Office of the Inspector General

© UNDP Guinea-Bissau / Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Message from the Executive Director – Removing Human Rights-related Barriers

27 November 2019

Removing human rights-related barriers is critically important work, so I would like to thank the Office of the Inspector General for this timely advisory report. As we prepare to launch a new cycle of grants, with a mandate to achieve even greater impact, it especially important that we factor in the promotion and protection of human rights, and that we strongly support efforts to remove human rights-related barriers.

I am deeply concerned about whether we are collectively making rapid enough progress on dismantling human rights-related barriers to health. We must further integrate human rights considerations in all aspects of the grant cycle and in our policies and policy-making processes. I also think it’s important that in any discussion of removing human rights-related barriers, we strike a balance between celebrating the path-breaking work we’re undertaking and acknowledging that, despite the considerable impact we are achieving, we absolutely have to make more progress. We will never succeed in ending the HIV epidemic unless we can accelerate the removal of barriers to health.

Our Breaking Down Barriers initiative is inspiring. In late October, a team of researchers doing mid-term assessments on the 20 countries in the initiative met in the Global Health Campus, documenting the great results we have been able to achieve in these countries, which sometimes have exceeded our expectations. Over the coming months, the initiative’s Steering Committee will analyse the advisory report and prepare a detailed response and action plan, and to incorporate input in the Global Fund’s priorities for 2020.

While removing human rights-related barriers is the obvious priority, actions to advance human rights are equally important. Strategic Objective 3 isn’t just about removing the negatives, but also about the imperative to “promote and protect” the positive. “Health as a human right” should not be dismissed. We need to be promoting and protecting human rights in our grant-making by focusing on the needs of those most marginalized and left behind.

We must set ambitious strategic goals, and it will be equally important to match them with resource commitments. We encountered delays in the start of work on removing barriers, and that is understandable considering the innovative character of the project.

Looking forward, we have new catalytic funding with both strategic initiative and matching funds components. We are also adding some extra resource as part of “CRG Accelerate,” the transformation that is orienting work by the Community, Rights & Gender Department to be more closely aligned with Grant Management.

With all of this work in mind, we also have to be realistic about what difference we can make. The Global Fund is a critically important player in this field, but we can’t drive the whole human rights agenda. We take a programmatic, pragmatic and practical approach to human rights, but ultimately it is countries and communities that must drive change in removing human rights-related barriers.

Respectfully,
Peter Sands