Feature story

Sidibe highlights the role of civil society in countries’ AIDS responses

16 October 2008

20081015_Sidibe_200.jpg
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Michel Sidibe addressed the vital role of civil society at “Rendez-vous de la coopération québécoise et canadienne dans la Francophonie” hosted by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Ahead of the XIIe Sommet de la Francophonie, the role of civil society in development and international cooperation is being discussed at an important pre-conference event taking place in Quebec City 15-17 October.

“Sustainable partnerships” is the central theme of the “Rendez-vous de la coopération québécoise et canadienne dans la Francophonie” hosted by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), a meeting to explore Quebec and Canada’s role in international cooperation in French-speaking countries.

On 15 October UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Michel Sidibe took part in a keynote event. Mr Sidibe reflected on the crucial role that civil society plays in an effective AIDS response in Francophone Africa and elsewhere, citing examples of successes in specific countries.

“In this global mobilization for AIDS, civil society has undoubtedly been the determining catalytic agent that has often initiated, consolidated and always brought forward new ideas and concern around human rights, addressing the virus and inspiring international organizations and traditional bilateral cooperation,” said Mr Sidibe. “Civil society has always been present in all major decisions in the AIDS response,” he continued.

Describing the vital importance that civil society plays in AIDS response at this turning point in the epidemic, he outlined its ability to speak with many voices, represent many different perspectives, mobilize political leadership, ensure a rights-based approach to HIV responses and bring life-saving prevention messages directly to communities.

The importance of securing input from the full spectrum of civil society, including people living with HIV, cannot be overstated. The wide range of strategic and tactical expertise within civil society organizations makes them ideal partners in the process of preparing National Progress Reports and specifically, civil society organizations are well positioned to provide quantitative and qualitative information to contribute to the data collected by governments.

UNAIDS has a range of specific tools to help civil society make an impact including the Technical Support Facilities to assist and solve problems in strategic planning, communications, resource mobilization and tracking and monitoring and evaluation. This reinforces national capacity and supports countries have a country-owned, country-led and demand-driven AIDS response.

Other speakers at the event were Mrs Djakagbè Kaba, President of the Guinean Network of Economic and Social Solidarity, RÉGESS (Guinea); Mrs Danièle Magloire, Coordinator of the Bureau of Rights and Democracy (Haïti) and Mr Bakary Doumbia, Director-General of KILABO (Mali).

XIIe Sommet de la Francophonie

20081015_logo_200.jpg

The governments of Canada and Québec, in partnership with the Government of New Brunswick, are hosting this year’s Francophonie Summit which takes place in Québec City from 17 to 19 October and will include delegations from some 69 states and governments. Mr Sidibe will attend the opening of the Summit.

The Summit is a gathering of the heads of state and government of member countries in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), an institution founded on the basis of a shared language (French) and shared values. It has 55 member states and governments and 13 observer states, representing a total population of 803.4 million and close to one-third of all United Nations member states. It supports member states in policy development and spearheads political action for multilateral cooperation.

HIV epidemics

While sub-Saharan Africa’s epidemics vary significantly from country to country in both scale and scope, the region is home to 67% of people living with HIV worldwide and almost 90% of all children living with HIV. On a positive note, most of the comparatively small HIV epidemics in West Africa are stable or are declining—as is the case for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali. In Côte d’Ivoire, HIV prevalence among pregnant women in urban areas fell from 10% in 2001 to 6.9% in 2005.

However in 2007, adult national HIV prevalence was above 5% in seven countries in Central and East Africa including Francophone Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Gabon. More than one third (35%) of female sex workers surveyed in 2006 in Mali were living with HIV, and infection levels exceeding 20% have been documented among sex workers in Senegal and Burkina Faso.