Written by Mat Southwell
The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) provides oversight of the UNAIDS Joint Programme. Almost uniquely in the UN system, UNAIDS PCB includes the voices of NGOs in this governing body (About NGO Delegation).
The NGO Delegation has 5 delegates each covering a different region:
Latin America & the Caribbean
For each region, there is a delegate and an alternate. Each person serves a two year term with people normally being alternates in their first year and then the full delegate in the second year. The delegation team works with support of the Communications Facility (About Communications Facility), who help the NGO Delegation prepare and organise before, during and in-between the twice yearly PCB meetings.
The December meeting of the PCB is a key meeting at which the incoming NGO delegation members, of which I am one, work with the outgoing delegates and those delegates who have a further year to serve. The PCB formally started today but the NGO delegation has been working together since Saturday 5th December both to induct us ‘newbies’ and to also plan our positions and engagement with the Board. This scene setting work was undertaken against the scenic backdrop of Lake Geneva and the Alps mountain range.
One of the key discussions within this induction process has been about the commitment and engagement of members of the NGO delegation. A new contract has been agreed that reflects the expectations on NGO delegation team members and creates a process for ensuring accountability and effectiveness. Where existing delegation team members cannot commit the required time to undertake the role or to sustain their engagement with CF and the NGO Delegation communication systems, then NGOs will be asked to consider providing an alternative delegation team member. If this is not possible, the option of securing replacements from other NGOs in the region will be actively considered. The current problem is that when some team members do not pull their weight, this workload falls onto other members of the team. Given that all team members are volunteers who normally have full time jobs, this creates an unfair burden and reduces the effectiveness of the team.
The other role of delegation team members is to represent agendas relating to different thematic populations including women and girls, men who have sex with men, sex workers, migrants and people who use drugs. I am planning to conduct some video interviews with some of the different NGO champions of these agendas to support this blog and to help people see some of the impact of the NGO Delegation.
I am very aware that I will from the next meeting be the ‘point person‘ for people who use drugs, the harm reduction networks and the drug law reform movement. Pavel Aksenov from the Russian Harm Reduction Network and I are working with the CF to develop proper feedback and consultation systems. Thanks for bearing with us while we put these in place ready for the June PCB meeting.
I am also working with Rhon Reynolds to look at how we can effectively engage with our European regional constituency. A bi-product of this work will also be the improvement of links between the European HIV/AIDS movement and our emerging sub-regional networks in Europe and Central Asia. I am fortunate to be working with Rhon who has worked alongside harm reduction partners in the USA before he moved to Europe. In general, the level of support and knowledge on harm reduction and human rights issues relating to people who use drugs within the NGO delegation is well developed.
One of the important outcomes of our induction and preparatory work as an NGO delegation team is that we have forged effective working relationships and understandings of each others needs and issues.
I am very glad to have been an observer at the last meeting, which has helped with orientation and relationship forming. It is great to work alongside and learn from the more experienced members of the team. It is also, as ever, a great privilege and responsibility to be championing the needs of the NGO community within the UNAIDS family, with a particular focus on Europe and issues relating to people who use drugs.