UN meetings and political declarations are often perceived as wordy and irrelevant. But every now and again these high level meetings do come up with statements that shape the actions of governments and aid agencies for years to come. The Millennium Summit of 2000 was one of these occasions, when the Millennium Development Goals were agreed. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) High Level Session Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS last week may well be another.
Those present from British NGOs and faith organisations had feared yet another fudge, but instead we got a commitment to getting 15 million people on HIV antiretroviral treatment by 2015. Granted, the commitment was only to ‘work towards’ that target, and there was no detail on how it would be funded or sustained. However a target has been publicly agreed, one to which governments and the UN can and should be held accountable.
There were other positives, in particular a lot of discussion and acknowledgement of the importance of faith based responses (even if they get little mention in the declaration text). There was also recognition that thirty years of responding to HIV means the global community has learnt a lot about how to deal with a major international health issue – learning that needs to be shared and used in other health issues.
But the big surprise was saved for the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon who announced that the high level targets were to be what is becoming known as the ‘Three Zeroes’ – zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero stigma by 2020. These may be impossible targets to achieve, but as the saying goes, ‘aim for the stars and you may reach the moon’. And more significantly, it is the first target to be publicly announced by the UN that takes any of the Millennium Development Goals past 2015.
Of course, the devil will be in the detail of how these targets get turned into actions, but they do give us some specifics with which to hold our own governments and global bodies accountable.
Posted by Steve Fouch
CMF Head of Allied Professions