
I never imagined that a virtual PCB would be possible, but by the efforts of all that put work into it, it happened. I applaud all of us for making it work despite all of the challenges we faced with time differences and connectivity, especially for observers from civil society. The report of the Chair of the Committee of Cosponsoring Organisations (CCO) highlighted the importance of working together, especially in the context of the twin pandemics of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. The report echoed the challenges of COVID-19, citing the role of social inequalities and its impact on HIV. During the discussion, there were questions on the transparency of the country envelope process and how COVID-19 would affect the HIV response now that most funding would be channeled towards responding to the pandemic. A concrete example cited was the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean region as the emerging epicenter of COVID-19, which is already impacting heavily on the current HIV response.
The CCO also expressed support for the UNAIDS strategy development process. A critical issue raised was how each Cosponsor’s strategies would align with the upcoming new global strategy. In the closing statement, the CCO Chair made references to sex workers as ‘women forced into prostitution’, which the NGO Delegation found concerning. We will be following up to further discuss and clarify this position as it impacts on our community. While fighting two epidemics, civil society presence still needs safeguarding and appreciation. We cannot push some of us who are hanging by a thread further under the carpet.
AGENDA 3: UNAIDS STRATEGY BEYOND 2021
Jonathan Gunthorp, Africa Delegate
The UNAIDS new strategy process for 2021 and beyond is now well under way with the NGO Delegation having taken a prominent role in winning a longer, more accessible, process. In the pre-meetings and in our PCB statement, we made clear and believe there is substantial support for a strong UNAIDS, commitment to human rights, integration with SRHR, focus on the health of women and adolescents, and addressing all structural and policy barriers that block effective responses for people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people living with HIV. At the PCB meeting, Executive Director Winnie Byanyima presented three possible ways forward:
Option 1: Maintain the focus and structure of current strategy, extending the timeline to the end of 2025
Option 2: Maintain the critical pillars that have delivered results in the current strategy, its ambition and the principles underpinning it to the end of 2025, but also enhance the current strategy to prioritise critical areas that are lagging behind and need greater attention
Option 3: Develop a comprehensive new UNAIDS Strategy from scratch
The process between now and March 2021 involves a review of what is going well and what is not, which will culminate in a virtual multi-stakeholder consultation in September. The review will also recommend options for the strategy framework to the PCB. The December PCB meeting will spend time reflecting on the framework and substance of the strategy, and then a special PCB session in March 2021 will adopt the strategy.
The NGO Delegation enjoins you in the community and civil society networks to take part in this process. Make sure your constituency’s agenda and voices are heard in the review and that qualitative and quantitative data are reflective of your realities.
Participate now. Build a UNAIDS that works for you. Reach out to us for information.
AGENDA 4: UNIFIED BUDGET, RESULTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY FRAMEWORK (UBRAF)
Aditia Taslim Lim, Asia ang the Pacific Delegate
UBRAF presents the work of the Joint Programme and its performance against the indicators set in accordance with the current UNAIDS Strategic Result Areas. However, it often focuses on the presence or absence of policies, rather than its implementation. At the PCB meeting, the NGO Delegation’s interventionhighlighted the urgency of capturing the real stories on the ground. We also raised several key points, age-consent laws remain as barriers in all regions despite 88% of 33 Fast Track countries reporting to have supportive SRH policies; off-track countries are being further left behind in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic; and, concerning evidence on ARV resistance.
As UNAIDS embarks in the new strategy development, a lot of attention has been put into this process. In parallel, the community must also keep an eye on “the new” UBRAF as it will determine the indicators that will measure the work of UNAIDS and the Cosponsors at Regional and National level in the coming years. Over the past years, the NGO Delegation has been very critical in voicing the sentiment of what is not being measured and how UBRAF does not speak to our reality. We must be proactive in seeking engagement in this process to ensure critical aspects are being measured and that we can hold the Joint Programme and Implementing Countries accountable.
AGENDA 5: PROGRESS REPORT ON ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TASK TEAM ON COMMUNITY-LED AIDS RESPONSES
Violeta Ross, Latin America and the Caribbean Delegate
This agenda item was presented, but without any discussion during the actual PCB. Only written statements were submitted for inclusion and reference in the final report of the PCB. During the week of pre-meetings, there was some discussion on this topic and the general consensus is on the urgency of this work; especially in time of the COVID-19 pandemic where communities are leading the response more than ever.
In our written intervention, we gave the example of REDTRASEX, a regional network of female sex workers in Latin America, which in three months of quarantine mobilized 10,000 food supply baskets for sex workers in 11 countries. The NGO Delegation focused on the urgency of this Task Team and the commitments the PCB already agreed regarding this topic.
What is next in relation to this agenda item? We expect the Secretariat to announce the final 25 members of the Task Team. The NGO Delegation submitted the names of four people from different regions and communities. We will keep you informed about the progress of this Task Team, so be sure to follow our social media networks.
AGENDA 6: REPORT OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE JOINT INSPECTION UNIT MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION REVIEW OF THE UNITED NATIONS JOINT PROGRAMME ON HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
Jumoke Patrick, Latin America and the Caribbean Delegate
The Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report at the 45th PCB meeting in December 2019 gave latitude and oversight to a selected working group to carry forward the task of responding to the recommendations coming from the UN Joint Inspection Unit. The JIU Working Group, which includes two members of the NGO Delegation, was tasked with the duty of implementing and carrying forward the task of responding to the JIU recommendations both formal and informal recommendations. Since its inception in April 2020, the JIU WG has been reviewing, consulting and assessing the recommendations and the feasibility of these based on what currently exists and the strategic direction of UNAIDS moving forward.
