Civil society organizations have been at the heart of everything the Global Fund does from the very beginning. Indeed, it was the grass-roots efforts of thousands of civil society groups around the world advocating for increased resources for the response to HIV and AIDS that led to the creation of the Global Fund in 2002.
Since that time, civil society has played an active role at every level of Global Fund operations, from policy development to implementation.
Civil society actively participates in governance at the international level. Of the 20 voting seats on the Global Fund Board, ten are allocated to implementer constituencies – of which three are held by civil society representatives. One seat represents nongovernmental organizations from the developed world, one represents nongovernmental organizations from the developing world, and the third seat represents communities living with the diseases. As part of the Board, they participate actively in evolving the organizational strategy, designing the funding model, overseeing the work of the Secretariat, and establishing policy.
At the country level, civil society participates actively in the decision-making process through membership in the Country Coordinating Mechanism, the national body that is responsible for creating the requests for funding and overseeing implementation. While it is still a challenge to ensure that everyone is able to contribute in a meaningful way, these organizations are increasingly making their voices heard.
In addition to participation in the Country Coordinating Mechanism, civil society plays a key role in ensuring a thorough and empowering country dialogue around the response to AIDS, TB and malaria.
Civil society organizations also play a key role in influencing how government budgets address health and in delivering messages that hold governments accountable and transparent. In both donor and implementing countries, civil society is an important partner in advocating for increased government health spending and resource mobilization. The Global Fund follows country health financing trends and creates ways for civil society to more deeply understand the current state of domestic financing for health, including as those trends relate to countries’ co-financing commitments to the Global Fund.
Civil society organizations also play a key role at the local level. Community-based organizations serve as implementers of Global Fund grants; often they can reach key populations and communities that are not reached by government efforts. Experience has shown that programs implemented by civil society are at least as effective as those put in place by government agencies or private sector implementers.
These organizations also play a useful role in representing the needs and interests of key populations in designing programs, and in their capacity as watchdogs, to ensure that programs are implemented as intended.
On a more political level, civil society has a crucial role to play in terms of advocating on behalf of the Global Fund, both in raising awareness in recipient countries and as part of larger fundraising efforts with donor governments. Most civil society organizations are members of the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN), which builds on and brings together the structures, expertise and experience that has been developed since 2002 to support the Global Fund. GFAN works with advocates, activists and affected communities in the both the global south and the global north, as well as the Friends of the Fund organizations.
“Civil society” is the term we used to designate all those stakeholders who are neither government bodies nor private sector enterprises: groups such as nongovernmental organizations, advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, networks of people living with the diseases, and so on.