Improving partnership and harmonization on AIDS

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Feature story

Improving partnership and harmonization on AIDS

21 September 2007

CHAT helps map stakeholders in
countries and assess the strengths
and weaknesses of their engagement
with the national AIDS response.

With increased funding and technical support resources available for AIDS, the need for coordinated, harmonized and aligned national AIDS responses has never been greater. To help countries ensure inclusive, participatory national responses to AIDS, UNAIDS with the World Bank has developed the ‘Country Harmonization and Alignment Tool' (CHAT) to help map stakeholders in countries and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their engagement with the national AIDS response. Team Leader in the Aid Effectiveness Division, Desmond Whyms, explains how the tool can help move AIDS responses forward and lead to positive action for change.

What is CHAT?

Many countries now face the challenge of having considerable amounts of money and technical support for AIDS available, but often lack strong coordination for those resources to ensure a common focus among the wide variety of national partners and international partners. CHAT aims to inspire a more inclusive national response through a survey process which first maps the various stakeholders involved in the national response and then through structured interviews with national and international partners establishes how well the national partners are engaged and how harmonized the international players are. This systematic information gathering and analysis helps to put together a picture at country level of the quality of the partnerships in the AIDS response, which then catalyses a dialogue on the strengths and weaknesses, and can help countries move forward in a more harmonized way.

How should countries use CHAT?

Every country’s AIDS coordinating authority should be doing a regular review of progress and performance, and the CHAT is designed to be a part of that process. It is also possible to use CHAT as a free standing tool if a country wants to have a more immediate overview of the quality of the national and international engagement in the national AIDS plan.

What are the necessary steps to put the tool into practice?

CHAT has been piloted in several countries in 2006. In many of the pilot countries, the administration and analysis has been done by a consultant, on behalf of the national AIDS authority. It is designed as a light process that is not burdensome for staff in the national AIDS authority. The consultant administers the appropriate questionnaires—one for national and one for international partners, and then collates and analyses the data to produce a draft report. The CHAT contains guidance on how to do this.

CHAT covers the range of areas in which the
national and international partners should be
engaged with the AIDS response at the country

Can you give an example of some of the areas covered in the questionnaire?

CHAT covers the range of areas in which the national and international partners should be engaged with the AIDS response at the country level like strategy development, resource allocation, administration and monitoring procedures. The questions are based on what is best practice and what’s been promised by international institutions’ headquarters, following their commitments to the Paris Declaration, the Three Ones and the Global Task Team for example. By the very fact of starting to ask these questions at the country level we are starting to put pressure to move in this direction, and that we need to improve the way we work and the way we are engaging to achieve results.

The questionnaires are in the format of self reporting, for example: does your organization participate in decision making about the allocation of resources within the national AIDS budget? For many of the national partners we’ve contacted in the pilot countries, this is the first time anyone had ever really asked them these questions. The feedback has been that this exercise is empowering as all voices are being listened to.

What happens at the end of the questionnaire and analysis?

The output is an analytical report which is intended to feed into the discussions in the context of the joint AIDS review. Most of the international community has already signed up to the principles of good practice and the challenge of the CHAT is to see if those principles are being applied in a particular country to the AIDS response. This is the only tool that exists that allows us to explore this, the intention being that it will flag areas for improvement that can then be addressed through the AIDS review at national level. We can also bring the findings back to headquarters for a comparative analysis, and look at the patterns across the regions.

What are the benefits for the countries?

Most people know the quantity of the response within countries and they should know how much money is being brought by the different partners but what is less known is how well it is all adding up together and pulling in the same direction. This is a low-maintenance tool that really allows countries to start taking stock of the quality of the AIDS response in their countries in terms of harmonization and alignment between national and international partners. It will help us start making sure that we really are “making the money work” and moving towards Universal Access.


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Read more about the Three Ones