This article is part of our special report Progress and Partnerships in Development.
Global health is a shared responsibility, and addressing today’s global health challenges requires us to go beyond the 20th-century model of donors and recipients, writes Christoph Benn.
Dr Christoph Benn is the Director of External Relations of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Health challenges have important societal and economic consequences, and in today’s interconnected world the consequences for not addressing these challenges can affect us all.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria works to involve a wide range of partners in the fight, because the only way to end these three deadly epidemics is if all come together: governments, civil society, communities affected by the diseases, technical partners, the private sector, faith-based organizations, and other funders.
Private sector partners contribute in a number of ways: their finances, their knowledge, their participation in governance, their abilities as implementers, and through advocacy. Public-private partnerships are mutually beneficial: private sector partners understand that investing in health equals investing in markets, people and the long-term profitability of their businesses. Partnering with the Global Fund also brings visibility, recognition and opportunities to further develop their businesses. For the Global Fund, it is an opportunity for us to leverage the skills and expertise of the private sector to be more effective at tackling today’s biggest global health challenges.
Since the Global Fund started operating in 2002, new models build on the Global Fund’s founding principle of multilateralism, bringing together diverse parties to mobilise and invest nearly US$4 billion a year. Private sector partners have contributed US$2.2 billion since the Global Fund started operating, including substantial commitments from the from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as almost US$500 million generated by PRODUCT(RED), a coalition of the world’s most iconic brands that develop (RED)-branded products and services to benefit the Global Fund. Private sector involvement is on the rise: In September last year, private donors and innovative financing initiatives reached US$250 million for the period 2017-2019, more than twice as much as in the previous period.
But under its new strategy, the Global Fund continues to look beyond traditional funding approaches to mobilise the requisite funds to reach the global goals of ending the epidemics by 2030. We work closely with partners to develop alternative funding mechanisms that work within the ecosystem of sustainable domestic financing for health. Some of our initiatives include impact investing, country-led health trust funds, social impact and health bonds, concessional financing, and Debt2Health (a debt swap to raise funds for health) among others.
Private partners also help Global Fund-supported programs to work better through sharing their knowledge and technical expertise. For example, Project Last Mile, a partnership with the Coca-Cola Company that was first pioneered in Tanzania in 2008, draws on Coca-Cola’s years of experience in distributing beverages to remote locations, to make significant improvements in the storage, distribution and marketing of lifesaving medicines and medical supplies.
SAP is lending its software development knowledge to increase the efficiency of Global Fund grants. Standard Bank provides financial and management training to Global Fund grant recipients to ensure accountable and effective financial management of Global Fund-supported programs. Other innovative solutions include social impact bonds, where the Global Fund seeks to establish a new type of outcome-based contracts, where governments and external donors specify the outcomes to be achieved and agree to pay for them only if those outcomes are attained.
With the assurance that comes from investing under the Global Fund model – which includes rigorous monitoring and evaluation controls on programme quality, risk management procedures, and a focus on maximising impact – partners are able to expand their portfolio to include national health projects.
Most importantly, The Global Fund partnership follows the lead of national governments in an effort to make global health sustainable by increasing domestic financing for health. The Fund implements counterpart financing policies to support countries in increasing domestic funding for the three diseases and the health sector more broadly. The Global Fund supports countries to access additional funds for their health programmes if they increase domestic funding.
As humbled as the Global Fund is to continue to earn the global community’s trust and support, the milestones outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals demand more creative ways to raise funds and engagement of more partners. The engagement of private sector in development cooperation is also a key priority for the European Commission, and for a number of member states such as Belgium.
Global health is a shared responsibility, and addressing today’s global health challenges requires us to go beyond the 20th-century model of donors and recipients. Effective public-private partnerships leverage the unique expertise of governments, the private sector, and organisations like the Global Fund, increasing our ability to dramatically improve and save the lives of millions around the world. We are very close to eliminating these pandemics as public health threats. And together we can.