The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (the Global Fund) has always prided itself on its bottom-up, “demand-driven approach” with countries developing their proposals at a local level and a real focus on marginalised communities being fully involved in the decision-making processes.
“Civil society has played indispensable roles from the beginning in [Global Fund] Board governance, grant implementation and grant oversight” said Jason Taylor Wright, US Director for the Alliance in a commentary in the latest issue of the Global Fund Observer.
In 2011, following allegations of misused funds and the global economic recession, and a recognition that the grant cycle needed to be simplified, the Global Fund began to implement a whole raft of reforms to increase efficiency and effectiveness, including a process to conceptualise a new and improved funding model to restore donor confidence.
The basic NFM was revealed in October 2012, and we assessed this against the Alliance’s own ‘key principles’. Since then, we have contributed to the development of the detailed application process – including participating in surveys and civil society consultation meetings.
In February of this year, the Fund announced the first six countries and three regional programmes to test the new model. Two Alliance Linking Organisations participated as civil society partners in these early applications – Atlacatl in El Salvador and Alliance Myanmar.
Soe Naing, Country Director of Alliance Myanmar commented:
“Alliance Myanmar and its civil society partners participated pretty actively in the application process. Civil society networks such as MPG (Myanmar Positive Group), Myanmar MSM Network, the Sex Worker Network in Myanmar, the National Network of Drug Users in Myanmar and the Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS actively participated in the concept note development process. Through this, they were successful in adding two new elements to the proposal around community system strengthening and human rights.”
“Of course, there is always room for improvement: greater participation, more time, fewer language barriers for example, but overall I think the process was fine. Civil society stakeholders in our country were happy with the process.”
This feedback is reflected in a report released in June 2013 by the Open Society Foundations. The preliminary results of their rapid assessment of local civil society participation in the NFM found that despite constraints resulting from tight timeframes for the completion of the Country Dialogues and concept notes, respondents overwhelmingly felt that the processes involved a wide range of civil society stakeholders. Importantly, those interviewed felt that important strides had been made in the inclusion of most-at-risk populations and community mobilisation in the grant narrative and budgets.
However, the report did make some recommendations for improvement. Most notably, how some civil society stakeholders did not see the final concept note that was delivered to the Global Fund (so could not comment on the extent to which their inputs had been taken on board). Civil society organisations based outside of the main cities were not able to fully participate in the Country Dialogue and Concept Note development processes. They were challenged in implementing the Fund’s new modular approach (replacing the Service Delivery Areas (SDA’s). There were also challenges in advocating for and costing Community System Strengthening (CSS) interventions.
Whilst there is a clear commitment to civil society engagement from the Global Fund secretariat, the Alliance remains concerned about the disbanding of their civil society team. According to Jason Wright “it will be extremely difficult to effectively roll out the NFM from the few early applicant countries to all recipient countries with so few staff with expertise and focus on civil society and CCMs.” To this end, the Alliance continues to engage with the Global Fund in discussions around key population involvement, support for human rights programming, risk assessment and management (a new topic for many applicants) and in the development of new modules for advocating and costing CSS.
Get ready for the NFM
Full implementation of the NFM will begin in late 2014. The Global Fund is advising all countries not participating in the transition to the NFM – referred to as “standard applicants” – to begin preparing now for a funding request in early 2014 (assuming that this timeframe fits their national cycles). Below are our top picks of the resources than can support civil society stakeholders to engage in the process.
1. Global Fund website
The Global Fund website is full of useful resources including an overview, summary and a set of frequently asked questions. Once you have read these documents, you can move on to the actual guidance and application materials. Most of the information is available in English, French, Spanish and Russian.
2. Civil Society Global Fund Application Preparedness Guide (ICASO, July 2013)
The International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) has released a guide on applications under the NFM. The guide targets civil society and focuses primarily on “standard applicants”. It describes the role of civil society in preparing for the eventual application, and in participating in the country dialogue and the concept note development process. It includes a grant application preparedness checklist. It also includes a section on selecting community sector representatives who will participate in the applications process.
3. Civil Society and Key Populations: Considerations for the Global Fund's New Funding Model (ICASO, May 2013)
This report reviews the key components of the NFM from a civil society and key population perspective, with a focus on its impact on AIDS programs. Incorporating the views of leaders from key populations and civil society around the world, the report provides a summary of some current top-level concerns related to the roll-out of the NFM and offers recommendations on how to implement the NFM in a manner which is responsive to and inclusive of civil society and key populations, and ultimately which has the greatest impact on ending the AIDS epidemic globally.
Aidspan is an international non-governmental organisation based in Kenya whose mission is to reinforce the effectiveness of the Global Fund. Aidspan does so by serving as an independent watchdog of the Fund and of the implementers of its grants. Their website contains news, analysis and commentary articles written by Aidspan about the Global Fund and related issues – including lots recently about the NFM. You can also subscribe to their newsletter, the Global Fund Observer.
5. Alliance Technical Support services
The Alliance’s has seven Regional Technical Support Hubs whose role is to build capacity for strong and effective civil society organisations. These Hubs have considerable expertise in framing and supporting the needs of Global Fund Principal and Sub Recipients. In 2012, the Hubs delivered 1,124 days of Global Fund related technical assistance to civil society organisations. Much of this assistance was provided in collaboration with the German International Development (GIZ funded) BACKUP initiative and the USAID funded Grant Management Solutions (GMS) project.
As a taster, you might like to read our report Of Spices and Silk which documents a workshop held in 2012 about the complex process of providing technical support to Global Fund grant implementers. It was the culmination of an eight-month initiative for regionally-based consultants who provide support through the Alliance’s South Asia and South East Asia and the Pacific Technical Support Hubs (with the support of AuzAID).
The Alliance has also developed an e-learning course for Global Fund consultants which is currently being updated to reflect the requirements of the NFM, including activities around the integration of risk management for better grant performance. The updated course will be available again in September.
Finally, for those civil society organisations who are interested in applying to the Global Fund (either as a Principal or Sub Recipient), the Alliance has developed a self-assessment tool to assess capacity in the Fund’s five functional areas (programme management, Sub Recipient management, M&E, financial management and pharmaceutical and health product management). This will help organisations assess if they meet the minimum standards for implementers.
If civil society organisations also wish to assess their technical capacities (i.e. in human rights programming or SRHR and HIV integration) they can use the Alliance’s Good Practice Self Assessment Tools (GP-SAT).
For more details about the on-line course, self-asssessment tools, Regional Technical Support Hubs or any other aspect of the Alliance’s Global Fund technical support, contact the Technical Cooperation Unit.
• The final OSF report – entitled “Rapid Assessment of Local Civil Society Participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria’s New Funding Model, June 2013” – will be posted on the OSF website once it is published.
Alliance Myanmar and its civil society partners participated pretty actively in the early application process.