Chair, Regional Advisory Group (RAG), APCOM
The current COVID-19 pandemic hit us at APCOM as we were transitioning. Last year, listening to independent evaluation of the coalition, we started a process of changing the governance structure, aiming towards a leaner, more efficient leadership. We also wanted closer engagement between the Regional Advisory Group, APCOM’s international leadership, and the Thai Foundation Board, the legal entity governing APCOM as a Thai organization.
At the same time, our current 2018-2020 Strategic Plan, Tenacity, needs to be evaluated and continued with a new strategic plan. We started the process in consultation with our stakeholders (international and bilateral institutions, other regional key population networks, Thai organizations) in a small but productive workshop in March 2020, just as things were heading towards lockdown-type restrictions in Thailand and elsewhere. We quickly adjusted and carried out online consultations afterwards, e.g. with our Ambassadors, who unequivocally factored in COVID-19 into their recommendations for the new strategic plan.
I always believe that crises do happen, often like a thief in the middle of the night, and it is up to us to look for opportunities that crop up exactly because there is a crisis. A COVID-19 protocol was written up and implemented in March 2020 and shared among our stakeholders. Part of the protocol is an increase in online engagement, such as daily check-ins on Zoom. This allows me, for example, to connect with staff at the Secretariat once a week, which was not thought of before.
I applaud the efforts of the folks at our Secretariat for producing a COVID-19 update, which has been picked up globally and has made us a de facto leader in the response to the pandemic with regard to HIV and LGBTI rights. I am very proud of our Executive Director, Midnight Poonkasetwattana, who has been invited to speak alongside the UN Independent Expert on SOGI on a panel on the occasion of IDAHOBIT 2020.
I wish everyone well in these uncertain times, and encourage us all to work on the transition towards a leaner, more efficient coalition tackling HIV in all its aspects and LGBTI rights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
P.S.: As I am writing this, I read the sad news that Larry Kramer, a giant in HIV and gay rights advocacy, whose footsteps we follow, has passed on at the age of 84. Vale, Larry Kramer! We shall continue the fight.