Inclusive engagement for health and development or ‘political theatre’: results from case studies examining mechanisms for country ownership in Global Fund processes in Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe
Background: For many countries, including Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, 2017 was a transition year for support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as one funding cycle closed and another would begin in 2018. Since its inception in 2001, the Global Fund has required that countries demonstrate ownership and transparency in the development of their funding requests through specific processes for inclusive, deliberative engagement led by Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs). In reporting results from case study research, the article explores whether, in the context of the three countries, such requirements continue to be fit-for-purpose given difficult choices to be made for financing and sustaining their HIV programmes.
Results: The findings show how complex, competing priorities for limited resources increasingly strain processes for inclusive deliberation, a core feature of the Global Fund model. Each country has chosen expansion of HIV treatment programmes as its main strategy for epidemic control relying almost exclusively on external funding sources for support. This step has, in effect, pre-committed HIV funding, whether available or not, well into the future. It has also largely pre-empted the results of inclusive dialogue on how to allocate Global Fund resources. As a result, such processes may be entering the realm of ‘political theatre,’ or processes for processes’ sake alone, rather than being important opportunities where critical decisions regarding priorities for national HIV programmes and how they are funded could or should be made.
Conclusion: To address this, the Global Fund has begun an initiative to shore-up the capabilities of CCMs, with specialised technical and financial support, so that they can both grasp and influence the overall financing and sustainability of HIV programmes, rather than focusing on Global Fund programmes alone. What stronger CCMs could achieve, given the growing HIV-treatment-related commitments in these three countries, remains to be seen. Starting in 2020, the three countries will discover what resources the Global Fund will have for them for the 2021–2023 period. The resource needs for expanding HIV treatment programmes for this period are already foreseeable leaving few if any options for future deliberation should funding from the Global Fund and others not grow at a similar pace