Accountability; main message on World AIDS Day

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Accountability; main message on World AIDS Day

20 October 2006


Marcel van Soest, Executive Director of the World AIDS Campaign

Executive Director of the World AIDS Campaign, Marcel van Soest speaks to UNAIDS about the history of the World AIDS Campaign, how people can become involved in this year’s events and why ‘accountability’ is such a crucial theme for World AIDS Day 2006.

Q: Could you tell us how and why the World AIDS Campaign was created?

A: The World AIDS Campaign has a long history, it was established by UNAIDS in 1997-98 when it was a part of the UNAIDS Secretariat. In 2001, there was huge concern within UNAIDS when AIDS appeared to be slipping off the political agenda. So UNAIDS held a number of consultations with different stakeholders, particularly with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), and came to the conclusion that the World AIDS Campaign needed to be strengthened and made into more of an independent campaign with greater civil society involvement and leadership.

So in 2004, exactly two years ago in September, the World AIDS Campaign was established as an independent campaign outside of the UN and outside of Geneva. UNAIDS of course still plays a strong supporting role but it no longer has a decision making role, this is now the job of the different civil society groups.

Q: How is the World AIDS Campaign governed?

A: For the last two years we have been working very hard on getting the right structure for the Global Steering Committee which now represents the different constituencies including internationally and globally organized actors with country memberships or country affiliates.

For example, the Global Union Federations which represent all the country trade unions all over the world are part of our Global Steering Committee. Faith-based and religious leaders, the youth movement and the women’s movement are also represented. As are the traditional actors in the AIDS response like the NGO’s and networks of people living with HIV. We are still reaching out to academics, researchers and the media who will hopefully join the Global Steering Committee shortly.
So these actors actually own the World AIDS Campaign and we are a small international support team that helps to strengthen mobilization and connect messaging from all the different campaigns on AIDS that exist at the international as well as the country level. We try to facilitate and contribute to a stronger social movement that is really needed to actually get things done in this world.

Q: How does the World AIDS Campaign decide on the themes for the campaigns?

A: The way that it works at the moment is that the International Support Team consults with all the different partners in the AIDS field from around the world to discuss the key issues throughout the year. We feed a lot of that information and insight into the discussions that are then brainstormed by the Global Steering Committee where all different constituencies of Civil Society have a seat and who then agree upon a strong theme.

This is how, two years ago, this Global Steering Committee adopted ‘Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.’ as the focus, a tagline for the coming years, with the recommendation that there would be a variation on the theme each year for World AIDS Day. Last year the theme was ‘Make the Promise’ and this year it’s ‘Accountability’.

Q: Why is World AIDS Day such an important date in the yearly calendar?

A: World AIDS Day was introduced by the World Health Organisation on 1 December 1988. This was the first time that attention around the world was focused for one day in the year on AIDS. It provided a unique opportunity to highlight the seriousness of the epidemic.

Since 1988 World AIDS Day has developed into a huge event. It has become so big that in many countries it is no longer only just one day; but a whole week of events and activities. It starts with the launch of the new statistics in the AIDS Epidemic Update the week before World AIDS Day – and during the whole of the following week more and more events are taking place involving stakeholders from all over the world so it has become a very important day in the yearly calendar.

But of course one day a year is not enough, which is one of the reasons why the World AIDS Campaign was established to really look beyond World AIDS Day and keep the attention focused on AIDS issues and themes throughout the year.

Q: As you say, the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Accountability”. What inspired this theme?

2006 World AIDS Day poster – part of the resource kit available from the World AIDS Campaign

A: Accountability came up in the discussions a year ago as 2006 is an important year in the AIDS response. A number of key events have taken place this year including; the High Level Meeting on AIDS, held at the UN in New York in June which was the five year review of the Declaration of Commitment on AIDS; the five year review of the Abuja Declaration in Africa; the Toronto AIDS Conference; and on the 14 November it will be five years since the Doha declaration was signed on access to generic drugs. 2006 also marked the 10 years of UNAIDS and the 25 years of AIDS.

2006 is a year of looking back to learn from the past and looking forward to see how to plan and strategise further on issues like Universal Access.

