Delivered by Wangari Tharao, North America NGO Delegate
Thank you Mr. Chair:
As my NGO colleague from Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted, the secretariat has already embarked on the implementation of the Management Action Plan (MAP). The report on the “Update on Strategic Human Resources Management Issues” indicates that the secretariat views the MAP as an opportunity to implement new, creative and effective approaches in human resource management, to ensure a reinvigorated, strengthened and thriving workforce that a stronger UNAIDS requires. In addition, UNAIDS also has a comprehensive 5 year Human Resource Strategy with investments in staff development to strengthen performance; support collective leadership in an enabling environment that upholds staff dignity and accountability to support a collective vision that would lead to a strengthened UNAIDS.
However, we noted in the update that UNAIDS has lost more than 25% of its workforce between 2011 to 2018. Meanwhile, we have continued to build a very ambitious HIV agenda that keeps expanding to ensure that we end AIDS by 2030. We also know that this ambitious plan has not been accompanied with increased funding, instead, we have seen significant reductions, jeopardizing UNAIDS ability to deliver an optimized response. We are concerned that changes in funding have major impacts on job losses, result in overburdened staff, leading to frustration and poor morale. A strong human resources management strategy calls for sufficient financial resources to ensure that UNAIDS is staffed adequately to meet its mandate.
As my colleague mentioned, from 2013 to 2018, there was only an increase of 2% in female staff at UNAIDS and a notable absence of Trans people. We have been calling for the integration of GIPA/MIPA in the HIV response for many years to ensure that those impacted by HIV, particularly those from key populations, are included in leadership positions in organizations and institutions working with them. As an example, in the organization where I work, we deliver primary health services to immigrant and refugee women from the global South and they populate all levels of the organization. This is GIPA/MIPA in practice. We are calling on UNAIDS to ensure , an intersectional approach based on gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography, etc. as part of the human resource management strategy.
Finally, we also noted a number of issues around hiring of new staff including: the long duration of time it takes to fill vacancies, issues around job mobility, as well as competency and leadership gaps, which all require attention. A strong UNAIDS needs to ensure that the human resources management strategy is grounded on principles of justice, fairness and transparency to foster cultural competency and build leadership skills while supporting a work/life balance.
We call on donors to ensure that UNAIDS is adequately resourced to ensure a reinvigorated, strengthened and thriving workforce, so that the UNAIDS we need responds effectively to the response and leaves no one behind.
Photo from UNAIDS Communications and Global Advocacy
Tags: 44th PCB Meeting
Delivered by Millie Milton, Latin America and the Caribbean NGO Delegate
Good day all,
In the first page of the Strategic Human Resources Management update, we see, “A fit for purpose workforce: UNAIDS in 2018”. In 2018, when UNAIDS was in the spotlight for allegations of harassment, abuse of authority and bullying, and the resultant findings in the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report, we in the PCB saw larger issues in the UNAIDS workforce.
Embedded in the Management Action Plan (MAP) are new and creative approaches to human resource management, but also a challenge to ensure that the actions undertaken make a difference to the staff members who work in the Secretariat.
The role of human resources professionals is to ensure that a company’s most important asset—its human capital—is being nurtured and supported through the creation and management of programs, policies, and procedures, and by fostering a positive work environment through effective employee-employer relations. Human resource management involves both strategic and comprehensive approaches to managing people, as well as workplace culture and environment.
Since the last update to the PCB on strategic HRM issues, the Secretariat has continued to move forward with its ambitious agenda across the four pillars of the 2016-2021 Human Resource Management Strategy. Allow me to mention a few items that merited the NGO Delegation’s attention.
The number of staff employed by the UNAIDS Secretariat has declined by approximately one quarter in the past seven years, from 904 in July 2011 to 680 in December 2018. This reduction can greatly overburden staff and affect their output.
