Delivered by Valeriia Rachynska, Europe NGO Delegate
We welcome the report and decision points of the 43rd PCB Thematic Segment on mental health and HIV/AIDS––promoting human rights, an integrated and person-centered approach to improving ART adherence, well-being and quality of life.
It is important to implement evidence-based, people-centered, human rights and community-led policies and programs in relation to mental health and HIV. These cannot occur without addressing the social determinants of health - including the legal barriers to accessing HIV and mental health services, prevention, treatment, care and the negative impact of criminalisation of HIV, people living with HIV/AIDS and all our key populations – on mental health and on our Quality Of Life.
People living with HIV with mental health issues face multiple stigma and barriers to accessing HIV services, prevention, treatment, care and support. People who use drugs face overwhelming lack of appropriate services and support, unacceptable levels of stigma and discrimination, and daily fear of criminalisation.
Our Delegation wants to see these Decision Points effectively translated in the global and national HIV response. Mental health issues should be included in policies in order to promote the quality of life of people living with, at risk for and affected by HIV, key populations, including young people, women, girls and adolescents.
We ask for integrated and intersectional approaches on mental health and HIV in the upcoming new strategy of UNAIDS and in National Strategic Plans – and that they be developed and implemented with meaningful engagement and leadership of community-led organizations.
We also would like to see efforts and resources for sustaining and improving mental health, including preventing burnout of HIV and other service providers, among them health care, outreach and community workers.
We call on Global Fund, PEPFAR, development partners, and Member States, to commit funds in support of people-centered, rights-based and evidence-based integrated strategies and services for addressing mental health and HIV, stigma and discrimination and quality of life.
The most precious thing in the world is human life. We are now living longer lives due to the benefits of access to ART, prevention programs and services. Let us live this long life, with quality of life- without stigma and discrimination, without criminalisation, with respect regardless of our diversity or choices. You, who are in this room, can make this happen. Just strengthen your effort, your courage, political will, investment and collaboration. When you return to your countries, please remind your governments that all people have a basic right to live how they choose.
We cannot end the AIDS epidemic without tackling mental health issues, and addressing legal and policy barriers for all.
Photo from UNAIDS Communications and Global Advocacy
Tags: 44th PCB Meeting
Delivered by Andrew Spieldenner, North America NGO Delegate
Thank you for the opportunity to speak, Chair.
The NGO Delegation supports the UNAIDS Secretariat Staff Association and are gratified at seeing the overall staff satisfaction with the changes at UNAIDS, including the adoption and start of the Management Action Plan. We see the well-being of the staff as integral to strengthening UNAIDS.
Culture changes are required to ensure that these goals are met. Culture change in terms of how people interact with each other, as well as the workload expected of them. We are heartened that UNAIDS is moving in this direction. Work cultures do not move with just policy adoption, they do when staff from all levels are engaged and encouraged to alter how they interact with each other and their workplace. We expect that the Management Team, with the addition of the Deputy Executive Director and the Director of Human Resources, will achieve these results.
As we have noted in our interventions, power must be attended to in the workplace, whether it’s hierarchical power because of differing positions or power inequalities due to identity. A minority in my own country - I am gay, a racial minority and living with HIV- I am all too familiar with how our identities can be weaponized in the workplace, how people will overlook the power dynamics in the ways they can abuse or ignore our needs. I am also painfully aware of the difficulty in proving this, and I empathize with those staff who have experienced this in the course of doing their jobs. In a human rights-based and just world, people should not be treated poorly for coming to work.
As the PCB, we have to support the culture change. For the past few years, we have expected UNAIDS to achieve the same level of work with a drastically reduced budget. We have to make accommodations in our expectations based on realistic assessments of jobs, positions, and assignments. We cannot ask UNAIDS to advocate for human rights on the one hand and then expect on the other that the staff work well above and beyond the normal work week and their assignments.
It is clear that mobility and transparency remain key concerns for the USSA. We need the right skills, the right standards and the right people doing the important work of UNAIDS. We look forward to seeing how these challenges are resolved with the appointment of the new Executive Director.
Finally, as someone living with HIV, I want to encourage UNAIDS to incorporate the GIPA principles more fully moving forward - not just with rhetoric but with action. We need to value the contribution of staff living with HIV and from key populations. The lived experiences of people living with HIV and other key populations are important in making the UNAIDS we need.
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.
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.
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