11 April 2006
AIDS rights organisations excluded from participation at UNGASS
GABORONE and WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA – The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) today condemn the governments of the Republics of Namibia and South Africa for their exclusion of ARASA and its partner organisations, the AIDS Law Unit in Namibia and the AIDS Law Project and the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, from participation in the United Nation’s General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) Review to be held in New York in May 2006. This silencing of human rights organisations in the region is alarming.
ARASA is the only regional alliance promoting a human rights-based response to HIV/AIDS in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). ARASA, with its regional secretariat in Windhoek, Namibia, comprises of fourteen non-governmental organisations working in all SADC countries. All ARASA partners, including BONELA, join in this condemnation and are issuing similar press releases in all SADC countries today.
ARASA and three of its partners were excluded from the final list of civil society organisations approved by the UN General Assembly to participate in the UNGASS Review as a result of objections to their accreditation being lodged by the governments of the Republics of Namibia and South Africa. These exclusions impact negatively on all of us.
The UNGASS Review is a critical gathering for leaders around the world where governments and civil society will assess global progress on combating the epidemic and commitments on HIV/AIDS made by government leaders at the first UNGASS in 2001. At that time world leaders committed to the ‘full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all [as] an essential element of the global response to the epidemic’.
Excluding human rights organisations working at the epicenter of the epidemic undermines efforts to effectively assess the human rights-based response to HIV and AIDS and calls into question the credibility of the entire UNGASS Review process.
BONELA is a Gaborone-based non-governmental organisation working on the ethical, legal and human rights dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Botswana. BONELA is involved in research, training, advocacy, legal assistance and public education.
For more information and/or interviews, please contact:
(in Gaborone) Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer: (+267) 393-2516
(in Windhoek) Michaela Clayton, ARASA Director: (+264) 811272367 or firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND NOTES FOR BONELA MEDIA RELATIONS STAFF:
- Accreditation process for UNGASS review based on non-objection; intended for governments not to object unreasonably for civil society to participate
- Namibian government objected to two human rights organisations without giving reasons
- South African government objected to Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and AIDS Law Project (ALP)
QUOTE (Christine Stegling):
“If governments behave this way that they object to those that may be critical or trying to open the debate on certain issues, then it defeats the purpose of including civil society. It also questions the process of accreditation. We are concerned that it sets a worrying precedent for future UN or international meetings, for example, on issues like racism or gender-based violence, where governments could simply exclude whomever it chooses to.”
- Botswana: accredited for civil society participation includes BONASO, BONELA, LeGaBiBo (who have applied and not been objected to by the government)
QUOTE (Christine Stegling):
“The Botswana government has, in this case, proven itself to take a more liberal position and is not scared of criticism or hearing different viewpoints in how to deal with such a monumental issue as HIV/AIDS.”
For further information, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.