Russia's coordination committee hosted a two-day workshop on 9-10 April to lay the foundation of oversight and implementation of a new HIV grant: the first in the country to be disbursed under the Global Fund's NGO rule.
The coordinating committee is the stand-in for the country coordinating mechanism that typically in most countries brings a variety of government, non-government, academic, faith-based and technical partners to oversee and administer grants. But because the CCM in Russia was disbanded in 2013, a new committee composed only of the civil society representatives has been convened in order to allow for the smooth implementation of $11.9 million in programming supported by the Fund under the NGO rule.
The NGO rule was established in 2011, allowing upper middle-income countries to apply for HIV funding for programs to be implemented by non-governmental entities. While under the transitional funding mechanism (TFM) two NGOs administered grant extensions in Russia, this new funding model (NFM) allocation will mark the first real application of the NGO rule. Russia's concept note was submitted in August 2014 under Window 3 and following extensive review by the technical review panel, activities are expected to start on 1 July.
Coordination committee members were joined by representatives from the Global Fund, the principal recipient, Open Health Institute (OHI) and a team from UNAIDS at the two-day workshop that aimed to brief members on their new roles and responsibilities. Among the sessions were discussions about how a coordination committee should function and Global Fund reporting.
Some of the more intense debates occurred in discussions about the Global Fund's conflict of interest policy and how much the coordination committee could and should be involved in the daily work by the PR and sub-recipients.
The coordination committee will have an annual operating budget, furnished by the Global Fund, of around $100,000: comparable to the annual budgets of CCMs in other countries. The secretariat is currently comprised of two representatives from the local NGO, EVA, which supports women who are infected with HIV. This secretariat will manage all administration and logistics, as well as oversee implementation of decisions taken by the coordination committee. Major next steps include the finalization of a detailed oversight plan and the creation and launch of a website.
The coordination committee is also exploring ways to find common ground with government in order to ensure that project’s activities are not being implemented in a vacuum but are integrated and contributing to national activities targeting HIV prevention. CC members are already participating in sessions with government around the development of a first-ever national strategic plan for HIV. Cooperation is, however, tricky as legislation has been in place since 2012 requiring that any NGO receiving foreign aid must be registered as a foreign agent. Organizations working public health have, however, been exempt from these requirements although those working on human rights have not.
"The situation in Russia is unique: never before have civil society groups taken such a prominent role in state deliberations over effective approaches to the HIV epidemic," said CC member Gennady Roshchupkin, serving as an observer on behalf of the regional Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM). "At the same time, never before have the risks to civil society been so high."