The outcome of the HLM-meeting was the adoption of a Political Declaration co-facilitated by the Ambassadors of Australia and Namibia. While the negotiations started with a promising strong zero draft, highlighting the key issues in the elimination of HIV and AIDs, such as attention for key populations, sexual and gender orientation and identity, SRHR and comprehensive sexuality education, reform of punitive and discriminatory laws, the negotiations turned out extremely difficult.
Countries from the African group and the Caribbean continued to insist on a sovereignty paragraph, which would allow them to waive commitments. The Russian Federation, along with a number of other countries continuously criticised the process and submitted hostile amendments. The Russian Federation ultimately called for a vote which led to a Political Declaration being voted for the first time in UN history, setting a very dangerous precedent for future negotiations, multilateralism, and the overall political work of the UN.
Russian Federation outvoted
An overwhelming majority of Member States voted in favour of the negotiated text, with 4 countries voting against (Russia, Syria, Nicaragua and Belarus). The Russian Federation’s inflexible position must be understood as a clear message regarding their position on matters related to LGBTQI+ persons, sexuality and comprehensive sexuality education, where any possible compromise on the matters is simply impossible.
Trend of hostage taking in UN negotiations
The negotiations also testified of a growing trend in UN processes of a few isolated countries holding the overall process and the text hostage. The same tactic was used by the Russian Federation in a violence against women and girls resolution in the last session of the UNGA, when they were isolated and not able to force their way. Similarly, more recently in the CSW65, the same countries which were isolated on certain issues forced the hands of other Member States to accept a watered-down version of the text that was discussed and almost agreed to in the negotiation room.
Strengths of the adopted political declaration
Whereas the final outcome of the negotiations is disappointing, the declaration has strong language on the importance of community-led and community based-responses. Human rights and gender equality language such as ensuring the ‘availability, accessibility, acceptability, affordability and quality of HIV combination prevention, testing, treatment, care and support’ were also included in the preambular paragraphs.
The declaration also notes concern over the rate of new infections among adolescent girls, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa and that AIDS is the leading cause of death of adolescent girls and women aged between 15 and 49, and welcomes regional and subregional initiatives aimed at accelerating actions and investments to prevent HIV, empower adolescent girls and young women and achieve gender equality.
The text also recognises intimate partner violence (IPV) as one of the structural barriers that compromises their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection and calls for its elimination. Furthermore, the inclusion of ‘multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination’ is a new addition towards ensuring an intersectional approach among groups. The language on key populations was improved but was highly contested.