Hammamet, Tunis. Twenty-six UN staff members met in Hammamet for the UN Cares regional workshop for the Middle East and Northern Africa region (MENA). Participants represent 14 United Nations organisations in 11 countries in this region. As UN Cares focal points participants are tasked with being the drivers in the implementation of UN Cares, the UN system-wide workplace programme in their countries.
For five days the group explored all the elements associated with UN Cares and with how the UN System responds to HIV internally. Among the new tools that were shared were the new e-course module now available in many organisations, the new HIV service directory that will be released to the public soon, and the module on confidential handling of personal information.
In the MENA region, while the epidemic remains low in most countries, with high concentration in key populations, the trend seems to indicate that urgent action is needed. Undoubtedly, another challenge is dealing with social and cultural norms that are not always conducive to speaking about HIV, sexuality and other related issues. And finally, participants highlighted that during the last two years the social and political environment have required focusing on other priorities, making it difficult to introduce UN Cares activities in the UN workplace.
Participants learned how they could deliver the half-day learning sessions, which are at the heart of the program, so they can reproduce the sessions and bring learning and information to their UN colleagues in country. In this endeavor, they will need managerial support from the Resident Coordinators and heads of agency in each country.
Sudan was one of the participating countries and had a chance to present their experience as honorees in the UN Cares award 2012 for their impressive work proving HIV learning opportunities to staff in that country. The next edition of the UN Cares awards will take place in 2014, and we hope to see countries in this region receive recognition from the Secretary General for taking action in implementing UN Cares.
Countries represented in this regional event are: Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia.