Feature story

Civil society and donor organizations talk AIDS financing at ICASA 2011

06 December 2011

Donor representatives interacting with civil society members at the community dialogue space.
Credit: UNAIDS/J.Ose

On Monday 5 December, discussions in the community dialogue space at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) focused on financing the AIDS response. On this theme, UNAIDS and UNDP co-hosted the event ‘Donor dialogue session: Funding the grassroots and sustainable financing of the HIV response in Africa.’ The major part of the discussion revolved around the current economic situation and the fact that donors are decreasing their funding for AIDS.  The session allowed for direct interaction between donors and civil society representatives, and participants seized this opportunity to call for sustained funding for community organizations.

Set up as a panel of donor representatives, the audience asked panellists questions from the floor. Civil society participants were concerned about the cancellation of the Round 11 by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). As one member of the audience highlighted “we fear the consequences of discontinuing HIV treatment as a result of this cancellation.” The Global Fund representative Mark Edington, Director of Country Programmes, assured participants that the Global Fund is fully operational and committed to continue working with civil society organizations. Mr Edington also affirmed that “people already on ARVs are our top priority, and there is no question that we will maintain funding available for those already on treatment.”

Civil society representatives also asked how grassroots organizations could access funding given the current financial situation. Sheri Nouane Duncan Jones, HIV/AIDS Team Leader with USAID Ethiopia explained the ongoing change to their funding mechanisms. The organization is moving away from traditional umbrella funding—where international donor funds are transferred to grassroots organizations through bigger non-governmental organizations—to a direct funding through grant application to small local organizations. This approach is expected to cut intermediary fees as well as to increase effectiveness of the programmes funded.

People already on ARVs are our top priority, and there is no question that we will maintain funding available for those already on treatment

Mark Edington, Director of Country Programmes, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. TB and Malaria

Other issues addressed during the dialogue were related to strengthening accountability and transparency of civil society, its capacity to implement programmes and transform itself in a rapidly changing funding environment. Community members emphasized their need for capacity building on proposal writing to access funding. The lack of technical support available could jeopardize their future access to funding, participants said.

The session was moderated by Cheikh Tidian Tall, Executive Director of the African Council of AIDS Service Organizations. Representatives from the donor community that participated in the dialogue included Sheri Nouane Duncan Jones, HIV/AIDS Team Leader, USAID Ethiopia, Mary ODUKA, Senior HIV/AIDS Advisor, Irish AID, Kristina Kloss, German Back-Up Initiative, GIZ, Miriam Vuckovich, Technical Adviser on HIV/AIDS, GIZ and Mark Edington, Director of Country Programmes, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB and Malaria.

The community dialogue space at ICASA 2011 is dedicated to highlighting the successes and challenges faced by grassroots organizations and civil society in Africa. All the sessions open and dialogue based allowing for much more interaction with the panel members and the audience. The overall goal of the space is to provide a venue for civil society and people living with HIV to meet and interact with prominent leaders from governments, international organizations, UN agencies, the private sector and other groups from within the region and around the world.