Increasing Civil Society Participation in the National HIV Response: The Role of UNGASS Reporting

Peersman, Greet PhD*; Ferguson, Laura MSc†; Torres, Mary Ann JD‡; Smith, Sally MSc§; Gruskin, Sofia JD†

JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes:
doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e3181baee06
Supplement Article

Background: The 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS provided impetus for strengthening collaboration between government and civil society partners in the HIV response. The biennial UNGASS reporting process is an opportunity for civil society to engage in a review of the implementation of commitments.

Methods: Descriptive analyses of the National Composite Policy Index from 135 countries; a debriefing on UNGASS reporting with civil society in 40 countries; and 3 country case studies on the UNGASS process.

Findings: In the latest UNGASS reporting round, engagement of civil society occurred in the vast majority of countries. The utility of UNGASS reporting seemed to be better understood by both government and civil society, compared with previous reporting rounds. Civil society participation was strongest when civil society groupings took the initiative and organized themselves. An important barrier was their lack of experience with national level processes. Civil society involvement in national HIV planning and strategic processes was perceived to be good, but better access to funding and technical support is needed. Instances remain where there are fundamental differences between government and civil society perceptions of the HIV policy and program environment. How or whether differences were resolved is not always clear, but both government and civil society seemed to appreciate the opportunity for discussion.

Conclusions: Collaborative reporting by government and civil society on UNGASS indicators is a small but potentially valuable step in what should be an ongoing and fully institutionalized process of collaborative planning, implementation, monitoring, assessment and correction of HIV responses. The momentum achieved through the UNGASS process should be maintained with follow-up actions to address data gaps, formalize partnerships and enhance active and meaningful engagement.

Author Information

From the *Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer, Law School, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA; †Program on International Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; ‡International Council of AIDS Service Organizations, Toronto, Canada; and §Civil Society Partnerships Unit, Evidence, Monitoring and Policy Department, UNAIDS, Geneva, Switzerland.

The authors of this paper declare no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence to: Greet Peersman, PhD, Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer, Tulane University, 300 Hebert Hall, 6823 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans 70118, LA (e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.