2. INTERVIEW
12 Jun 2003

Board chair Tommy Thompson spoke with Global Fund Observer during the second day of the June 5-6 board meeting. Bernard Rivers conducted the interview.

Excerpts:

  • $quot;I'm spending a lot of time trying to promote and to get more dollars for the Global Fund. I don't think anybody else has ever done that much.$quot;
  • $quot;Other countries when the Fund was set up gave a pledge, some of which have been converted to cash, but they hadn't followed through with a second or third. Now they're doing that, and I thank them very much.$quot;
  • $quot;If Europe increased its contributions to meet or exceed the US contribution, the US might increase its FY04 appropriation, but that still has to be seen.$quot;
  • $quot;I'm quite confident and comfortable with the systems that we [the Fund] have set up, I think the accountability and the kinds of fiscal responsibility that we have placed in-country for these projects are very sound... We want this to be squeaky-clean, we don't want any conflicts of interest, we want the money to get to the people that need it.$quot;
  • $quot;[The board members] are all wonderful people, they're all very passionate about who they represent and why they represent them and so on. They wouldn't be on the board if they didn't have those passions... We probably made more progress in this board meeting than they have ever, and I think that's a good sign.$quot;
  • $quot;[The Fund] was non-existent two years ago, and now it's a multi-billion-dollar corporation. I don't know of any corporation that's grown that rapidly before, and to get this far with as few problems and as few setbacks, I think is absolutely stupendous.$quot;

 

The verbatim text:

GFO:

You recently said $quot;I'm sorry to report that the Fund faces a shortage of over a billion dollars for this round of proposals. That's something we cannot allow to happen again.$quot; What are you doing to bring in more funds this year, in time for the October decision regarding Round 3 grants?

Thompson:

I've been doing a lot. First off, I went to New York and met with Kofi Annan and I set out a plan for him and I requested that he travels to Africa with me and a group of business people that we're still trying to arrange for.

Secondly, I'm going to be meeting with a group of business people [the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS] that is headed by Richard Holbrooke and also chaired by the head of Daimler Chrysler, and they're coming to Washington next week and I'm going to meet with them. Third, there's another group of business people that I'm meeting with at the end of the month on the Global Fund, trying to solicit dollars.

Four, I talk to the pharmaceutical companies and try to get them to participate in the Global Fund with dollars, pharmaceutical supplies, equipment and drugs. Fifth, I met with Ely Lilly yesterday and I announced with them a new program for multi resistant drugs for TB, and they're setting up a licensing agreement to have them manufactured in China and Russia. it's a deal worth about $70 m.; I'm working with the Global Fund with regards to that.

Sixth, I went to Brussels and appeared in front of the European Commission's Development Committee and asked for some dollars out of them, and they agreed to immediately convert a pledge into cash of 60 m. euros, and they increased their pledge for next year from 42 m. to an additional 150 m. making 190 m., and then 42 m. every year thereafter. Then I went to Germany where I met with the Development Ministry in Germany to see if we could get an increase in dollars from Germany. I've spoken in Stockholm to the Point Seven committee there and talked to all of their representatives there, spent an afternoon there. I befriended Taiwan, as a result of which they said they were giving $1 m. to the Global Fund.

This has all been since January, so you can see I'm spending a lot of time trying to promote and to get more dollars for the Global Fund. I don't think anybody else has ever done that much.

GFO:

Regarding the problem that arose within the Global Fund over the shortage of money this year for Round 3, you said that this is something that we cannot allow to happen again. How did this crisis arise in the first place?

Thompson:

The crisis arose because the United States was the only one that was contributing money, the United States gave a first installment, a second installment, and a third pledge. Other countries when the Fund was set up gave a pledge, some of which have been converted to cash, but they hadn't followed through with a second or third. Now they're doing that, and I thank them very much, France has increased their contribution, Germany and Ireland have each given two grants, the United States has given three, so other countries now need to increase their amounts, the United States has given 47% of the cash and has 50% of the pledges, and 42% of the dollars right now for Round 3.

The United States cannot carry it alone, we need a lot more support. That's why I went to the European Commission to talk to them, we have to get more to more people involved. After that, after the governments, we have to get the private sector and the foundations involved, and I'm trying to meet with those individuals and appear in front of them and give speeches, I'm trying to encourage them to contribute as well.

