30 May 2006
Botswana Civil Society excluded from effectively participating in UNGASS Meeting
Civil society organizations in Botswana today note their discontent about the exclusion of critical NGOs from the national delegation representing Botswana at the United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) which is currently taking place in New York.
At a meeting between some of the key civil society players in the national response to HIV/AIDS (BONASO, BONEPWA, BONELA, BOCAIP and YOHO), representatives lamented the fact that the Botswana government has only included one civil society partner in the delegation (a representative of the network of people living with HIV/AIDS). This occurred regardless of the fact that appeals have been made to ensure there was wider civil society participation at the meeting.
Botswana has made a commitment to implement a multi-sectoral response to the epidemic. Many civil society organizations have contributed significantly to the challenges posed by HIV to Botswana society, notably, NGOs have worked in the area of orphan care, involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS, youth empowerment, provision of care and support, provision of free legal services to people who have been discriminated and policy and legislative development to name a few.
It is imperative that the ideas and expertise represented by civil society will be present at the high level event in order to impact on the declaration that will form the outcome of the meeting.
The exclusion of most NGOs from the national delegation will result in the Botswana government representing a government position rather than a national one, indicating that Botswana does not take NGOs as serious and valuable partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This sign of disrespect for civil society as partners was also apparent when the only civil society representative in the delegation was excluded from the official briefing of President Mogae in preparation for the meeting.
The lack of confidence and support for civil society to meaningfully participate at the UNGASS is deeply worrying and undermines the multi-sectoral response to HIV in Botswana. We appeal to the Botswana Government to establish open and transparent structures for the selection and preparation of national delegations that are to represent the country at high-level international meetings. We furthermore request that an official report will be made available to the Botswana public illustrating the proceedings, challenges and outcomes of the high-level meeting in New York.
Botswana Network of AIDS Service Organisations (BONASO)
Botswana Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (BONEPWA)
Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA)
Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme (BOCAIP)
Youth Health Organisation (YOHO)
For further information, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.