"This process is unprecedented in its lack of clarity, it is clear that the process is being made up as it goes along," was the comment made by one NGO representative with a long history of such negotiations at the UN. Still another experienced UN negotiator said "there is no clear understanding among the member nations of the language as it exists now, just bits and pieces — the entire process is a disaster." But the process is grinding to a halt just as governmental representatives are arriving to join the negotiations on the declaration, assuming there will be a declaration to sign. Or is it? The Rumor Mill is hearing all of this and more from sources involved in negotiations.
Some nations are rumored to be secretly hoping the process stalls so they can avoid accountability. The US and South Africa are among a small group actively working to eliminate global targets for prevention and treatment, and most fundamentalist Islamic countries continue to campaign against any language to empower women and girls in any way or other basic human rights language. Some still resist the inclusion of strenthening sexual and reproductive health services as a way to help prevent the spread of this sexually transmitted disease. The US and Islamic countries are also teamed up in opposition to specific mention of vulnerable communities, those most affected by AIDS. Leaders seem to be ignoring the best advice and experience available to them.
The Rumor Mill has heard that the process has featured bilateral negotiations over specific sections of the declaration such that all the governments have not yet sat down together at once to negotiate. The latest draft from the co-chairs will be distributed Thursday morning — and then governments will be given until 1:00 pm to contact their capitals and respond, apparently lacking consideration for nations on the other side of the planet.
Typical events like this feature negotiations over declarations in which all nations participate and are involved in the process throughout. Obviously, with an issue as serious as needing to get control over the 25-year-old AIDS pandemic, one would assume that nations of the world would be eager for an inclusive process in which all their voices are heard and their participation in the negotiations active and unquestioned by the citizens and governments they represent at home.
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The story of this negotiation, while not yet finished, seems like it will be far from inclusive and participatory regardless of the outcome. Our sources have said that if a declaration is adopted that takes into account the very real changes in the pandemic, and the lessons learned by Civil Society, NGOs, medical, scientific and public health professionals, it will be a result of the governments of the world being goaded (perhaps shamed) into accepting accountability of global targets for measurable outcomes and financing for the global fight against AIDS. Supposedly, a press conference tomorrow morning with NGOs will bring light to some of these points.
Ironic, isn't it? The governments of the world who hold power are having to be pushed to exercise their voices at the United Nations by the NGOs and Civil Society representatives who often feel unheard in these high level diplomatic negotations, many of them HIV positive people who have dedicated their lives to ending the pandemic.
The world is waiting and public opinion is clearly demanding more be done, and that leaders be held accountable. The Rumor Mill will keep you posted as anything else arises.