It’s Mat and Erin here, and we are just back from our first meeting linked to the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB). Here is a brief run down of how the board works in relation to UNAIDS which we hope might shed a bit of light on the functions and protocols of the United Nations UNAIDs branch and the processes that guide it, as many of us are just getting to grips with the complex and rather unfamiliar structures that form the United Nations family..
In 1994, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS – (known as UNAIDS) was established to undertake a ‘joint and co-sponsored UN programme on HIV/AIDs – on the basis of co-ownership, collaborative planning and execution and an equitable sharing of responsibility”.
When UNAIDS was formally launched in ’ 96, it was already guided by a PCB (Programme Coordinating Board) which is known as the strategic decision-making body of UNAIDS.
How the PCB is made up:
The PCB is made up of 22 government officials representating various UN member states, from all geographic regions, each one representing a ‘cluster’ of countries and they are elected from among the member states of the co-sponsoring organisations.
The co-sponsors such as from the World Bank, WHO, UNICEF etc (10 in total) also have representation on the PCB , as do of course, our pals at the UNODC! The co-sponsors have full rights of participation in the PCB but no right to vote.
There are also five places on the PCB for NGOs* representing different regions – Asia Pacific, Latin America & Caribbean, Europe, North America & Africa, these include associations of people living with HIV. Each region has a representative and an ‘alternate’ who take part in the UNAIDS Programme Control Board and its various sub-committees. The selection of delegates is done by the NGOs based on applications and interviews but they look to ensure representation from different target populations and interest groups.
NGO representatives can participate in meetings but not in the formal decision making processes and unfortunately don’t have the right to vote. The PCB formally approves the NGOs nominated and their term in office doesn’t exceed 3 years.
The way the PCB is governed is in much more detail at the UNAIDs website.
Food for Thought
Once we get to understand these processes better, we should probably think about identifying people with suitable skills set to apply to join the NGO delegate team. We would probably only be able to secure one position but we’d be wise to apply for a number given the selection process. INPUD probably needs to take part in the UNAIDS NGO processes for a while before considering these steps just to build up our credibility and knowledge of quite detailed processes. This clearly needs more discussion as INPUD develops its involvement in international issues.
The NGO delegates do however interact with the wider NGO delegation and this is where we were today. We were meeting with the NGO delegates and the rest of the NGO observers in the ‘Koffi Annan room’ in the UNAIDs building. We went through the agenda for the meeting, which included a specific item on injecting drug use which will be raised in the PCB on Wednesday. The meeting today was to finalise the NGO submission papers and the positions of the NGO team on the agenda items.
The NGO delegates operate as ‘our’ representatives and work to establish a consensus between the selected or representative delegate team and the wider NGO observers. This year there are over 50 NGO observers, which is the highest number ever. Although anyone can be an observer, the UN doesn’t pay for observers or even members to attend, people have to find their own funding although per diems are available (from funders). Erin’s funded place was approved from the World Aids Campaign and Mat’s through the International Aids Alliance.
Vitaly Djuma from the Russian Harm Reduction Network and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network is the European NGO delegate. He is coordinating the NGO interaction on the injecting drug use agenda item, of which we have been encouraged to comment on in its draft form. (see more shortly).
The difference between UNAIDS (United Nations AIDS division) and UNODC (UN Office on Drugs & Crime) is quite striking. Shockingly, Costas from the UNODC described drug user groups as being as legitimate as an organisations of pedophiles or criminals! However, we probably need to be careful not to over simplify the difference because INPUD is currently being welcomed into discussions about effective treatment which is being led by Dr Gerra from UNODC in a joint project with WHO (World Health Organisation – another arm of the UN). However, working with Kate Thomson who is Head of Civil Society at UNAIDS has been a very different experience. Kate is an ex-drug user living with HIV and she and her team have been great champions of INPUD within UNAIDS and have actively supported our involvement.
Kate was also telling us once again how effective Umesh Sharma had been as an advocate and trainer at the recent UNAIDS Country Staff Training in Tunisia. Umesh stepped in at very short notice and did some great work, which is part of the positive INPUD backdrop to the work we are currently doing. Erin’s work for INPUD joining a dialogue in developing next years World AIDS Campaign themes has also helped in the evolution of pre-existing working relationships with other UNAIDS NGO observers.
Any now off to a dinner arranged by International AIDS Alliance to help the NGO’s meet each other, particularly as this is INPUD’s first event.
Best wishes to you all
Mat and Erin
NGO,or Non-Governmental Organisation, is also described frequently as civil society.