Your Voices, Your Views: Global Fund Partnership Forum 2011

Suksma Ratri, Vladimir Encarnación Jáquez, Bobby Ramakant
The 4th Partnership Forum of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (The Global Fund) was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil (28-30 June 2011) where participants were interviewed on what does this Partnership Forum means to them in their local contexts in fighting the three diseases.

Many respondents were very enthusiastic about the Partnership Forum because they feel it was a great avenue for the community to influence the Global Fund. “Of course the Partnership Forum is able to influence the Global Fund. 95% of recommendations from the Senegal Partnership Forum (2008) have been implemented – this is an evidence of how seriously the Global Fund takes the Partnership Forum. Most decisions taken at the Partnership Forum are taken very seriously by the Global Fund” said Shirley Tissera, Justice of Peace, All Island, Sri Lanka.

Agrees Mian Haroon Arshad, Pakistan: “Yes I do believe that the Partnership Forum is able to influence the Global Fund. The Partnership Forum has provided an opportunity to sort out things so that we can move forward towards our goals.”

Lucy Chesire, TB Advocacy Adviser, TB Action Group, Kenya raises a key point of balanced representation of communities affected by TB, HIV and malaria. “The Partnership Forum provides a great opportunity to address many concerns. For me, representation at the Partnership Forum is an issue as there are more voices from HIV/AIDS so it is discriminatory towards malaria and TB constituencies. If we are truly talking about all three diseases we need a balanced representation from across the three diseases’ constituencies” said Lucy.

Ricardo Luque, Advisor, General Directorate of Public Health, Ministry of Social Protection, Colombia, also compares this Partnership Forum with the previous ones. “In 2006 Durban Partnership Forum, all the outputs were not taken up by the Global Fund. For example, lot of discussion related to CCM constitution and bylaws took place in Durban Partnership Forum but nothing much happened thereafter. The process has now improved over the years as the Global Fund has been trying to fix it and the Global Fund board is quite open to outputs of this kind from the Partnership Forum” said Ricardo.

“The Partnership Forum is one of the four pillars whereby principal recipients, sub-recipients, local fund agents (LFA), implementers, the Global Fund board etc come together. The Forum is a major influence as we are informing the other parties of ground realities. The Forum is successful to influence policy and direction of the Global Fund” said Tapuwa Magure, National AIDS Council, Zimbabwe.

Richard Kasesela, Tanzania, also reviewed this Forum with the previous ones. “The Partnership Forum is gaining strength since the past ones. There have been some changes since Dakar to the Global Fund. The Global Fund being 10 years old, it needs to evolve. The funding provider has changed, emergence of BRICKS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, [South] Korea and South Africa) countries and lot of funding mechanism that is possible has also changed the situation. The Partnership Forum keeps on changing the way the Global Fund needs to work. The good thing is that it has moved from activism to constructive debate and dialogue” said Kasesela.

However, the participants from the Harm Reduction background still feel that the agenda and the issue are mostly dominated by LGBT and sex worker communities. Not too many injecting drug user (IDU) representatives were seen. The Harm Reduction activists had managed to coordinate themselves and actually plant at least one activist in every session room to make sure that somebody is there to remind the other participants about the importance of inclusion of harm reduction in the Global Fund agenda. Yvonne Sibuea, Board Member, Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD), felt that most of the participants did not recognize harm reduction or drug use issues and it wasn’t even mentioned by the parliamentarians. Thus, Yvonne felt that the Forum was somehow imbalanced.

Different to Yvonne, Midnight from Thailand could very much see the value of this Partnership Forum, but there was a language issue and he wants to see the possibility to have deliberations translated into other languages in the future to bring in more community members to the Forum. Midnight also emphasized that it is very important for the Global Fund to keep the communication mechanisms open with the communities at the country level. This is to ensure that the communities acknowledge that the Global Fund is committed to them and to ensure where the money goes is right. Yvonne, who also represents Advocacy Network for Drug Policy Reform, Indonesia, added: “More engagement of the communities in the Partnership Forum means more voices being spoken, if this opportunity of the Forum is used well and the representative can bring community voices in their place, it will help improve the responses.”

Khartini from Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) highlighted that in relations of gender mainstreaming in the agenda of the Global Fund, people need to realize that gender is a new thing in some regions such as Asia. So, it is much likely that people in that region will not be having adequate understanding regarding the word ‘gender’ itself. The Global Fund needs to be clear and careful when trying to integrate gender in their agenda.

Also Jovana Rios, from Panamá addressed the importance of diversify what the Global Fund has been doing, maybe, in the case of HIV, focus more on prevention through sexual education  and empowerment more than condons distribution.

Considering the theme for this Partnership Forum is ‘Working Together, Shaping the Future (access, accountability, rights)’, many of the participants strongly feel that the Global Fund needs to increase the involvement of the community members at the country level and to ensure that the representation of the community in the country coordinating mechanisms (CCMs) is meaningful, transparent and effective, and not tokenism.

Overall, participants are quite satisfied with the result of this three-day meeting. The question is always “What are the follow ups?”

Suksma Ratri, Vladimir Encarnación Jáquez, Bobby Ramakant