With less than a week to go until the United Nations High-Level meeting on Ending AIDS in New York City, the Argentine government has not called on local civil society to prepare the country’s participation in this key meeting.
According to multiple reliable sources, this government, until today, appears to have an official delegation led by Argentine Health Minister, Jorge Lemus, accompanied by another two people. These members of the official delegation appear to be his wife and his daughter-in-law, which leads us to think that this official Health Ministry visit is more of a shopping trip.
The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot
So the saying goes, and as we reported in a previous article, Argentina has, on its permanent mission to the United Nations, one of the star negotiators in the Political Declaration debate and approval process. Not only for his technical ability and diplomatic skills, this mission representative, in contact with the Argentine authorities, would be promoting and defending a progressive and inclusive language in the Political Declaration, a key document that the United Nations Member States will vote on and proclaim. This highly positive element appears not to have been acknowledged by government officials in Buenos Aires.
A public statement by the civil society denounces that “It is necessary to highlight the historic importance of the participation of civil society in all the previous editions of the high-level meetings since 2001, accompanying representatives of the Argentine State who, regardless of their political affiliation, recognized in the presence of the civil society its key role in the response to the epidemic. Not having obtained a response in time, or having received a negative response, this will be the first time that the Argentine State has gone to New York without the participation of civil society in the official committee. It is important to note that most countries include civil society in their official committees, which would make of this occasion a doubly negative exception, breaking with good practices of the organic functioning of the United Nations.”
For months, civil society and Argentine organizations of people with HIV have been requesting in writing and verbally a meeting with authorities of the Argentine Ministry of Health. None of these requests has received an answer, or led to a meeting, and as the civil society’s statement indicates, this is the first time that this has happened. Furthermore, in previous editions, the Argentine government gave logistic support for the participation of representatives of our sector in the official delegation.
A poor official delegation
A week ago, we learned that the Argentine government would be represented by the vice-president, Gabriela Michetti, the Minister of Foreign Relations, Susana Malcoma, the Mayor of Buenos Aires, and the Minister of Health, Dr Jorge Lemus. A few days ago, we learned that only Dr Lemus will be going, showing a reduced commitment to this high-level meeting.
“This is the high-level meeting that will mark a turning point in the response to HIV/AIDS in the world. The agreement reached in New York will determine whether we will be capable of ending the epidemic in the coming years. It is unfortunate that a country like Argentina, which has had one of the best responses to AIDS for many years in the region, as well as one of the most progressive positions at previous negotiations in New York, cannot organize itself to accompany this process properly. I cannot imagine an Argentine delegation that does not include a significant participation by civil society. In Buenos Aires, we are working with the Ministry of Foreign Relations and we believe that the situation will be resolved soon, and in a satisfactory manner. What cannot be resolved is the lack of consultation with civil society during several months and the lack of support so that some members of our sector can travel to New York,” said Javier Hourcade Bellocq, representative of the International HIV-AIDS Alliance and co-chair of the Stakeholders Task Force in the High-Level Meeting (1).
A serious complaint
Without going into a discussion of the health minister’s ample qualifications, Corresponsales Clave has been looking for any previous experience the minister may have. The Argentine media has mentioned that his appointment as health minister was more as a result of his close relationship to the Argentine president, Mauricio Macri. Lemus was health minister for the City of Buenos Aires and had to resign from his position in 2012 as a consequence of the scandalous handling of a rape victim’s abortion, ordered by the courts. The relationship between the president and Dr Lemus was strengthened in 2010 by the first aid provided by the now minister to the then mayor of Buenos Aires during the latter’s wedding, when Macri choked on a plastic moustache.
In the end, we are what we do to change what we are (Galeano).
(1)The Stakeholders task force (STF) was formed pursuant a resolution of the President of the General Assembly, to coordinate the participation of civil society in the high-level meeting. It is made up of 12 world leaders from this sector and co-chaired by Marama Pala (NewZealand) and Javier Hourcade Bellocq (Argentina). It has the technical support of ICASO and UNAIDS.