As regional integration progresses and continues to be high on the agenda, EANNASO interfaces with the EAC towards influencing the regional policy environment with a view to making it conducive to an effective HIV response leading to reduced HIV Prevalence and Incidence rates.
The Regional Policy Watch on Prevention is a regional programme that advocates for policy and legislative development and change and monitor the implementation of existing policy and legislation on HIV and relevant related policy and legislation at the regional and national levels in East Africa. The Policy Watch advocates and lobby where policy gaps exist, and lead and cohere civil society inputs in the regard. The Policy Watch represents the civil society perspective on policy and policy environments at country level.
The Policy Watch through its monitoring and lobby roles engage in policy analysis, policy development, review and advocacy. At the regional level, this process involves engagement with the East African Community (EAC), other relevant Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) and inter-governmental institutions, as well as with the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) on regional policies and laws designed to inform policy and the regulatory environment at country level in the context of HIV. EANNASO positions itself as a preferred partner of the EAC, and EALA and drive a strong and proactive agenda to influence regional HIV strategies and policies.
The EANNASO policy watch also highlight and review the impact of regional integration on HIV and vice versa, by organizing think tanks, undertaking and coordinating reviews and policy papers. This includes identifying the impact of the free movement of people – labour mobility, goods and services on the HIV response. Its aim is to identify the challenges, threats and opportunities within the context of the Common Market and Trade in the EAC region.
The policy looks at the impact of specifically, but not exclusively, the following areas:
(1) EAC Custom Union and the EAC Common Market: The creation of the Customs Union and the EAC Common Market coupled with improved road infrastructure resulting from ongoing East African roads and infrastructure development projects, has led to an increase in movement of goods, services, and people and of businesses and service points along the routes which act as hot spots in the transmission of HIV and STIs and other communicable diseases within the borders of the East African region. This trend is worsened by inadequately developed and ill equipped cross border surveillance mechanisms. There is strong need for CSOs together with the EAC to work towards policy and legislative frameworks that lowering of tariffs and other non-tariff trade barriers and streamlining of custom procedures and other “at the border” measures to enhance availability of medicines and services for the infected and affected people in the region (i.e. EAC Counterfeit Bill and Policy which has currently stalled)
(2) Movement and Employment: Because HIV transcends borders; its spread can be accelerated by the population mobility facilitated by regional integration. Furthermore, AIDS-related illness and death among the productive and skilled labour force are undermining the capacity of institutions across the region. EANNASO finds it necessary to advocate for maintaining and expanding institutional capacities, and seeking common human resources solutions as an additional reason for engaging in the regional integration agenda.
(3) CSOs Space & Representation: The EAC has a framework for an effective dialogue between the EAC, civil society and private sector as provided for under Article 127 (4). The objectives of the dialogue framework are among others to:-
a) Enable CSOs, PSOs and EAC to work towards realising the EAC objectives and promoting continuous development of strong partnerships among themselves,
b) Enhance and strengthen partnerships with CSOs and PSOs, and
c) Provide a structured framework for consultation with the EAC. EANNASO will voice and represent AIDS Service Organizations issues to the EAC in the implementation of this dialogue framework as well as work with the East African Civil Society Organizations’ Forum (EACSOF) to coordinate the EAC Health Platform.
(4) Food Security: Regional Integration emphasizes strong food security initiatives with the focus on promoting local and regional food markets. This is vital as small size, economic isolation, and poor infrastructure of many countries in the EAC present development challenges not easily surmounted at the national level. Integrated regional markets enable food to move from surplus to deficit areas, increasing food availability and reducing price volatility thus increasing food accessibility to the people affected by and living with HIV. Regional integration connects countries, leads to improved productivity, and expands trade and competitiveness that increases incomes and ensures a more resilient food supply accessible to all.
(5) Peace and Security: The main principles of the AU Abuja Treaty is the peaceful settlement of disputes among member states and the promotion of peace as a prerequisite for economic development. It is important to note that instability and insecurity are exacerbated by devastating HIV epidemic. HIV is not just a public health problem; but also an economic development problem.
(6) Gender, Human rights and Key populations: The objective of gender equality is enshrined in the treaties, protocols, and constitutions of the EAC and its Partner States. The AU Abuja Treaty calls on member states to establish and harmonize policies and mechanisms for the full participation of African woman in development by improving their economic, social, and cultural conditions. There is widespread support for gender-sensitive policies that include women’s regional and national concerns in the EAC development and integration agenda. This is particularly important because women are engaged in many economic activities, including production and marketing (such as in food and agriculture), and they share major household responsibilities. And women’s involvement in maintaining peace and security and fighting HIV is an important contribution to development. EANNASO in collaboration with regional and national women led organization will work with the EAC towards enactment of gender-sensitive policies that reflect women’s concerns at the regional and national levels, including special attention to the gender impacts of macroeconomic policies, gender-based analysis of budgets and monitoring, gender equity and women’s empowerment and representation in all aspects of the EAC integration process. (EAC Protocol on gender equality).
Human rights is at the center of the HIV response and hence EANNASO work to ensure inclusion of rights based approaches in policy, legislation and programmes both at country and regional levels. This has ensured that there is non discrimination, equality, involvement and participation of all. Taking human rights approach will guarantee rights for all including key populations.
(7) Media: The media is a key stakeholder in promoting an effective regional integration. They create awareness and sensitize the public about HIV and its impacts on integration and vice versa. It’s therefore paramount that information is disseminated and reported correctly to the public. EANNASO works closely with the EAC and private media houses both at regional and national to enhance effective reporting and information dissemination on HIV and AIDS to the public.
In parallel to the regional approach, the Policy Watch will support and work through the member / peer networks in the seven countries to establish national policy watch fora to monitor the implementation of existing policies on HIV; and to identify, lobby for and help inform new policy where policy gaps exists. The policy watch fora represent the civil society perspectives at national level on the update and review of laws that enhance and facilitate HIV interventions; and protect vulnerable populations.
Furthermore, and informed by country level reviews and needs, the Regional Policy Watch will drive a regional research agenda aimed at addressing gaps in existing knowledge about HIV (in particular HIV prevention) to inform policy, practice and interventions. A strong focus will be on gender and the human rights orientation to programming and that gender has been mainstreamed in the various HIV related policies and legislation. Emanating from the regional think tanks and national policy watch fora, regular publications on the status of HIV related policies and laws, their review, implementation and gaps will be shared in the region.
This programme is also dedicated to exploring approaches, mechanisms and modalities to unlocking and targeting financial and non-financial resources to indigenous CSOs working in the field of HIV.
The programme forms a regional perspective and using regional and global social capital, advocate and solicit donor resources at the national, regional and global levels; explore national sources of funding such as from the national fiscal and private sector; and will actively promote mechanisms and approaches to encouraging communities to use their own local resource assets to help with the response to HIV and AIDS.
The following are the key strategies employed:
- Build a conceptual framework, establish and manage the Regional Policy Watch (Regional Policy Forum and Technical Working Sessions)
- Build and sustain strategic partnership with relevant partners with a view to advancing and benefiting the objectives of the Policy Watch Program
- Devise and apply a media strategy in the Policy Watch activities and Build partnerships with the media and other key stakeholders for policy advocacy on HIV and AIDS and its related impacts
- Advocate for and lead a meaningful space for civil society at the EAC and national level decision –making platforms
- Engage with policy makers (EAC, others RECs and parliamentarians) on a regular basis in order to influence regional policies and laws on HIV.
- Commission and/or utilize relevant research and survey findings from other sources on HIV and AIDS policies