New platform for reports of human rights violations in Global Fund programs launched

3. NEWS
5 May 2015
A first response to complaints will be made within 48 hours

Interested parties will now be able to report alleged human rights violations or infringements occurring in programs or activities supported by the Global Fund using a new complaints mechanism launched by the Global Fund on 27 April.

Complaints may be made either by telephone or email, or using a form available on the Global Fund website. Complainants are encouraged to detail which of the five minimum human rights standards may have been violated by a grant implementer -- at the sub-recipient, or principal recipient level.

“The Global Fund needs to know about any human rights infringements in the programs we support,” Inspector General Mouhamadou Diagne said in a statement released by the Fund. “We encourage all to speak up using our whistle-blowing channels which are free, safe and confidential.”

Each program or activity that receives Global Fund support should adhere to the five minimum standards for human rights, all of which are based on international human rights treaties. Most countries eligible for Global Fund support have ratified these treaties that would ensure:

  • non-discriminatory access to services for all, including prisoners
  • use of only scientifically sound and approved medicines or medical practices in treatment or care
  • use of methods that cannot be seen as constituting torture, or that are cruel, inhuman or degrading
  • respect and protect informed consent, confidentiality and the right to privacy with respect to medical testing, treatment or health services
  • avoid medical detential and involuntary isolation which, consistent with guidance from the World Health Organization, is used only as a last resort

According to the provisions in grant agreements signed with the Global Fund, recipients are meant to inform the Fund if they are unable to uphold these standards -- for example, if national laws conflict with them, such as Viet Nam's use of compulsory drug detention centers (see article here). The Fund developed a policy on compulsory treatment passed by the Board's Strategy, Investment and Impact Committee in October 2014.

With respect to other national laws that would seem to run completely counter to human rights -- such as the criminalization of same-sex relationships in 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example -- this should have no bearing on the obligations of states and of Global Fund grant recipients to ensure non-discriminatory access to health services, Seth Faison, communications director for the Fund, told Aidspan in an email.

 "We will work with countries where these barriers exist to develop work plans to mitigate risk to performance of our programs," he said.

The responsibility for identifying risk that these human rights standards could be violated rests with principal recipients, who will be required to develop a mitigation plan to ensure violations do not occur.

This proactive identification of human rights risk, and disclosure to the Fund, will feed into mitigation plans that could include developing or improving policies to align with the human rights standards, or providing training to implementing partners on how to manage human rights complaints. Any rights mitigation work will be funded through the grants themselves, under the auspices of the Removing Legal Barriers package of interventions (see the Human Rights Information note here).

The OIG is committing to a 48-hour turnaround time for an initial response to complainants on alleged human rights violations -- as with other screening the OIG does for other complaints through the Report Fraud and Abuse platform. All OIG investigators have received specialist Human Rights training, and continue to receive support from within the Secretariat's Community, Rights and Gender team and the Human Rights Reference Group. Where necessary, external rights specialists will be asked to consult.

Over a period of up to five weeks, complaints will be assessed to confirm whether they are within the scope of the office, to ensure they are related to a Global Fund-financed program, and credible and verifiable with material implications. Then, further actions will occur as events warrant.


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