Dr Kazatchkine took time in his busy schedule to hear from secretariat staff about the Alliance’s work on Global Fund-supported projects in countries such as Ukraine, Sudan, Zambia and our work with hard to reach groups such as injecting drug users and sex workers.
“The Global Fund is the collective answer of the international community to the crises of the major infectious diseases which we know how to overcome if the world was really coming together,” he said.
Dr Kazatchkine acknowledged the Alliance’s valuable role in preparing civil society organisations to take up the opportunity of developing proposals and receiving Global Fund grants, as well as the support provided by the Alliance to grant recipients so that they can use the money well and effectively.
“The Alliance can help by disseminating and consolidating and strengthening their ownership of the Fund and encouraging other stakeholders to do the same. Because the Alliance is a network and it is so professional and credible it can really contribute to that sense of ownership and have everyone accept his or her responsibility in their responses,” commented Kazatchkine.
This support of civil society isn’t just rhetoric. Around fifty per cent of the $7.5 billion disbursed by the Global Fund to date is channelled through the NGO sector. The Alliance alone assists over 700 organisations working on the AIDS response around the world who receive funding from the Global Fund.
“There isn’t a trip I make without meeting civil society. You are sources of information and learning. Today (at the Alliance) people have so strongly expressed their commitment to the success of the grants on the ground. This has made it a learning session for me and there are a number of things I will take back to discuss with my colleagues.”
During conversations staff raised examples of the barriers faced by vulnerable groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDUs) or sex workers in being represented and active in each country’s coordinating mechanism (CCM). (This is the group that assesses what each country requires in the HIV response and has government, civil society and private sector representatives on it.)
Dr Kazatchkine emphasised that national ownership of each CCM is sacrosanct but agreed that it isn’t enough to set a target to include marginalised groups but that individuals need to be actively involved in a CCM and have a voice. He emphasised the importance of building the human rights environment essential for effective HIV responses and the need for funding to improve the situation.
He welcomed suggestions from the Alliance on how to improve access for funding vulnerable groups.
Changing the global funding landscape
“The Global Fund is an innovative concept of how we are building a globalised world which is not just an economic opportunity but a globalised world that has a social and human face,” said Kazatchkine.
“It is currently one of the best models for delivering health aid in the world. For example, President Obama’s new administration is interested in the approach that the Global Fund has adopted: country ownership; performance and evidence based funding; partnership between many stakeholders.”
So how does he see the future for the Fund at a time of economic turmoil?
“I have not heard from any single donor that they will not deliver what was pledged to the 2008-2010 period but we need to keep the dynamic of growth and scale up because we can show the results, we can show the impact.
“How could politicians wipe off or not scale up money for development when they have found billions to bail out the banking systems and support the car industry?
“I think global public opinion will not accept from the leaders that there isn’t strong support to scaling up aid. And this is what I’m expecting to hear from Prime Minister Brown and the G20 this year.”
Alvaro Bermejo, Executive Director of the Alliance said, “We are very proud that Dr Kazatchkine has taken time out of his busy schedule to come and have this discussion with us. The Global Fund has provided support to civil society responses at the scale and coverage that’s needed to have an impact on the epidemic. It has also created political space for vulnerable groups. It deserves constructive criticism … with full support.”