Civil Society engagement in the Sixth Replenishment campaign: A unique example in the world of global health

6. OPINION
11 Oct 2019

It is said, and it is often repeated, that the Global Fund is a unique model of a partnership that brings together the public sector, technical and financial partners, the private sector and representatives of civil society, in a single effort to eliminate pandemics. This diversity is reflected in the Global Fund’s Board of Directors, which has one seat for the private sector, and four seats for communities and NGOs from the North and South. It is also visible within the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), the structure that brings together all these actors in each implementing country. Civil society was an essential part of this very active campaign for the replenishment of the Global Fund’s resources, whose final fireworks took place in Lyon on October 10.

The role of recipient civil society organizations in this process is immediately apparent. A global movement has begun to remind the major donors how much a patient's situation still depends largely on their generosity. A concerted effort between organizations enabled the embassies of the main donors in the NGOs’ countries of origin to be called upon. Many countries also announced the amounts of their contributions several months ago, and have been thanked for they increased their financial commitment to the Global Fund, which is remarkable in view of the multiple solicitations and causes to which major donors are led to contribute.

Several events were organized over many months leading up to the October pledging conference:

- In February, on the occasion of Valentine's Day, a campaign was launched on the theme of "Love more Give more". The organizations gave letters to the embassies of the donor countries to raise awareness of the ambitious goals set at the Delhi conference. The organizations, by their message of thanks to the big donor countries but also by the expectations they expressed, engaged the countries in the process.

 

- In July, a dozen civil society organizations, led by the director of CS4ME, participated in the General Assembly of the African Union held in Niamey, Niger. The organizations drafted their own declaration calling on African states to make of strengthening health systems a priority in their public policies, and to devote the necessary resources to it.

- Finally, in September, the organizations gave their national Presidents a letter in which they asked them to participate in the financial effort to replenish the Global Fund's resources.

Letters from Burkina Faso (source and photo credit: GFAN)
 
 

 

Press conferences, radio announcements and television round tables were also organized in most West and Central African countries. Some ambassadors from major donor countries received the delegations and agreed to publicly support the campaign. On the side of the African countries themselves, the messages were also disseminated to national leaders so that they take stock of the emergency in which patients find themselves today, and their responsibility by respecting their co-financing commitments to the Global Fund, and good management of the funds entrusted to them.

Testimony of Rachel, Réseau des Associations Congolaises des Jeunes (RACOJ), National Coordinator, DRC:

“Since the beginning of the campaign, RACOJ has been very involved. In February 2019, we sent a letter to the embassies, we met the representative of the Ambassador of France, then the Ambassador of the United States. We gave them a flower on Valentine's Day, a day that symbolizes love. We asked the big contributing countries to show love by increasing their contribution.

We also initiated a dialogue with our political leaders, by filing a letter to the presidency and then to the special adviser on health, then to the director of cabinet and the National Assembly, the Minister of Public Health and the Ministry of Finance, then to the Prime Minister. We finalized our campaign with a press conference calling on the authorities to participate in the global effort and contribute to the Replenishment. The announcement of the DRC to contribute to the Global Fund in the amount of $6 million has greatly pleased us, because our plea has won. We see that our current authorities take health issues seriously and listen to us.

This announcement was a surprise for us. We were worried after an announcement that our president would not participate in the Conference of Lyon. Civil society in the DRC is proactive in monitoring commitments; the commitments made by the Minister today will be closely monitored. The RACOJ is a member of the CCM and represents the youth, we follow with our colleagues the commitments in terms of national counterpart. This is the first time that such a mobilization is organized around the Replenishment, networks like the GFAN or CS4ME have been very active to challenge the leaders. We are grateful to President Macron for his enthusiasm and the welcome of the conference.”

Press Conference in Kinshasa with RACOJ, 2 October 2019 ; photo credit: RACOJ.
 
 

 

A few days before the conference, the French organizations also remembered the French Presidency with two main campaigns: that carried out by Solidarité Sida, active for several months called Treatment4All, and that of Aides, inviting the French authorities not to "miss the train" for Lyon.

 
Aides campaign, Paris October 2019, GFAN.
 
Fake news, “Aids is over”, part of Treatment4All
 
photo credits: Aides
 
photo credits: Solidarité Sida

 

In Lyon, Francophone civil society organizations were present in force, with a rich and varied program: a symposium on civil society committed to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria organized by the Initiative 5% with the participation of representatives from Western and Central African; a symposium organized by Solthis and Equilibre et Population to promote "a feminist approach” to the fight against HIV/AIDS; a side event by Global Health Advocates on “ending the pandemics, who is stepping up for sustainability”, and finally the GFAN/GNP+ event on key populations and Universal Health Coverage.

We can only welcome the mobilization of civil society and its active participation in the Replenishment Campaign. It demonstrates the commitment of civil society organizations to the Global Fund as the most powerful tool to fight the pandemics, which so far has helped save more than 32 million lives. The role attributed to CSOs in the Global Fund partnership, and the financial support it has given them in its 20 years of existence, are all evidence of the very special relationship between them. The first-person advocacy dimension, led by patients themselves who agree to talk about their daily lives, their illness, and what the Global Fund, through funding, has changed for them, is a strong one. It makes the work of the Global Fund real and concrete, and puts the fight against the three pandemics, which continue to be – in Africa, at least – the three most deadly diseases, at the heart of the agenda.

It is also reassuring (as there is a widespread belief that the civil society of French-speaking Africa would be smaller and less active than that of English-speaking Africa) to see the vivacity and strength of the Francophone civil society network. This Replenishment campaign will have further strengthened the communication and common advocacy themes within the region.

Finally, the commitment of the major public and private donors, and the announcements made by more than 10 African countries, new contributors to the Global Fund in addition to being the beneficiaries, may also appear as an encouraging result and an effect of the mobilization of civil society in the commitment of its leaders.

It is safe to say that this experience will remain in their minds and will mark all CSO representatives who have been able to go to Lyon.

The challenge now for these organizations is to be vigilant as to the commitments made by donor countries: the use of these funds, their adequate management so that patients are properly cared for, and the financial commitment to which each country has committed in terms of domestic resource mobilization. In fact, in the same way that the major donors are committing today for funding to the tune of $14 billion, there are important expectations about the national contribution, which represents a fair part of the investments made to fight the pandemics. There are many reasons to continue the fight for civil society organizations.

 


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