After recently visiting the UK and learning more about the UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS I look at how it will affect my work on psychosocial support for community caregivers and child protection and how it could be better communicated to civil society.
During my visit I had the opportunity to attend a Children Affected by HIV & AIDs Working group meeting at the AIDS Consortium. The group brings together international organisations responding to children affected by HIV and AIDS and this meeting was focussing on outcomes from a High Level Meeting in New York in June and the subsequent declaration and the Global Partners Forum hosted by UNICEF and PEPFAR.
The presentation looked at the declaration and progress on commitments around children and families. It also explored the new UNICEF guidance on “Taking Evidence to Impact” a very relevant title to the work that we are doing for community caregivers and children in South Africa.
In my work in South Africa on the Thogomelo project, a 5 year USAID funded programme on psychosocial support for community caregivers and child protection, I had the opportunity of contributing to the country’s HIV\AIDs National Strategic Plan. I also sit on the Psychosocial Support for Children Reference team that is in the process of finalising the South African Psychosocial Support framework for Children.
It was comforting to realize that we had reflected and included a number of pertinent issues that are being addressed in the UN Declaration and in the UNICEF guidance. We are still fighting the battle of defining and mainstreaming psychosocial support and care on every level and ensuring there are people championing it, in order that it does not fall off the government radar.
Making the Political Declaration ‘user friendly’
However, the discussions during this meeting in London made me realise how isolated country national plans are from the global discussions that take place. After these High Level Meetings, how do the decisions and discussions filter to civil society who are expected to contribute to country plans and later translate those plans into activities?
Perhaps there is a need to look at some “user friendly adapted declaration” that simplifies the language for civil society. I am convinced that a simplified declaration would have assisted us to input into the NSP taking into consideration the issues of translating recommendations into actions for “maximum impact”. Such a disjunct needs to be addressed.
A couple of questions still linger in my mind as I ask myself: How do we close this gap? How do we get civil society to understand what is going on in these High Level Meetings? How do we provide input to these processes? How do we translate those decisions into practical action plans that are led by implementers on the ground? Lastly, how do we hold decision makers and ourselves accountable to what we have committed?
As I head back to South Africa, there are a number of issues that I will take back and hopefully be able to feedback to organizations that we work with. There were a lot of lessons that I feel the organizations will benefit from by just understanding the declaration and new guidance and the implications for our work with children. I hope that in the future we can make sure the voices of our caregivers are also part of the high level discussions which help to shape the global response.