160 Church Groups and NGOs Unite Under One ‘Code’ Against AIDS

At least 19 faith-based organizations were among the 160 initial signers to the newly developed ‘code of good practice’ for NGOs responding to HIV/AIDS.

At least 19 faith-based organizations signed onto the new “Code of Good Practice” for NGOs Responding to HIV/AIDS. The 19 groups, which include big-name organizations such as the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), are among the 160 initial signers of the campaign to unite global NGOs in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"Faith communities all across the globe are living with HIV and AIDS, and are also on the front line of responding with care, support, and education for prevention", says Linda Hartke, coordinator of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. "We must accept the challenge to carry out this work in ways that promote good practices - effective and collaborative services and advocacy - in the context of the global response."

The Code of Good Practice was developed through a steering committee of 11 organizations to ensure accountability and quality programming in response to the “expanding involvement of diverse number of NGOs” in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. Signers of the Code are publicly endorsing the principles developed by the steering committee, and are agreeing to commit themselves to the programming principles in the Code relative to their own field of work.

According to the WCC, there are four main purposes for the code:

* build wide commitment to principles and practices that underscore successful NGO responses to HIV and AIDS;

* assist NGOs to improve the quality and cohesiveness of their work and their accountability to partners and beneficiary communities;

* foster greater collaboration among the variety of NGOs now actively engaged in responding to the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and

* renew the 'voice' of NGOs responding to HIV and AIDS by committing to a shared vision of good practice in our programming and advocacy.

Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the WCC, explained why churches must take part in the global NGO effort for a unified front against the pandemic:

"Faith communities and organizations do not exist in a vacuum", he stated. "Church workers all over the world have a responsibility to ensure that our organizations are engaged with civil society in key issues such as HIV and AIDS. Endorsing this Code signifies WCC's moral commitment to concerted efforts towards the eradication of the pandemic.”

Rev. Dr Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches said the Code will strengthen faith-based organizations in their response to the deadly virus.

"The Code of Good Practice is an instrument that will urge and strengthen responses of faith-based organizations in developing a vision, a commitment and a plan of action that will promote and protect the human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS," said Nyomi. "It will encourage organizations to be equipped with skills for effective leadership, upholding the respect, integrity and dignity of all persons, including special consideration for women and young people who are most vulnerable."

Dr Musimbi Kanyoro, secretary general of the World YWCA, said the Code "has a check list that will be useful for us in the work on HIV/AIDS,” and will allow individual groups to be “connected to other people working on the same subject and … to check on ourselves whether we are going in the right direction".

"Signing the code means we can't just do business as usual," stated Dr Bart Shaha, secretary general of the World Alliance of YMCAs. "For us the Code is a declaration of what we believe we must do so that our work can have a bigger impact," he says. "It's a sign of our joint commitment to eradicating the scourge of HIV/AIDS."

Meanwhile, Rev Dr Ismael Noko, General Secretary of the LWF, said the Code will act as a “benchmark document” for both NGOs and Faith based groups in responding to the challenges of the pandemic.

"The values underlying the Code, e.g. fighting discrimination and stigma, and ensuring access to care, correspond with those expressed in the Lutheran World Federation HIV/AIDS Action Plan and Campaign," said Noko. "It is our hope that this Code of Good Practice will become a benchmark document for quality programming in the various spheres of life that determine our courageous and intensified responses to the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.”

Dr Kathryn Wolford, moderator of the executive committee of ACT International and president of Lutheran World Relief, agreed, saying that the principles of the Code will help unify the various groups on the effort against AIDS.

"This is an important initiative and I hope and trust it will receive broad support," said Wolford. "Many ACT members are already incorporating best practices on HIV/AIDS into our humanitarian programs and this helps equip others to do likewise."

The deadline to sign onto the Code as an initial signer was October 29, 2004. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies hosts the Code of Good Practice project, whose second phase – the implementation of the Code – begins in 2004.

Among the faith-based organizations that have signed the code : Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, Bread for the World, Christian Aid, Church of Sweden, the Conference of European Churches, DanChurchAid, Diakonie Emergency Aid, Difaem - German Institute for Medical Mission, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism, Hope for Eastern Europe, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Lutheran World Relief, Norwegian Church Aid, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), the World Alliance of YMCAs, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Student Christian Federation, the World YWCA.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance has been active in giving input to the drafters of the Code to include faith-based perspectives and experiences.

The full list of initial supporters of the Code will be made public on 1 December 2004.

For more information on the Code of Good Practice, including the Code and a full list of NGO signatories see: http://www.ifrc.org/what/health/hivaids/code/