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Legal and Policy Support for Health

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Promoting human rights, gender equality and enabling legal and policy frameworks

UNDP is committed to reducing inequality and promoting inclusion across the three pillars of the UN’s work – peace and security, development and human rights.

UNDP’s role towards health and development

UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021 sets out the direction for a new UNDP, optimized to help countries achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNDP supports country programmes to successfully address diverse development challenges, including through capacity development and support to reduce inequalities and promote the health of all people.

Capacity Development for Health Systems

UNDP’s Capacity Development for Resilient and Sustainable Systems for Health Strategy aligns with the UNDP Strategic Plan, adopting an integrated approach to support the implementation of the Plan in the health sector.
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It aims to promote

  • Respect for and promotion of human rights and gender equality
  • Meaningful engagement of people living with HIV, key populations, other excluded groups and affected communities is essential for effective governance.
  • Building national ownership, capacity and resilience for effective and sustainable responses to HIV, health and related development challenges.
  • Being risk-informed to effectively cope with and recover from conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.
  • Building the evidence base for action, and
  • Delivery based on Value for Money, providing services of the right quality, level and cost.

UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Strategy aims to reduce inequalities and social exclusion that drive HIV and poor health.

Supporting countries to implement large scale health programmes

UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Strategy 2016-2021: Connecting the Dots elaborates UNDP’s work on HIV and health in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
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UNDP aims to support countries to implement large scale health programmes, including reaching some of the most hard-to-reach populations, and to strengthen institutions to deliver essential services in challenging and high-risk country contexts.

UNDP aims to achieve these goals through three interconnected areas of action:

  • Reducing inequalities and social exclusion that drive HIV and poor health – e.g. by promoting human rights and gender equality, challenging harmful gender norms, eliminating gender-based violence and empowering key populations
  • Promoting effective and inclusive governance for health – e.g. by creating enabling legal and policy frameworks for health and supporting the meaningful engagement of key populations, and
  • Building resilient and sustainable systems for health.

Through its headquarters, regional and country level offices, UNDP provides guidance, policy advice and technical support to partners to:

  • Generate evidence for rights-based public health interventions to respond to HIV, TB and malaria through legal environment assessments, research and ongoing monitoring
  • Support the development of programmes and plans to reduce stigma, discrimination, gender inequality and violence for people living with and affected by HIV, TB and malaria and for key populations, such as law and policy review and reform, strengthened access to justice and improved law enforcement practices
  • Provide policy papers, guidance notes and best practice on rights-based responses, and
  • Support the participation of empowered communities and key populations through capacity strengthening, legal literacy, supporting meaningful participation in forums and advocacy initiatives.

Follow up to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law

Much of UNDP’s current work on HIV, human rights, gender equality and enabling legal and policy frameworks is based on follow up to the findings of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law

What is the Global Commission on HIV and the Law?

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, a commission of experts led by UNDP and convened on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS undertook extensive research, consultation, analysis and deliberation during 2010 to 2012 on law, human rights and HIV.
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The Commission found that public health laws and regulations can play an important role in improving health. Punitive laws, such as those that criminalize same-sex relations, sex work and drug use, can act as barriers to civic engagement in health governance and in access to health care services.

How has UNDP supported follow up to the GCHL findings?

UNDP provides country-level technical assistance to support countries to remove legal, policy, human rights & gender-related barriers to access to HIV and TB services.
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Since the release of the Commission’s comprehensive report in July 2012, UNDP has supported follow up, strategically supporting country-level implementation of the recommendations through the provision of technical assistance.

UNDP facilitates and supports multi-stakeholder consultative processes to review a country’s legal and policy framework and critical HIV, TB, human rights and gender equality issues affecting vulnerable and key populations. Support is further provided to take follow up actions to strengthen laws, policies, access to justice and law enforcement, in the context of HIV and TB, to promote human rights, achieve gender equality and eradicate gender-based violence.

