Thematic Segment: Shaping the debate
Delivered by Alexandra Volgina, European Delegate
The NGO Delegation welcomes this Thematic segment. It is timely to have this discussion as many countries are in a funding transition period and many are facing a hard economic crisis. We must examine our best practices.
Communities from the very beginning of the AIDS response played a crucial role – we all remember the global story of activists and we somehow repeated it in every region and in every country, including in EECA region where I am from. When HIV first appeared, there was no understanding of what we were facing, and we were dying. We did our best to draw attention, refusing to die in silence, and we did it successfully. We were ‘permitted’ to exist, the need to provide treatment was recognized, and treatment programs appeared, along with services for key populations. Finally donors caught the attention of what was happening in my region – only then to see services start to disappear when the donors start to disappear. This has also happened in many other parts of the world. Political will can come and go, donors and international support can come and go. But we do remain.
As communities, many of us have only our passion and energy and we work on a voluntary basis. We ARE experts in survival of our organizations being underfunded, and we are experts on how our communities can survive the epidemic. So if the Joint Programme needs experts in budget cuts, you can talk to us.
Unfortunately, we need more than passion to get the results we want to achieve. We need resources; technical support; capacity; and an enabling environment. We can’t be equal partners when the environment is so aggressive as it is today; just today we have got news that one of the central community organizations defending the rights of PWUD in Russia was declared a ‘foreign agent’ and can’t operate any more.
All of our experiences teach us that rights are not things we easily get – we need to claim them, fight for them. We have a proverb in Russian: the rescue of drowning is the handiwork of those who are drowning. So we do understand who is the most responsible for our lives.
In this thematic day, we ask everyone to remember the diversity of civil society and communities. When we talk about the community led response – that is, in our understanding, we are not talking about governmental programs that hire a couple of HIV positive people as outreach workers, but who are not those who make decisions. Neither are we focused primarily on international NGOs. While we welcome the important role of all partners in the HIV response, what we need to focus on are the grassroots groups and organizations in which community plays crucial role in decision making. As we have emphasized throughout this PCB, it is these communities who will be there for each other.