In November 2011, ASAP’s Director Robin Gorna facilitated the first ever global meeting of transgender activists from the developing world.
The goal was to develop better mechanisms for dialogue between transgender people from developing nations and the UN and the Global Fund. Discussion centred on the health and human rights challenges that transgender people face, and how and why multilateral agencies should seek to engage more effectively with them as part of their development mandates.
The main outcome was the articulation of a set of “wants” from the Global Fund and UNAIDS, in particular UNAIDS Co-sponsor WHO, the World Health Organization. The activists made specific requests of the UN and the Global Fund, relating to the health and rights-related needs of trans communities. One of the “wants” was a preference for the use of the term “trans”, while recognising that preferred terminology varies between countries and contexts. Overall these “wants” are expected to form a crucial part in the development of improved efforts by multilateral entities to recognize and respond to trans needs in the future.
ASAP’s facilitation allowed a project plan to emerge, to establish a new global platform for developing country trans activists to engage in advocacy and peer support. The plan articulates a range of national, regional and global activities that activists would undertake to maintain the momentum of their deliberations, under the guidance of an expanded and inclusive steering group.
UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
The meeting was the first of its kind ever held, a fact which itself underscores the continued isolation of much of the worldwide trans community.
The trans steering group approached ASAP’s director to facilitate the meeting after the original facilitator – a trans woman – was unable to take the project forward for personal reasons. Short notice meant the bulk of the work was on site, requiring a flexible and creative approach.
At the request of trans participants, attendance was restricted to the participants themselves, the facilitator and interpreters. Representatives from the Global Fund and UN agencies were only invited to attend two sessions – one to inform trans participants of their work, the second to hear the “wants” of participants for future dialogue.
ASAP’s approach here built trust and openness, and can be considered a model of good practice that the UN should consider for future engagement with key populations and vulnerable groups.
The consultation brought together 11 representatives and activists from the broad trans community, including people who self-identify differently and uniquely. Participants came from Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.
The consultation process took place in Geneva, convened jointly by the Global Fund and the UNAIDS co-sponsors responsible for trans issues, UNDP and UNFPA, as well as the UNAIDS secretariat. Preparation was guided by a steering group of trans activists and representatives of the UN and the Global Fund. Language and time zone barriers complicated the preparatory phase, and a virtual meeting of the full steering group was never possible.
Despite these logistical issues, with ASAP’s help this pioneering meeting has laid new groundwork in the inclusion of trans communities in global AIDS, health and human rights initiatives.