UNDP’s policy and programme support includes, amongst other things:

  • Working with government, civil society and UN partners to implement the findings and recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law
  • Strengthening legal, regulatory and policy frameworks for increasing access to HIV treatment and other health technologies
  • Access to justice for HIV and health, including a focus on civic engagement and sensitization of parliamentarians, the judiciary and law enforcement
  • Integrating human rights and programming to address legal barriers in national HIV and other health programmes, and
  • Establishing systems to prevent and respond to HIV and health-related human rights crises.

The Commission’s final report – HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health and the comprehensive database of resources found on the Global Commission on HIV and the Law website provide detailed information on the findings of the Global Commission and a database of resources relating to key HIV, law and human rights issues. Activities to follow up to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, to strengthen legal and policy environments for HIV and AIDS, are also available on the website. A supplementary chapter of the report is currently being developed to focus on new, emerging issues of HIV, TB and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Case Study Seychelles addresses critical enablers in national HIV response
After conducting an assessment of the legal, regulatory and policy framework to respond to HIV in Seychelles in 2013, government, civil society and development partners took various steps to address critical enablers, hereby strengthening the legal and policy framework for affected populations.
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This included, amongst others:

  • Updating the Misuse of Drugs Act, 2016 to provide for needle and syringe exchange and substitution therapy programmes as well as for the referral of people who use drugs to effective rehabilitation programmes in place of imprisonment
  • Repealing section 155 of the Penal Code to decriminalise sex between men
  • Amendments to the Employment Policy to strengthen protection for employees with HIV, and
  • Working with immigration authorities to ensure that details of HIV status are no longer required for a Gainful Occupation Permit.

Additional resources

Promoting gender equality and eradicating gender-based violence

UNDP works to address gender inequality

UNDP works to address gender inequality, negative gender norms and gender-based violence, to promote the health and development of all, leaving no-one behind.
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Gender equality is a core component of UNDP’s work on health and development and is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is central to UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021 and in line with UNDP’s Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017.

UNDP is committed to supporting multisectoral efforts to address negative gender norms, prevent sexual and gender-based violence, create enabling legal frameworks

for women and girls and promote access to sexual and reproductive health services and access to justice for rights violations.

Achieving gender equality and addressing gender-based violence is critical to ending AIDS.

UNDP works closely with UN partners, such as UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF, and country stakeholders, to eliminate violence against women. Achieving gender equality is also part of UNDP’s role in the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), in which UNDP works with other co-sponsors, led by UN Women, to meet the HIV-related needs of women and girls and address gender-based violence.

UNDP policy and programme support includes, amongst other things:

  • Supporting gender equality in national health programmes
  • Creating enabling legal and policy environments for sexual and reproductive health services
  • Eliminating discrimination and violence against women and girls,
  • Working with government, civil society and UN partners to implement the findings and recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law on issues affecting women and girls, and
  • Eliminating sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings.

The 2017 European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women (the Spotlight Initiative) is a global initiative by the UN and the European Union (EU) to call for and invest in action towards eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, as part of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Spotlight Initiative aims to respond to all forms of violence, with a particular focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices and sexual exploitation.

Empowerment of key populations

UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Strategy recognises the importance of empowering key populations in all epidemic settings.

This is achieved through actions to

  • Address social, legal and cultural barriers to accessing HIV, TB, sexual and reproductive health care and other health services
  • Realize human rights, and
  • Promote dialogue and participation in policy development, health governance and programming.

Stigma, violence and discrimination against key populations contribute to their exclusion from society, limiting their access to health and social services and hindering development.

UNDP’s policy and programme support includes, amongst other things:

  • Creating enabling legal and regulatory frameworks that promote human rights and gender equality for all populations
  • Promoting rights-based health responses that address barriers to health for key populations
  • Eliminating stigma, discrimination, inequality and violence against vulnerable and key populations
  • Promoting the empowerment and participation of vulnerable and key populations
  • Strengthening the evidence base and capacities on the inclusion of vulnerable and key populations, and
  • Working with government, civil society and UN partners to implement the findings and recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law on issues affecting key populations

Key resources