That's the resource side. [Meanwhile,] the demand side has increased because there's so much need out there, countries are looking for assistance, they've applied for and increased their applications and therefore a lot of money is [needed], we've got less money coming in and more demand, that's the problem we've got. Now, with all of the announcements by the President of the United States, and getting that $15 billion dollars through, and the announcement by France, hopefully we're going to start getting more government involvement, and then we're going to have to find a way to get more foundations and private sector involvement, in order to balance out that three-legged stool and be able to get the dollars in.

Then we're going to have to look at the demand side and find out what programs are working the best and make sure those are the ones getting funded, that's what the TRP [Technical Review Panel] is doing, and it's doing a wonderful job. We'll just have to keep working at it, it's not easy, and we may never be able to have a complete balance, but we've got to have a closer balance between the need and the resources than what we have right now.

GFO:

If Europe increased its Global Fund pledges this year, in time for Round 3, so that the total amount that Europe has given to the Fund were to exceed the total amount that the US has given, would the US increase its pledge for either FY03 or FY04 so that its total contribution thus far matched the total European contribution?

Thompson:

it's impossible to increase the Fiscal Year 03 appropriation. There's always the possibility, if Europe increased its contributions to meet or exceed the US contribution, the US might increase its FY04 appropriation, but that still has to be seen.

GFO:

Dr. Feachem [Executive Director of the Fund] has said that he'd like the Fund eventually to be able to spend something like $7-8 billion per annum. Some donor countries have said that the number should be much lower. What are your views on this?

Thompson:

Well, we have huge problems in the world. My job as chairman is to do the best job I possibly can to get more contributors and more of a balance, from government and NGOs and charitable foundations and the private sector, and that's why I'm working hard at it. I don't know what the optimum amount is; I know that it's more than we have right now, and that's what I'm working hard on. I don't know if anybody can say it's $X at this point in time, because we don't know. We're such an embryonic organization, we've been in existence about two years, and I think we've done extremely well. We've got 155 projects approved in 93 countries in two years, that's pretty good. Now it's up to the Secretariat and the Board to get the money out.

We've only got about $32 m. out and we've committed about $1.6 billion, so it's our responsibility to get the money out the door and get it set up properly so that we have the right management and the right fiscal responsibilities in the right places so that we can show that we're doing well. I think if we do well, it's going to be easier to get foundations and the private sector and governments to contribute more in the future.

So it's sort of the type of thing that a lot of responsibility rests upon my shoulders as the chairman of the board, on board members and the Secretariat, to do a good job with the money we have, because if we start showing results, we have a better story to tell and a better opportunity to convince people and governments to contribute.

GFO:

Will the USA attend the July 16 $quot;International Meeting to Support the Global Fund$quot; in Paris? If so, will the USA serve as co-chair, with France, of this meeting?

Thompson:

I met with the Minister from France. I am going back to look at my schedule, I've thanked the French, I've thanked the Minister, I think it's a good step forward to get more attention out, but I've been to Europe now twice in less than a month, and I do have one of the biggest departments in the federal government, so I have a lot of things on my plate, including Medicare to get through Congress, so if in fact I can clear my schedule I want to be there, I want to do it, but I have spent an enormous amount of time already on the board and board functions to get it steered, to get it moving.

GFO:

So, if your schedule were to permit, you would like to be able to co-chair that conference?

Thompson:

That is correct.

GFO:

If, in October, the TRP recommends approval of Round 3 proposals that would cost significantly more money than the Fund has available at that time, how would you suggest the Board respond to the TRP's recommendations?

Thompson:

It appears that that's what's going to happen - that there's going to be more approved projects than we have resources for. I think that's why we've spent a good deal of time yesterday and I understand that there's chance it's going to come up again, that's why I want to get back into the meeting quickly. If it does, we'll have to decide. But the board has given the Committee directions on making recommendations for October, and I don't want to pre-judge the Committee, I think the Committee is fully capable to making many kind of solutions.

it's obvious what are the choices. One is to reduce the amount of money that each one is going to receive; Two, is to make a determination of which proposals get funded; Three is to delay some proposals and have them come back in Round 4 or 5. Four is to make a cutoff and say this is the amount of money we have and fund that money and then stop. So those are the four options we have, any one of those, but the Committee is working on them and I don't want, at this point in time, to pre-judge or make a decision for the Committee.