Between 2013 and 2018, the percentage of female staff members in the UNAIDS Secretariat increased from 52% to 54%, (2% increase in 5 years). There was no mention of People of Trans experience being hired or promoted, so this prompts us to ask, where is the gender balance?
In the Management Action Plan Leadership training was earmarked, but only 65 personnel were trained out of 654. How can the MAP address this situation?
Further, the MAP says that PCB members will be engaged in strengthened monitoring and guidance on strategic Human Resource Management issues, but this was not mentioned in the update for this Agenda item.
We are calling on the management of UNAIDS to effectively use strategies to make the organisation a fit for purpose workforce in the future. We believe that effective human resource management in UNAIDS can help us reach our goal of ending AIDS in 2030.
Photo from UNAIDS Communications and Global Advocacy
Delivered by Jonathan Gunthorp, Africa NGO Delegate
Thank you Chair,
The NGO Delegation welcomes the MAP as a crucial tool in bringing about a necessary cultural change within the organisation in order to transform UNAIDS into a workplace with zero tolerance for bullying, abuse of power, or harassment (including sexual harassment).
We would like to thank the chair of the Working Group for the excellent report, that under her skillful leadership reached consensus on most of the discussed items within the TOR, and did so within a seemingly impossible timeline.
We note with appreciation that since the last PCB in December, much has been improved in the way leadership is addressing these issues. We commend the Secretariat for the transparent process, including the involvement of staff in every step of the way in shaping the MAP.
We remind those inside and outside UNAIDS who seem to think we should now put this issue behind us, that inequities in power, and their abuse, are not marginal to the work of UNAIDS, but stand at the very centre of the global epidemics. We must model inside UNAIDS the world we want outside.
Moving to three crucial issues on which there is yet no consensus:
Standard of proof in harassment cases
It is imperative to act on this as swiftly as possible, and to consider moving to a system that applies different evidentiary standards in a proportional manner so that the standard of proof required is proportionate to the gravity of the ensuing disciplinary action. To continue to apply “beyond reasonable doubt” to all cases is to continue to weigh the system against those reporting abuse and to discourage reporting. The speed at which the greater UN system moves cannot be a brake on UNAIDS creating a just and functional workplace.
Better Board Functioning
The Delegation agrees with the many PCB members who feel that the PCB needs to improve its governance in ways that fulfill its responsibilities to staff and brings it closer to accepted global, and UN best practices. This needs to happen not at some distant time in the future, but with urgency. It may not, however, need to happen here and now at this PCB session. We will, within a matter of weeks, have a new Executive Director. One of their key management priorities will be to take leadership and manage the changes already begun. Let us establish our relationship with the new ED and take urgent collective action on governance.
Support to the PCB
It is self-evident to the NGO Delegation that this body needs a dedicated capacity to support our responsibilities. We strongly call upon the PCB to request the Bureau to draft a TOR for such a capacity and to bring them back to us via intercession.
In conclusion, moving a culture to put staff and a healthy working environment at the centre of UNAIDS’ work is not like switching on a light. Cultural change here, as in all organisations, is a marathon and not a sprint. It will require stamina and endurance for the change to be effective, to be lasting, and to be sustained. But effective, lasting and sustained change is what we need for UNAIDS to become the UNAIDS we all need.
Delivered by Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, Africa NGO Delegate
It is an exciting time as the world looks forward to meeting in my country Kenya, and in my home of Nairobi for ICPD+25. In 1994, I was the same age as my three-year old daughter when the governments signed the ICPD Programme of Action. This agreement placed human rights at the centre of sustainable development, and recognised reproductive rights as human rights and also addresses structural issues related to HIV responses.
We know that when people, especially young people, are empowered to make their own choices about their sexual and reproductive health– free of force, coercion, and fear – the whole world prospers. I say, when women and girls have the agency, information, and access to make their own choices, especially on reproduction, the whole world prospers.
We want you to know that youth-led and youth-serving organizations from around the world, are committed to supporting UNFPA to make sure that young people are meaningfully engaged before, in, and after the Nairobi summit. We look forward to more clarification on the financial and administrative support for youth to do so.
