Global Fund Finances – better news, challenges ahead

This morning two key advocacy groups organized a teleconference with Christoph Benn, the Director for the External Relations and Partnership Cluster at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, so that we could learn more about the recent GFATM Board Decision to cancel Round 11 proposals/funding. The main take away message is that the GFATM is NOT in an immediate financial crisis, but that longer term projections could be at risk.

gfatm-r11.jpgChristoph Benn was reassuring about the ability to carry on and scale up commitments made for funding rounds 8, 9, and 10. Organizers of the teleconference, the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and Friends of the Global Fight (Friends), encouraged participants to strengthen advocacy efforts with the US Congress where the longer term challenges lie in getting pledges for future funding.

There was talk of the GFATM 2012-16 Strategy that calls for funding based on national policies, national need (gap analysis) and dialogue with partners.  Christoph Benn indicated that Round 11 would have been the last of the formal funding rounds as we have known them, and its cancellation simply pushes us faster towards the new funding strategy. It was also made clear that there would be a weaning of G20 countries off of GFATM money, though commitments to high risk target groups in existing projects would be honored until those grants closed.

Again the short term effect is that countries that would have needed Round 11 funding will be encouraged to apply for transitional funds that will hold them over until the 2012-16 Strategy is fully implemented.  The Roll Back malaria Harmonization Working Group, for example, will be helping countries who intended to apply for malaria grants in R11 to undertake their gap analysis and planning in order to obtain transition funding.  This can only happen after the GFATM revises the application guidelines. As Christoph Benn explained, the ramifications of last months’ Board meeting in Accra are still being worked out.

Back to the longer term concerns or what was termed the uncertainties  of funding forecasts based on donor conditions.  Many donor countries have pledged to continue their funding levels to GFATM, and the United Kingdom has even pledged an increase. But all eyes are on the U.S. Congress, who initially pledged to maintain level funding this past summer, but now is uncertain whether global health and foreign assistance will receive support. It was basically this change of heart that put the brakes on R11 funding.

Our advocacy partners had heard from members of the Congress that they were worried about the financial health of the GFATM, but now have been told that the GFATM is still very much viable.  It is the longer term expansion beyond current commitments that is in question.  Rephrasing Jeffrey Sachs’ concern, “Will Washington leave millions to die?”

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