I’ve been in Uganda this week at ‘Carpe Momento!’ a global conference on women, HIV, and human rights, organised by Care International.
The conference has provided a very comprehensive look at the relationship between gender related human right violations and vulnerability to HIV as well as those human rights violations which affect women following infection.
I spoke towards the end of the three day conference in a session which looked at how policy making and policy focused advocacy can support women and improve action aimed at fighting AIDS and minimizing its impact.
During my presentation I argued that a new understanding of the vital importance of community participation in policy development and advocacy is required if our ambitions to support the involvement of positive people and positive women in particular, in efforts to tackle AIDS are going to be taken to scale.
The right to self determination, to a say in decisions which affect us, is the only internationally recognised human right that appears in both principal human rights instruments, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the one hand and the Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights on the other.
In fact the right to a say in decisions which affect us is central to the long term security of all our other rights.
Efforts to support people, especially those most affected by HIV/AIDS, to be heard and participate in policy and decision making, are therefore central to sustainable development and the fight against AIDS.
For instance, supporting the organisation of female sex workers so that they can exercise collective influence over their working conditions or improve how they are treated by the police or other authorities is human rights work, its pro-poor development programming and its effective anti-aids work.
Similarly, supporting positive women to come together and to generate political interest in and commitment to improving health and other services is essential to the long term success of more immediate efforts to improve local health services.
Unfortunately for the most part, activities to support and nurture people’s active participation in decision making, remains marginal to the global response to AIDS. Even when support for participation in policy and advocacy is a central component of ant-AIDS programming, it remains under resourced.
Part of the answer to this challenge is in understanding that ‘capacity building for increased influence’ is an essential part of protecting and promoting rights to self determination and participation.
I believe that using a human rights framework to understand and represent this work has the potential to bring greater focus and urgency to this work.
I’m going to prepare a little briefing on policy participation as a human rights activity, so more later.
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