Getting it togetherThe country coordinating mechanism for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria needs to work collaboratively
The Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the election of eligible individuals to represent non-governmental constituencies on the Country Coordination Mechanism in Nepal (CCMN) for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was published in Kantipur and Himalayan Times on Saturday, March 21, and will be republished this week. This is the first official step taken by UNAIDS Nepal, which was requested to facilitate the civil society membership election process for the CCMN. The two-year term of the current CCMN will be over at the end of March. The Global Fund (GF) requires a fair, transparent, democratic, and well-documented election process to represent five specified non-governmental constituencies in Nepal. Each sub-constituency of these communities will elect member(s) and alternate member(s) to represent that particular sub-constituency on the CCMN.
The Global Fund, a public-private partnership, was founded in 2002 with a commitment to increase funding to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The GF requires a CCM to guide the proposal writing process based on priorities, allocate funds, and oversee the implementation and management of funds. Out of 25 seats on the CCMN, 10 are reserved for government representatives. The current CCMN has representatives from the Health and Finance ministries, among others. The other 15 seats are for non-governmental members.
Out of these 15, two are reserved for external development partners: the bilaterals and multilaterals. The remaining 13 seats are divided amongst five constituencies, representing civil society: key populations—people who inject drugs, sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and transgender people; people living with or affected by one or more of the diseases (HIV, TB and malaria); non-governmental organisations working in the area(s) of HIV and/or TB and/or Malaria; NGOs in the Far West, Mid-west and Western regions working in the area of HIV and/or TB and/or Malaria, and Eastern Region NGOs working in the area of HIV and/or TB, and/or Malaria); private for profit enterprises, businesses, media houses, industry, corporations, etc; and academia.
A recent assessment by Grant Management Solutions has flagged the CCMN for non-compliance in several areas. The current CCMN met numerous times, much more than the average GF requirement of four annual meetings, but was still unable to resolve key issues. It was also found that the attendance rate of CCMN members during these meetings hovered only around 40 percent on average. The CCMN was also unable to demonstrate a satisfactory and linear process of grant management and oversight. On top of all this, female representation on the current CCMN does not meet the minimum 30 percent required by the CCMN.
In order to secure and disburse the funds and oversee crucial projects, it is imperative that the CCMN is reconstituted in a timely manner, so that it can function fairly and efficiently. But that may be asking for too much from a country that is fraught with internal fragmentation and a civil society that, understandably, finds the interpretation of donor guidelines challenging.
Constituency v organisation
In terms of the upcoming election process, one of the key challenges for civil society seems to be deciphering the difference between the terms constituency and organisation. For example, let’s take the sub-constituency of ‘people who inject drugs’ that is a subset of the larger constituency of key populations. There are several different organisations working with this sub-constituency in Nepal. The GF has carefully spelled out that the CCMN seat allocated for this sub-constituency goes to an individual who is able to represent the entire sub-constituency and not just one organisation. The most common way of demonstrating true representation is a fair and democratic election process involving all the organisations working with this sub-constituency, and also individuals who may be working independently with key populations but not necessarily with or closely affiliated with any organisation.
Prominent organisations and national networks of key populations have already voiced their discontent with this particular requirement, claiming that their organisations already work with and represent the entire sub-constituency; hence, they should be more involved with the CCMN reconstitution process. However, they don’t seem to take into account other individuals or organisations working within the same constituency.
On Thursday, March 19, UNAIDS invited some of these disaffected individuals to its country office to listen to their concerns, and also to provide feedback on the EOI that was getting drafted. One of their concerns—“Why did the election process get started so late even though they had already expressed a need to reconstitute the CCMN in November 2014?”—seems legitimate; so do points that question the validity and functionality of the current CCMN. Hence the need, indeed, for a speedy reconstitution. The other concerns relate to years of frustration resulting from an opaque and inefficient bureaucracy.
Constituencies in Nepal are fragmented. There is a history of petty disputes and personal rivalries. Outspoken individuals from civil society have expressed their concerns and demanded a fair and transparent election process. An ideal scenario envisioned by the Global Fund for the CCM of Nepal includes individuals listening to each other, designing projects, and working together to reduce morbidity and mortality related to HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. But the reality is different.
Nevertheless, this is another opportunity for civil society to come together and collaborate for the common public good. We need community leaders who are able to understand and interpret donors’ guidelines, reach across networks and organisations and nominate representatives based on a fair and transparent process. Let’s hope that this goal can be achieved.
Kunwar is a writer and educator based in Kathmandu