GFO:

You recently said $quot;In my role as Chair, I am working hard to ensure that the Fund has the right management and accountability systems in place to fulfill our common vision.$quot; What do you mean when you refer to the need for $quot;the right management systems$quot;? And do you have full confidence in the current management team?

Thompson:

Well, first thing is you've got to have a strong TRP. I think we do. They're doing a good job. I have some of my own experts, back in my department, that advise me on this, and they're comfortable with the process.

I think the CCMs [Country Coordinating Mechanisms] are working as well as we can expect, but they're so new that we want to see. You know, every time we start in an embryonic organization like this and have a tremendous ramp-up, going from nothing to being in a multi-billion-dollar organization in two years, that's a tremendous build-up, so you're going to have some mistakes, you're going to have some organizations that don't measure up.

Third, our PRs [Principal Recipients], we're working on those, trying to make sure they're the best.

Then the LFAs [Local Fund Agents], which are funded strictly by the board to that they retain their independence, which is a good thing, but they are still in the process of reviewing the few projects that are out there, so it's too early to say how well they're going to perform. But I think they're going to do quite well, I'm quite confident and comfortable with the systems that we've set up, I think the accountability and the kinds of fiscal responsibility that we have placed in-country for these projects are very sound.

I think the worst thing for the Fund would be to have some money diverted and not get to the people in need. So I, and the board, and the Secretariat, we're working very hard to make sure that doesn't happen. We want this to be squeaky-clean, we don't want any conflicts of interest, we want the money to get to the people that need it, we want the fiscal as well as the managerial accountability in place and do a job.

Now, as far as the management team, I think that overall it's very strong, I think that there are couple of places that we need some strengthening, I've talked to Dr. Feachem about that and will continue to do so, and Dr. Feachem's going to make the decision, he's the Executive Director, I can advise, I can give him my opinions, that's what I'll do, I'll do it in private so that he knows what I'm thinking and he can give me his response, but overall, I'm quite satisfied.

GFO:

Does the Fund's board focus sufficiently on big-picture issues? Does it sufficiently leave the working details to the Secretariat?

Thompson:

I think overall, yes, but I think that like the Fund is in its embryonic state, the board too has got growing pains. And as a board that is so diverse, has so many different interests, there's going to be always a tendency to micro-manage, because they're all wonderful people, they're all very passionate about who they represent and why they represent them and so on. They wouldn't be on the board if they didn't have those passions, so you're going to have some of that, but I felt, and I hope you felt the same thing, that we made a lot of progress in the last day and a half, and I think we probably made more progress in this board meeting than they have ever, and I think that's a good sign. I think the board, like the management, like the CCMs and the PRs, are young, but they're starting to mature. And that's going to take some learning, and it's also going to improve with time and with results.

I think right now we probably are not visionary enough, but I think that's going to come, I just think we all had to work so hard to get it up and running, which is an amazing thing, when you realize that this was non-existent two years ago, and now it's a multi-billion-dollar corporation in two years. I don't know of any corporation that's grown that rapidly before, and to get this far with as few problems and as few setbacks, I think is absolutely stupendous, and I think the credit goes to the Secretariat, to Dr. Feachem, to the board members, and to the TRP.

GFO:

What would you like to be most remembered for after your term of office as Chair of the Fund?

Thompson:

Well, that's for other people to decide. I wanted to be chair because I think I'm a strong leader, I think I can give it some direction, I think I can help it mature, and I think I've been in enough situations in my long experience in government that I know government, I know how it works, and I think I can add a lot of assets as far as organization, direction, and raising dollars, and if I do that, then I will be remembered well, and that's for you and other people that watch the board to make that determination.

Right now, I just want to be able to do the job and to be able to get this board up and running and doing the best job it possibly can because of the tremendous need out there, and if I can play a small part in helping to alleviate that need, I will have accomplished my objective.

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