Speaking of the sexual rights and reproductive rights of women and girls in our diversity, we recently had the results of the ECHO trial, which bring to light the magnitude of HIV risk for women and girls in Africa. These results remind us we are still far from realizing the ambitions and vision of the first ICPD. Young women in the trial still acquired HIV at unacceptably high rates despite getting the best HIV prevention package on offer and being enrolled in the trial because they were seeking contraception, not because of their HIV risk profile.
I welcome the research as the trial DID demonstrate that a diversity of contraceptive methods are possible however the same contraceptive methods my mother had could be the same choices (or lack of choices) her granddaughter has when she becomes of age. If that does not make you sad, it terrifies me to imagine she will not appreciate being a woman fully because of the constant sad experiences she will have to battle with as I have to. Why do we still have contraceptives methods that I can count on one hand so many years later? Why do I still have to be denied Dolutegravir, the best ARV in Africa now because of my reproductive potential when access to contraceptives is still a challenge and choice is only when you can afford it?
It’s time to deliver on the promise of ICPD as we have had a generation of girls growing up like me and we don’t see the changes that we need for ourselves or our daughters to fully embrace and enjoy our sexual and reproductive health and rights. And it’s time that we open the doors of this promise of sexual and reproductive health and rights to everyone. Signing on to an agreement is one thing, making it work is what carries the day and makes sure change happens.
Delivered by Aditia Taslim Lim, Asia-Pacific NGO Delegate
I would like to commend the acting Executive Director, Gunilla Carlsson, in her statement on the importance of remembering where we are in the AIDS response - that it is far from over, and the end of AIDS is not near.
Over the past few years, we have spoken about scaling up prevention. A global coalition was formed to accelerate HIV prevention and strengthen the political commitment to ensure access to primary prevention. Despite the global efforts that have been put together, impact at the country level is lacking. We are not moving to where we want to be, and in some cases, we are moving backward quite quickly.
I have mentioned this in my interventions in previous PCB meetings, and I will not rest until there are changes. So please allow me to address a few issues as a reality check.
Countries in our region remain vulnerable to an increasing trend of new HIV infections. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of new infections in countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea.
People living with HIV do not have access to life-saving treatment. Despite the overall achievement on the adoption of the WHO guidelines of Test and Treat, 8 million people do not have access to ARV. This includes countries that are lagging behind in treatment coverage including Madagascar, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Indonesia with 7, 8, 13 and 15 percent respectively.
Structural barriers remain key to achieving the 90-90-90 targets, but they also remain forgotten and neglected. Let’s agree that young girls and adolescent women, as well as boys and young men, will remain vulnerable if they do not stay in school and are not well-informed of sexual reproductive health and rights. More and more countries have recently upheld punitive laws on same-sex relationships and HIV disclosure. People who use drugs remain criminalised, and difficult discussions on harm reduction and drug decriminalisation are often off the radar. As a result, we see funding for harm reduction services continuously shrinking and people who use drugs do not have access to clean needles and syringes, including life-saving naloxone, and prisons remain overly populated.
As we move towards increased domestic funding, let’s not forget that our communities are continuously left behind. Transgender persons continue to be excluded in the HIV response because countries fail to acknowledge and include them in their datasets. Stigmatization and discrimination against sex workers and their family members continues. Many of their children have no access to citizenship which also leads to effective exclusion from schooling, from healthcare, and in some cases from social support.
For the first time, 24 years since its inception, UNAIDS is looking at setting targets on social enablers. Moving beyond just intention towards actual measurable actions. Additionally, with the support from the Global Partnership to eliminate all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, we are hoping that we can finally walk the talk.
It is not the time to be complacent.
As we continue our conversation around the quality of leadership, management of UNAIDS, and the performance of the Joint Programme, I ask you to remember two things: People still die of AIDS. And there remains a lot to do.
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