So having these important moments this year we felt that it was the right time and that focus was needed on accountability because of the strong significance this year holds in the AIDS response.

World AIDS Day is crucial for accountability because we know what works and we need to find out why programmes that work have not been implemented in light of Universal Access and country target setting. We want to make sure that the world is informed and aware and that all the leaders know that the public and civil society are watching and that we are very serious about all these promises.

Q: Who is the message of accountability targeted at this World AIDS Day?

A: This message is for all kinds of leaders from all the stakeholders including civil society and the business sector, the multilaterals like the UN and all the governmental leaders. It ranges from the top influential leaders, like the leaders of the G8 for example, right down to local community leaders so that grassroots groups can really look at promises and commitments that leaders have made and make sure that they are held accountable. It’s really to show that these promises are now being monitored and that they must be kept.  

Q: The theme is a continuation of last year’s theme – is this a long-term campaign?

A: ‘Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.’ is a tagline that we want to keep at least until the end of 2010, because of the Declaration of Commitment targets as well as the Universal Access commitments for 2010. We will be reviewing whether the same tagline will continue until 2015 in line with the UN Millennium goals or whether we will change to another tagline. But for now World AIDS Day each year will have different variations of the theme whilst keeping the tagline ‘Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.’   
Q: How can organizations and individuals become involved in this year’s World AIDS Day activities?

A: People can get involved in many different ways. For example on the World AIDS Campaign website we have a calendar where more and more organisations are now listing information on their planned activities for World AIDS Day.

So people can have a look at the website to find out what’s happening in their country or in their region. If they can’t find an event near to them there is also a partners page where all the World AIDS Campaign partners in countries are listed so that people can contact them to find out more. People can also contact their own local AIDS organisations, see what’s happening locally and find out how they can engage in events or offer their support.

We try to make sure that organisations are linking up locally with other organisations so that at least there is some kind of communication between the different organisations to enable them to link up together afterwards and combine their efforts.

If people or organisations want to set up their own events on World AIDS then we have a range of resources available to them on the World AIDS Campaign Website. For example we have a CD-Rom that provides ideas and gives information on what different groups are doing on World AIDS Day. We have designed a model this year using the colour red and on the CD-Rom there are all kinds of ideas about how they can organise a simple event using the colour red to target leaders on accountability issues.

Q: Are there any other materials you can provide people with who are planning to hold an event on World AIDS Day?


Faith pre-conference attendees march in support of “Stop AIDS. Keep
the Promise during AIDS 2006 in Toronto” from the
World AIDS Campaign      Credit: Stuart Nimmo

A: This year we have more resources available than any previous years. We have posters which are designed in such a way that they are easily adaptable to include local relevant key messages as the wording and even the pictures on the posters can be changed or modified for the countries that have the resources to print them locally.

The printed posters and CD-Roms are partly being distributed by the WHO/UNAIDS distribution system but can also be ordered from the World AIDS Campaign website where the International Support Team will send the packages.

The posters come with the CD-Rom which contains information on possible topics and messaging for World AIDS Day and has a full spectrum of ideas for events and what different groups like faith, labour or NGO’s are doing on the day. We also have PSA’s, videos and photos available.

Q: How can people share information about their events?

A: People can post information about their events on the WAC website. If they go to the home page and click on the WAD 2006 Events calendar there is a form which they can fill in directly on the website, through this they can post their own text and photos on the site.

Beyond the events page they can always send further campaign information to the World AIDS Campaign helpdesk at and we will be happy to post on the website for them.

Q: What are the plans for next year?

A: We are currently having discussions for on the plans for next year, but we are hoping to make it bigger and better than ever. We are planning to adapt the theme locally as we would like to stimulate and bring resources for materials for posters, CD-Roms to the sub-regional level.

We want to give people information on how events can be organised jointly between, for example, trade unions, religious leaders and networks of people living with HIV.  We are very keen on the idea of joint messaging and are looking forward to developing a great range of materials for next year’s events.

Keep checking our website for more information as the plans develop!


World AIDS Campaign

More on World AIDS Day 2006

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