If you give your money to a good cause you want your money used well. And the good news is that there are organisations out there spending your money well, really well. They are transparent, efficient and when problems happen, they deal with it.
There is one in particular that supports 3.3 million people on HIV treatment. It is called the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. You might have heard of it...
Here at IPPF, the Global Fund is a key partner. But the Fund has been facing problems. It's short of money and it's been criticised a lot for reports of corruption. Judging from the headlines you might think it is a den of thieves, robbing from the poor.
The truth seems very different. If anything, the headlines are the worst possible advert for being honest. When the Global Fund openly reports its own problems, they are leapt on. Does anyone really think other organisations involved in global health don’t have problems of corruption? Come on, really? Judging from recent reports on aid transparency, the Global Fund is probably actually about the best.
There are solutions everywhere, and evaluations and reports have led to big plans for reform. And many of these are valuable contributions. But, as reforms kick in, the Global Fund is starting to become very distant from those it is meant to help, and is seeminly unaccountable.
It seems to be moving away from the founding principle of being a new way of working involving close cooperation with communities and those living with HIV, TB, Malaria and civil society generally. Instead, decisions are being made on leadership and reform with high speed. Executive Directors resign, and new general managers are appointed with dizzying speed (both announced the same day).
More to the point, a lot of people seem to agree the Global Fund has generally been a success since it was established, but governments don’t really seem to be listening and giving the support needed.
If governments aren’t going to support the fund, then perhaps the fund should be asking you and me – citizens – directly for support? The Global Fund is distant and remote from citizens. It isn’t a name on the street. It gets money from governments, the private sector and foundations. And this is one factor in meaning there is little popular pressure on our governments to provide financial support, or to be more even handed in their criticism.
So if the Global Fund needs more money and more support from citizens, the people on the street, do they do direct debit? Can I give them £5 a month, like many people do for Oxfam, Amnesty or IPPF? Sure, I don’t have billions of dollars spare (the current funding gap). But the Fund is global. Imagine if, say, 5 million people gave $5 a month, that is $300,000,000 a year.
There are a few amongst us (bankers) who might give a lot more. Who knows, perhaps we’d get $1,000,000,000 a year. It's a start. And maybe you could get a lot more people doing it.
This might seem slightly ridiculous. But then there used to be some who thought giving HIV treatment to the poorest in our societies was ridiculous. Not many people think like that now, thankfully. Having this kind of direct link to a powerhouse of health financing could be an important shift towards more genuine global solidarity.
If citizens are genuinely engaged with the Global Fund – and it isn’t just governments, foundations and the private sector with this link – then maybe it will be that bit harder to score political points at its expense and to deny it support.
The Global Fund’s structure with civil society at its core was once a real innovation, and a source of strength. Perhaps now, when the Global Fund seems distant and unaccountable, we can take another innovative step to link it even further with citizens around the world?