Sovereignty wars: The real HIV battleground
In the lead up to the HLM on AIDS, I did the first of a series of blogs on the issue of sovereignty as it was playing out in the revision of the Zero Draft of the Political Declaration. Now that I am here in NYC, I am more aware than ever that sovereignty is now the real HIV battleground. This all came home strongly to me during this afternoon’s session on “The Impact of Civil Society Exclusion On Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030”.
Human rights be damned. Evidence be damned. The ultimate is keeping business as usual, no change to existing laws…while at the same time mouthing contradictory words about the Fast-Track to ending AIDS by 2030, and the narrow window to 2021. Ending AIDS will not happen by 2030 without a human rights and evidence based approach.
The UN was created out of some of the best values and principles that humanity has to offer. But this approach to fundamental rights to which all humans are entitled is under attack by a relatively new virus: the sovereignty argument. And there is a new denialism: evidence about most at-risk populations and about interventions that work is being rejected. Any NGO can be barred from the UN for any reason by any one UN Member State. Where is the justice in all that?
If we cannot uphold our highest values here at the UN, if we cannot fight for human rights, for governments to put high value on the lives and health of all their people, then we are in very troubled waters. Because there is no Plan B for the UN. The challenge must then be for us as civil society to hold governments to the principles on which the UN was founded.
Just very recently, we celebrated 35 years of the HIV epidemic. But for many of us who have been around from the beginning, it feels like we are back to the future. Key populations are again having to fight for space and to be heard as they did in the early days of the epidemic. It is a stunning reversal to be at an HLM that references partnership with civil society and yet have Member States hurrying to produce a Political Declaration before the meeting begins and before most civil society representatives have arrived.
EATG was itself formed out of early activism by people living with HIV and other affected populations. It is time to revitalise our activist roots!