Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Civil society's key role in high-level dialogue


Aids Alliance

The Alliance hosted a meeting of the CoATS group (Coordination of AIDS Technical Support – formerly the GIST) in Brighton on 18-19 June.

This high-level group focuses on the coordination of technical support to Global Fund HIV grants.

CoATS members are the UNAIDS Secretariat, UNDP, WHO, UNFPA, World Bank, UNICEF, the Global Fund, USAID, GTZ, ICASO, ICTC, the CS Delegation to the PCB and the Alliance.

In one session Baba Goumbala (Alliance Regional Representative for West Africa) and Titus Twesige (EANNASO) presented their experiences and observations of the systemic issues impacting on Global Fund grant implementation by civil society organisations in East and West Africa.

After the meeting, CoATS Chair Steve Kraus (Chief of HIV/AIDS Branch, UNFPA, pictured) spoke to The Loop about civil society’s role in the group’s work.

“We’ve learnt that it’s important to involve the UN, bilaterals, funding agencies and civil society,” said Kraus, “which is why we expanded the membership of CoATS in 2006.

“This meeting was great because we had civil society members from both the Alliance and ICASO who shared their experiences around Round 9 Global Fund proposals, challenges they’re facing in implementing Global Fund grants, their engagement in Country Coordinating Mechanisms and their ability to help shape the policy dialogue.

“They also spoke about their capacity to be Principal Recipients or Sub Recipients of Global Fund grants, to receive moneys, to help shape the agenda and make sure the money works and gets down into the communities.

“In the past, we’ve focused on providing a forum for policy dialogue at the global level. But what we’ve learnt is that it’s really important to invite input from countries and sub-regions on what we can do better globally to improve the environment, structures and policies that impact at the sub-regional level.

“I was very keen as the Chair to make sure that each year we met at least once with civil society on their turf – not at a bilateral, not at the UN but on the turf of civil society. This time we’ve focused on Africa; next time we’ll focus on another region.

“If we’ve learnt one thing in twenty-eight years about HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support, it’s that you don’t move the agenda forward without civil society.

“For example, one of the core things that this group can bring to health systems dialogue is that you don’t get results if you’re not engaging civil society in the discussions, policies, practices and implementation. You’ve got to bring the voices of the communities. That to me is the precious thing the HIV community must contribute.

“We must make sure that these voices are not lost but are structured into the dialogue, and we shouldn’t allow HIV/AIDS to be just a subset of the overall discussions around systems strengthening.

“AIDS has shown that we can change the way governments work, the way the world looks on human rights, and the way communities engage in their own health and their immediate environments.

“We saw progress in the HIV/AIDS response when we started to learn the painful lesson that if you don’t move with civil society and take them on as your partners, and likewise have civil society reaching out to other partners, then you’re not going to get the results we all want.

“The Alliance is one of the best groups out there for this dialogue – that’s one reason why we’re so happy to have the Alliance in the CoATS.”