Delivered by Aditia Taslim Lim, Asia Pacific NGO Delegate
Mr. Chair, today marks the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. Allow me to take this opportunity to recall the number of people who have died in the war on drugs, because countries have failed to provide services and protect the rights of people who use drugs. 450,000 drug-related deaths were recorded at the end of 2015, a dramatic increase of 150% compared to 2009. A reported 27,000 people have been killed in the Philippines as a result of a crackdown and extrajudicial killings. A record high of 71,500 overdose related death in the US, 4,000 in Canada and 9,000 in Europe in 2017. Our communities have been pushed to the margins of society, harassed, imprisoned, tortured, denied services, and in some countries, executed.
An estimated $100 Billion are spent annually to reduce the supply and demand for drugs which have not resulted in a reduction in the number of people who use drugs. When evidenced-based programs such as harm reduction, remain underfunded in many countries, people who inject drugs are made more vulnerable. As we speak today, many people in different parts of the world are being executed. As a person who uses drugs and as someone whose life has been saved by harm reduction services, I ask you to end the war on drugs.
At the 43rd PCB, the NGO Delegation expressed its concern over the lack of participation of key populations and the community in decision making of the country envelope process. This year, unfortunately, very little progress has been made. Reflecting on last year’s country envelope allocation, it is disheartening to see that only 8% was made towards human rights program, 3% on gender and gender-based violence, and 2% on the humanitarian program. On the other hand, 32% allocation was spent on test and treatment, even as many of these 71 countries also receive funding from Global Fund and PEPFAR for test and treatment.
With many countries moving into increased domestic funding and social contracting mechanism, we note that much of this funding comes with restrictions, including social enabling activities, advocacy, human rights- and gender-related activities.
These situations clearly show the shrinking space of civil society and most importantly, the shrinking of funding for community-led responses. UNAIDS must continue to champion greater and meaningful involvement of people living with HIV and key populations in decision-making process, to ensure funding for key populations and communities.
We would also like to see UNAIDS along with UN Cosponsors engage more in difficult conversations such as harm reduction, drug decriminalisation and sexual reproductive health and rights, particularly in countries where conservatism is rising and repressive policies and practices are the norms.
As I mentioned yesterday, we cannot be complacent. We cannot do business as usual. It is time for dedicated and fearless actions as repressive politics undermine key populations globally.
Tags: 44th PCB Meeting, UBRAF
Delivered by Andrew Spieldenner, North America NGO Delegate
Thank you, Chair.
The NGO Delegation acknowledges the new format for UBRAF. Even though the information is spread out across several reports, it is easier to find the kind of information you need.
What does financial reporting have to do with Civil Society? Quite simply, it gives us a way of seeing how resources are accrued and spent in the UNAIDS context. We see some of the politics of resourcing at UNAIDS and where there are shortfalls. And civil society suffers in these shortfalls.
As our delegation has said over and over again, we need to restore full funding to the UNAIDS UBRAF as crucial for leveraging the full potential of the Joint Programme and accelerating progress towards the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Without full funding, this goal will remain a mirage in the distance. But, besides doing the housekeeping and restoring the UNAIDS credibility among donors, we need to lead UNAIDS to a sustainable and secured financial situation. At the heart of it, we assume we all share the vision that the HIV response remains a critical issue for our time.
We do note that there remains a lack of clarity in monitoring mechanisms for tracking resources involving community-led responses. When we see such little funding going to gender and gender-based violence, as well as stigma and anti-discrimination efforts, we wonder at how we reach a discrimination and stigma-free world.
The NGO Delegation urges the Joint Programme and Member States to increase the investment in civil society and community-led initiatives and their involvement in decision making. After the meetings last week on target setting, UNAIDS is well on its way to developing a classification for community-led work, and we look forward to seeing the results of these meetings, as well as how UNAIDS can support Member States to resource community-led efforts regionally and locally.
We also are cautious about the challenges faced by middle-income countries and the country transition plans. Country transition plans must take into account the political landscape on the ground. In places where conservatism is on the rise, key populations and women and girls rely more and more on civil society networks and organizations to find support and access to key services. And in these contexts, civil society is actively being defunded and restricted. We have an intimate understanding of where the shortfalls are in the field: we have to survive in them. Advocacy and human-rights efforts must be upheld in order for key populations and women and girls to thrive. In the 68 countries that criminalize homosexuality, for instance, where do you imagine I would go to get my HIV care that would be safe and free of stigma and discrimination?
Delivered by Alexander Pastoors, Europe NGO Delegate
Thank you Chair,
We thank the Secretariat for the effort to give the PCB overview of the current state of the HIV epidemic. UBRAF contains a wealth of information about almost every aspect of the elimination of HIV and AIDS. It shows us where we’re on track – but also where we fail and where key populations are continuously left behind despite promises of many member states and UN Agencies that they would do everything in their power to prevent exactly that.
Let’s be frank: the reality is still shocking and inequality continues to feed this epidemic. As a gay man living with HIV and thus a member of a key population, I know how important good quality data is for community engagement and advocacy. It is imperative that harmful policies of member states, like criminalising HIV transmission, sex work or drug use, need to be amended or abolished. We have to show the detrimental effects of such policies on the lives of people living with HIV. In many countries, we can only fight for that with policymakers based on data. So it is concerning that, at this point in history, besides fighting for accurate data, many governments are not considering their epidemic’s key populations when defining their budget and allocating funds. UBRAF is quintessential in holding member states and UN organizations accountable for the targets they agreed on in the 2016 Political Declaration to End AIDS as a public health threat by or before 2030.
However, UBRAF also shows us only one side of the coin due to the way targets are formulated. Although many indicators appear to be in the green zone and exceed the 2019 milestone, the reality is often very different. 93% out of the 90 countries that supplied data for UBRAF have adopted the treat all policy which, in itself, is a fantastic achievement. But simply adopting the WHO treat all guidelines doesn’t deliver ART magically to people who need it. If I would live in Indonesia instead of the Netherlands, 85% of my friends would not be on treatment although both countries have similar treatment guidelines. We appreciate the work done in Venezuela, but I want to stress that it had to take massive pressure from civil society for the UN to act AND people are still dying in Venezuela.
Furthermore, we see that some indicators, specifically those about sexual and reproductive health and rights, are exceeding 2019 milestones, yet we know they are either stagnant or continuously on the decline since 2016.
Mister Chair, as many of my colleagues have already stated, this is no time for complacency. UBRAF is a wake-up call for those under the impression that we are on track to reach our 2020 targets. We are leaving too many key populations and women and girls, including adolescent girls, behind. It is high time that Member States, the Joint Programme, and the Cosponsors redouble efforts in putting the last mile first in reaching the most marginalized populations in the effort to eliminate AIDS by 2030. We won’t accept excuses for failing on that. You can do better.
Photo from UNAIDS Communications and Global Advocacy
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