Prior to the 46th PCB Board meeting, the JIU WG coordinated two meetings that looked at revising the PCB’s Modus Operandi in order to clarify its roles and responsibilities, oversight and accountability mechanisms of UNAIDS and the Secretariat, validity of the guiding principles for co-sponsoring organizations, and support an open a dialogue with the United Nations Secretary-General on the term limit of the Executive Director and the explicit performance expectations for the position. The JIU WG process was reported back to the 46th PCB meeting, in which the process and progress of the working group were recognized by the PCB. However, as the JIU Working Group was still involved in the process to finalize recommendations to the PCB, it was decided that written comments from PCB Members were more practical in place of a discussion at the PCB meeting. The NGO Delegation submitted its statement prior to the PCB.
AGENDA 7: UPDATE ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE MANAGEMENT ACTION PLAN
The Management Action Plan (MAP) was conceived in December 2018, after the report by the Independent Expert Panel on harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of power within the organisation. The MAP has several goals and targets in order to eliminate all forms of harassment and abuse of power and to give UNAIDS staff more protection and better tools for redress. The update at the 46th PCB Meeting gave the PCB insight into how many of the targets were achieved or on track to be achieved. The general feeling of the PCB was that there has been a lot of progress in implementing the various programmes and actions of the MAP. This in itself is a good sign because several donor countries of UNAIDS have said that a good implementation of the MAP was necessary in order for them to maintain financial support.
The PCB was aligned in its request to put more effort in those areas that are not yet on track, such as the redress system through the WHO. Furthermore, some members of the PCB, including the NGO Delegation, gave a statement requesting Secretariat to speed up the selection process of the definitive person for the position of director of the independent ethics office which is now temporarily filled out.
AGENDA 8: UPDATE ON STRATEGIC HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ISSUES
Dr. Karen Badalyan, Europe Delegate
An update on strategic human resources management (HRM) issues was presented at the 46th PCB meeting, indicating the Secretariat’s endeavors to move forward with its ambitious agenda across the four pillars of the 2016– 2021 HRM Strategy: 1) investing in people, 2) strengthening performance culture, 3) inspiring collective leadership and 4) ensuring an enabling workplace. The report also highlighted ongoing efforts of the HRM department to uphold dignity, accountability, and wellbeing in the UNAIDS workplace, and clearly stated that UNAIDS provides 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.
While acknowledging the existing efforts, the NGO Delegation also raised PCB members’ attention to the gender equality issues within HRM. Our intervention raised specific concerns about staff members’ biological sex being automatically taken as an indicator to identify people’s gender self-identification, as well as the binary approach to gender disaggregation. We called upon the Secretariat to include gender diversity in its full spectrum in all future human resource management reports, highlighting the importance of recognizing the wonderful diversity in our communities and constituencies in the global HIV/AIDS response.
AGENDA 9: ORGANIZATIONAL OVERSIGHT REPORTS – EXTERNAL AUDIT REPORT
Andrew Spieldenner, North America Delegate
The external audit was presented at the 46th PCB Meeting. The overview indicated that UNAIDS has had sufficient fiscal controls with no findings for fiscal mismanagement. The external audit also highlighted some key areas that were still underdeveloped including: human resource development and the UBRAF reporting systems. Our intervention centered on the self-reporting flaws in the UBRAF, where we questioned whether governments would report their own failings in protecting key populations and other marginalized groups.
Other PCB members focused on different parts of the audit. Some were concerned with the lack of progress on staff morale and development, and offered suggestions. Others highlighted the history of harassment and abuse at the organization. Finally, some PCB members brought forward the ways that COVID-19 might impact UNAIDS operations. The clear message was that the PCB wanted to have more confidence in how UNAIDS is run as an organization, especially under the leadership of UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. Through the meeting, the response was to highlight increases in resourcing from Germany this year, as well as encouraging other Member States to meet and increase their contributions.
AGENDA ITEM 10: STATEMENT BY THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNAIDS SECRETARIAT STAFF ASSOCIATION
Wangari Tharao, North America Delegate
The 2020 staff survey that informed the UNAIDS Secretariat Staff Association (USSA) statement highlighted some of the following lingering issues: a) continued lack of fairness and transparency, particularly in areas of job recruitment, promotion, and job mobility, a factor that may enable favoritism; b) discrimination (3 cases reported based on HIV status), incivility (reported by 43% of staff), sexual harassment (3 cases reported compared to 8 in 2019), and intimidation and abuse of authority; c) majority of staff (73%) felt that their workloads had increased over the previous 12 months, in comparison to 50% in 2019 with vacancies remaining unfilled for prolonged periods of time.
The NGO Delegation’s intervention acknowledged that though progress has been made in the implementation of the MAP, we were concerned about the slow progress in changing the culture of the organization. Our statement highlighted the likely negative impacts on any efforts to create a trusting, healthy, equitable and enabling environment for staff if above issues continue to linger. These same issues and concerns were also raised by various member states (MS) and UNAIDS was strongly encouraged to expedite the MAP implementation process.
Our statement also drew attention to the urgent need to disaggregate the survey data informing the USSA statement, to further elucidate how race and gender may impact responses of staff on the issues raised. This way UNAIDS will have the necessary information to develop a more tailored capacity building program for its staff. We view this as being very important to ensure alignment with current global movement(s) to reduce racism, particularly anti-Black racism within institutions and systems.
Tags: 46th PCB Meeting
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.
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.
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