46th PCB - Agenda 10: Statement by the representative of the UNAIDS Secretariat Staff Association - Written Statement by Wangari Tharao, North America, on behalf of the PCB NGO Delegation

46th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board


We all understand the importance of ensuring that UNAIDS continues to be strong, agile and accountable to its multiple constituencies, particularly in the current context of COVID-19 and other global issues that are occurring simultaneously. We also recall the recent history of turmoil and crisis of credibility the organization has been through in the last number of years and the fundamental role staff play in all rebuilding efforts. Ending AIDS by 2030 and meeting the set targets require a human resource response that is grounded in accountability, transparency, and fair approaches. The Statement of the Representative of the UNAIDS Staff Association (USSA) provides us with a good measure of the extent to which the Management Action Plan (MAP) is progressing in the rebuilding efforts to restore the credibility of UNAIDS and increasing staff’s trust in the organization.

The USSA statement indicates that the relationship between staff and management has improved substantially and that some progress has been made in resolving issues previously identified. However, staff continue to encounter some issues resulting from the slow pace in the implementation of the MAP. Below, we focus on a few of the ongoing issues highlighted in the statement:

a) Issues around COVID-19 and any return to work strategies continue to be stressful for staff. In the absence of any effective treatment or a preventative vaccine, many individuals and organizations across the global are concerned about returning to work in the middle of a pandemic (even a well-managed one) or with the possibility of a second or third wave occurring. There is a need for management to consider continuation of virtual work, particularly for staff that may need accommodations based on their risk of COVID-19 or that of their loved ones. Many civil society organizations are having these discussions and considering remote or virtual work as a potential for the future workplace with or without COVID-19. We are calling on UNAIDS to take this request into consideration as a safety strategy in the current COVID-19 context and as a future cost saving strategy.

b) Lack of fairness and transparency continue to be an issue, particularly in areas of recruitment, promotion, and job mobility, which may result or enable favoritism. These issues have been at the core of staff dissatisfaction for several years. The NGO Delegation is concerned about the persistence of this and we call for expedited implementation of the MAP to eliminate the problem once and for all.

c) Increasing workload has been identified as a growing problem. In the current survey, 73% of staff reported feeling that their workloads had increased over the previous 12 months, in comparison to 50% in the 2019 survey. While 70% of staff reported discussing the issues with their supervisor, half felt it had not led to positive change. An overworked and overburdened workforce leads to stress and low staff morale and may decrease motivation while lowering productivity. It is also not in line with staff wellbeing. We call on UNAIDS to resolve this to support staff wellbeing.

d) The USSA statement also raises concerns around continuation of discrimination, incivility and gender discrimination and abuse of authority. The staff survey highlighted that these continue to be an issue for staff and the USSA continues to fight to eliminate this practice. We however noted that data from the survey is disaggregated by sex (men and women) and geography only. It’s not possible to tell how race and gender may influence the responses provided by staff and the extent to which UNAIDS takes these issues into consideration to support staff involved /experiencing these issues as part of training and capacity building for its workforce. This race and gender-blind approach to human resource management spills into other activities of UNAIDS e.g. in strategy development where a gendered approach seems to mean a binary view of gender that primarily includes men, women and girls.

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.

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