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Organizing the UN Response to the Triple Threat of Food Insecurity, Weakened Capacity for Governance and AIDS,
Particularly in Southern and Eastern Africa

This document was discussed at the UN's High-Level Committee on Programmes, at its sixth session in Rome 18-19 September 2003

Posted with permission of the UN.
Further details can be obtained from Nancy Snauwaert, World Food Programme, at
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Executive summary

The scale and severity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in southern and eastern Africa, interlinked with poverty, chronic and recurrent food insecurity, drought and weakened institutional capacity, mean that all UN agencies must urgently retool and scale-up their support of national and community capacities to enable a multi-sectoral response.

The purpose of this paper is to present a coherent system-wide policy and programming approach for the UN on HIV/AIDS with specific recommendations to be endorsed by the Chief Executives Board. After a brief introduction, the paper summarizes the inter-linkages between HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and governance (section II); it then identifies the paradigm shift required in the UN system in order to meet these new challenges (section III); lastly the paper presents programmatic and institutional actions UN agencies must undertake (sections IV and V).

There are five fundamental ways in which the UN response must be either entirely new or radically scaled-up in order to make a difference.

First, results for households and communities. While the UN will continue to work with, and through, governments, households and communities must be placed squarely at the centre of research and analysis, programme design and implementation, and, ultimately, assessments in order to determine UN success or failure.

Second, simultaneous humanitarian and development action. Given the combination of shortterm shocks and long-term challenges associated with the crisis, the dichotomy of ‘humanitarian’ and ‘development’ assistance must be overcome; instead an approach should be composed of ‘developmental relief’ and ‘emergency development’. This approach applies equally to communities receiving traditional humanitarian assistance such as refugees and displaced persons.

Third, accelerated capacity development. Capacity building in a broad range of sectors will be required in order to enable governments, non-governmental organizations and communities to adapt to changing conditions shaped by the triple threat. Fourth, scaling-up women’s programming. Women and girls bear a disproportionate burden of the AIDS crisis. Programmes dedicated to the economic and social empowerment of women must be initiated and scaled up. For effective prevention, universal access to sexual and reproductive health must be ensured.

Fifth, a livelihoods approach. A livelihoods approach recognises that there is need for action at household, community, local and national levels to address AIDS within a context which is most often defined by poverty and food insecurity. A range of livelihood interventions are required in order to address root causes of vulnerability within a context characterized by a generalized AIDS epidemic.

Based on these five principles and approaches, eleven programmatic actions are recommended for UN agencies to implement in southern and eastern Africa in order to achieve the targets outlined in the Declaration of Commitment (UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS, June 2001) and, more broadly, the Millennium Development Goals:

Action 1:  Implement community safety net programmes
Action 2:  Improve data collection on community impact and dynamics
Action 3:  Strengthen livelihoods in highly affected communities and for key groups
Action 4:  Undertake dedicated programmes for women’s empowerment
Action 5:  Undertake dedicated programmes to assist the growing orphan population
Action 6:  Undertake urgent capacity building to fight AIDS, especially in the health sector
Action 7:  Undertake urgent capacity building to deal with the impacts of AIDS
Action 8:  Mainstream AIDS into development planning
Action 9:  Build leadership to lead participatory programme reviews
Action 10:  Advocate and support partnership forums
Action 11:  Invest in monitoring, tracking and evaluation systems

To implement these programmes, in an urgent manner which addresses simultaneously short-term needs and long-term challenges, requires a reorganization and an intensification of UN action. The UN must employ the tools at its disposal, in particular those of UN reform, direct its moral authority and invest managerial and financial resources to help its partners defeat the AIDScompounded crises. Eleven institutional actions are proposed for the UN system to implement in eastern and southern Africa:

Action 12:  UN Country Teams in collaboration with governments to review CCAs and UNDAFs
Action 13:  UN Theme Groups to prepare joint implementation support plans and report annually
Action 14:  Review and strengthen the functioning of the UN Resident Coordinator system
Action 15:  In a highly-affected small country, implement an accelerated vision of UN reform
Action 16:  UN agencies to improve skills and modalities in working with new partners
Action 17:  Enabling governments to coordinate external support and ensure accountability
Action 18:  UN system, principally through RIACSO, to `advocate with regional bodies and governments
Action 19:  UN system to advocate and work with international partners to increase investments
Action 20:  UN Country Teams to prepare policy and programme advocacy plans
Action 21:  UNDG, in collaboration with IASC, to increase support and guidance to UN Resident Coordinator system; UN agency headquarters to strive to increase funding
Action 22:  A regional Directors’ Group to serve as an oversight authority for UN action in southern and eastern Africa

Finally, a series of recommendations are made to the CEB to endorse the actions in the paper.

The declaration entitled “Accelerating Country and Regional Action on HIV/AIDS in Eastern and Southern Africa made by UN regional directors for Africa, who met in Maputo on July 9, is attached as Appendix.

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