We need to bring strong voices from Asia and the Pacific to the PCB, at all times!

By September 1, 2021 September 3rd, 2021 Advocacy, Newsroom, Regional

Contributor :
Aditia Taslim
member of the Asia Pacific NGO Delegation
to the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board 2018-2020

UNAIDS was established in 1994 and is guided by a Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) with representatives of 22 governments from all geographic regions, the UNAIDS Cosponsors, and five representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including associations of people living with HIV (PLHIV).

UNAIDS was the first United Nations programme to have formal civil society representation on its governing body. The position of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) is critical for the effective inclusion of community voices in the key global policy forum for AIDS.The NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board (PCB) has three roles:

  • Participating objectively and independently in the workings and decision-making of the PCB
  • Undertaking various forms of proactive and informed advocacy within the structures and processes of the PCB;
  • Enhancing the transparency and accountability of relevant PCB decision-making and policy-setting, helping to meet requirements for upwards accountability (towards the PCB and other delegations) and downwards accountability (towards the people, communities and constituencies affected by HIV)

We interviewed former PCB NGO delegates from Asia and the Pacific about their experiences during their tenure. 

What do you miss most about being on the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PBC)?

I miss working together with fellow delegates. It was a pity that my third, and final, year of my tenure was during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was such a challenging year, already, with the development of a new global AIDS strategy and everyone had to shift towards virtual meetings. I didn’t have a chance to sit down together with the rest of the delegates to have a proper good bye, and thanking them for the great many years we worked together. I also miss being in Bangkok and having discussions with the regional networks at APN+ office prior to the PCB meetings. I think the PCB has given me is not only the experience of working at a global level, but also an opportunity to make friends.

What made you decide to apply for this position, and why was your organisation willing to support this role?

So, I came across the vacancy announcement and honestly had no idea what it was about. It was only after I met Jeff, an outgoing Asia Pacific delegate, that the role became clear to me. We had a chat and he gave me a lot of encouragement to apply as his successor. I had just come back to the HIV field, having been away for some years working in a different sector (education). I came back to fill the Executive Director position of Rumah Cemara (in Indonesia), and I thought the PCB would give me the opportunity to kickstart and catch up, having not been in the loop for so long. It’s like trying to learn how to swim: you have to be in the water – so jump straight in

What were some of the achievements for you, during the time you were part of the UNAIDS PCB NGO delegation?

During my first year in 2017, before my very first PCB as an official NGO delegate I attended the PCB as an incoming delegate with observer status, before my first PCB in 2018. I had the opportunity to meet with Eamonn Murphy, the Regional Director of UNAIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Jakarta during his visit. I took the opportunity to explore the possibilities for the UNAIDS Regional Support Team to support the work of the delegation in the region. After some discussions, Eamonn agreed to support the two Asia Pacific NGO delegates – Sonal Mehta (who was working at the India HIV/AIS Alliance at the time) and myself to come to Bangkok ahead of the PCB, to have a face-to-face consultation with the regional networks and organisations. I think this was quite an achievement considering that the work that the delegations undertake is really about consulting with the wider community, hearing their voices, and relaying back those voices and was discussed at the PCB to our local communities.

I think this is an important process, because your seat represents the whole region, not just yourself or your own organisation. Following the due diligence performance by the NGO delegation when selecting new delegates, at the end of the day the delegation is accountable to their constituencies and the region they are representing. Therefore, it is important that meaningful engagement and involvement in the region is in place with diverse stakeholders, and that the regional communities know who are representing the region at the UNAIDS PCB. 

Another achievement for me, was pushing the UNAIDS country office in Indonesia to provide seats to representatives of the community in the country joint team, which consists of UNAIDS and UN Co-sponsors. I advocated for this to ensure that the communities are part of the decision making of the joint team, particularly in relation to the allocation of funding for the country.

And I guess, collectively, there were a lot of things that we achieved through the decisions made at the PCB, including the establishment of the Global Partnership to eliminate all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, the decisions related to migration, people on the move and HIV, and our engagement in various processes, such as the 2025 target setting committee to significantly influencing the process of developing the new global AIDS strategy. 

What were some of the challenges of the UNAIDS PCB NGO delegation?

The main challenge was that none of us were trained in diplomacy. Although we have years of experience in doing advocacy work, the diplomatic processes and exercises at this level is very different. My second year was also very challenging particularly as UNAIDS was hit hard from many corners due to sexual harassment allegations. The world’s attention was towards the PCB, and for PCB members, there was a lot of pressure from all sides which made the whole process very messy, chaotic and stressful. But despite the fact that UNAIDS was losing trust from donors and other stakeholders, including the communities, I think we all pulled it together quite well. It was not a perfect process, and was never a perfect result, but it was great to see the global solidarity coming from the community of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations in support of UNAIDS in the midst of the UN agency’s management, financial and relevance crisis. 

If someone were considering applying for this position, what are your recommendations and tips for the individuals and organisations looking to take this role?

The key is consultation. We need to be speaking to the region before, during and after the PCB. The seat is an organisational seat, not individual, but it is also representing the whole region. You do not go to PCB only to focus on your own country – it is about the region. This is very important, particularly as our region is still lagging behind and is underinvested. We need to bring strong voices from Asia and the Pacific to the PCB, at all times! Establishing strong relationships with UNAIDS country- and regional offices, is also crucial. Surprisingly, for such important work that the NGO delegation is doing, it is not supported with adequate funding. Therefore, it is important to build these relationships, as it may bring us to more possibilities and support to do that extra bit of work that is needed, such as a regional consultation, or a meeting.

About the contributor:

My name is Aditia Taslim, a former UNAIDS PCB NGO Delegate for Asia and the Pacific from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2020. I have been living with HIV since 2003 when I was 18 years old. I am a person who use drugs and have been an advocate for many years in the drug policy field, with Rumah Cemara, an organisation that I worked with for 16 years (2005-Apr 2021).

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