|IWHC's Informal Analysis of UNGASS Review|
By Zonny Woods
After weeks of difficult negotiations, on June 2 the high-level UN meeting on HIV/AIDS concluded with governments adopting a final Political Declaration. There are some disappointments in this new document, particularly compared with the original Declaration of Commitment (DoC) from the 2001 UN meeting on HIV/AIDS. First, governments failed to indicate by when they will implement their 2001 commitments and set no new global targets. Second, language on financing was watered down compared to the financial target of 2001. There were a number of priority issues for civil society, such as the greater involvement of people living with AIDS (GIPA), targets on treatment, harm reduction, vulnerable populations, and many others that governments did not address in the final declaration despite support from a number of progressive countries. Nonetheless, this Declaration does commit governments to set ambitious national targets in 2006, including interim targets for 2008, that reflect the urgent need to act. It will be important for civil society organizations to continue to monitor this closely to ensure that these commitments will be met.
The language on young people in the document is very strong compared to Beijing and ICPD, and includes references to "comprehensive, evidence-based prevention strategies…including the use of condoms, evidence and skills-based…HIV education…youth friendly health services."
The Declaration also includes strong commitments on women's human rights, and acknowledges the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality. Strong commitment to "ensure that women can exercise their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality" along with numerous other provisions regarding their empowerment, their "economic independence" and protection of their human rights, reiterating "the importance of the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality." Civil society worked hard to help win these agreements, and all governments joined in strong support, except for Syria, Pakistan, the U.S., and Iraq and a number of African countries including Egypt.
The Declaration also reaffirms the ICPD goal of achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
While the U.S. government insisted that language on financing be weakened in the final political declaration, there were other donor countries that also hoped for weaker language on financial issues although they were not as vocal.
There is also commitment in the Declaration—backed by a financial paragraph—to strengthen health systems and human resources for health, which were not in the 2001 DoC.
Finally, there is an agreed paragraph on TRIPS which Southern countries find satisfactory.
This process was achieved despite serious opposition by the U.S. and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and deafening silence from the African group, whose spokesperson was Gabon and had been working closely during the entire negotiation with Egypt and Syria.
The following quote, from the speech delivered at the High Level Meeting by Hillary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development in the UK, illustrates well the failure of governments to speak honestly at this meeting:
"…we need to recognise that tackling AIDS is not only about money. It's also about culture and social attitudes. It's about recognising that while treatment is the key to keeping alive people living with AIDS today, prevention is the key to achieving an AIDS-free generation tomorrow. It's about being honest about what the problem is and about telling the truth about what works. I wish we could have been a bit more frank in our Declaration about telling the truth: