Advocating for rights at high-level meetings – lessons from Indonesia
Following the recent High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, held in New York, Baby Rivona shares the challenges and successes for Indonesian civil society partners and what’s next for their advocacy.
1. What are the highlights and challenges from the HLPF in New York, where Indonesia submitted its Voluntary National Review (VNR)?
Like many other civil society partners, I am disappointed at the government’s response to questions about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We know that activities in country do not match their commitments, but the answer from the government was just so simple – they shared that they’d adopted the declaration, without any details on monitoring and implementing as well as any challenges.
Before going to New York, I spoke to many people and used my connections with government officials to get the names of Indonesia’s delegation and to speak to them beforehand to raise the issues affecting key populations, specifically relating to discrimination and criminalisation that are highlighted in SDG 10 and 16. I’m really pleased that we brought along our parallel VNR report and KPs Fact Sheet to the HLPF, which we handed out to Canadian and UK delegations to highlight what really happens on the ground. We hope that they will apply pressure to our government.
During the meeting, I met with the Minister of National Development Planning, where we briefly discussed my role as the PITCH country focal point and also met with a delegate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who promised to connect me with the right person to follow up with on universal health coverage (UHC) issues and considerations.
However, the highlight was a three-hour long meeting with a member of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia, based in New York. After he attended the PITCH side event ‘Empowered when criminalised’, we discussed civil society’s concerns as outlined in our parallel VNR report, and he promised to help raise the issues. We also talked about the upcoming High Level Meeting on UHC in September where Indonesia’s key population organisations will develop a position paper. I will follow up with him by sharing relevant PITCH studies about people who use drugs, SRHR and sex workers on the impact of closing brothels, which includes decreased access to health services and, as they are forced onto the streets, increased risks of violence.. I will contact the UHC focal point from the Ministry of Health to discuss how he can influence the UHC political declaration by asking for clarification from our government before the meeting.
2. What is your biggest learning from the HLPF and how will this inform your national advocacy plans?
The Indonesian government appears reluctant to allow civil society organisations and NGOs to influence them. For example, we were unable to provide our input into the final VNR submission as the government distributed the document at very short notice.
Once we have completed the parallel VNR report we will submit it to the UN major group. We are yet to give the fact sheet to our government. We hope that our report will encourage the government to invest more in human capital, not just physical infrastructure.
3. As member states prepare for the UHC meeting in New York, how can civil society partners ensure the voices of marginalised people are heard?
We’ve already held a workshop based on the PITCH-led research paper on integrating the HIV and AIDS response into Universal Health Coverage, and from this we will develop an advocacy action plan and another parallel report to highlight KP issues.
In early August, I will join representatives from Indonesia’s UHC coalitionfor a meeting with parliament members to discuss the progress of implementation of UHC where will submit our position paper.
We must continue talk to our governments when we have the opportunity to meet them in person at global meetings. Sometimes this opportunity does not happen in country, but the good thing is that we can secure commitments to follow up the advocacy with meetings when we return home.
We also need to strengthen our coalition with partners in country and globally to push our agenda with one voice and place HIV and KPs at the centre of UHC discussions.
Baby Rivona is the Coordinator at the Indonesia Positive Women’s Network and the country focal point for the PITCH programme in Indonesia, a partnership between Frontline AIDS, Aidsfonds and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.