19 May 2023
Sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) are a violation of a person’s rights and are completely contrary to the Global Fund’s values and mission. These acts are unacceptable. Given our extended partnership, programs funded by the Global Fund are, unfortunately, not immune to these unacceptable behaviors that are rooted in abuses of positions of power.
Ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria depends on the successful delivery of services to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. These populations are also among the most vulnerable to SEAH. Cognizant that our ability to fight the three diseases depends on safe access to critical health services, we are determined to put in place safeguards to prevent, detect and respond to SEAH in all the programs that we support.
Since the 2021 publication of the Global Fund’s Operational Framework on the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Harassment, and Related Abuse of Power [ download in English ] , we have been diligently working to mitigate the risk of sexual misconduct in Global Fund-funded grants through requiring training and education for key stakeholders, providing support to our implementers in prevention and response capacity, and via the incorporation of SEAH risk management throughout the grant lifecycle, including tailored, program-specific safeguards at the grant level. These measures are designed to keep those involved in Global Fund-funded activities as safe as possible.
The Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General investigated and substantiated a case of sexual exploitation and abuse concerning an executive of a sub-recipient of a sex worker program in South Africa. The Office of the Inspector General found that the executive abused his power to sexually exploit, abuse and harass staff of the program and its beneficiaries.
A sub-recipient is an organization that receives grant funds indirectly from the Global Fund, through a Principal Recipient. A Principal Recipient is an entity that receives grant funds directly from the Global Fund and is legally responsible for the implementation of a Global Fund grant. The report on SEAH in South Africa highlights the need to ensure all Principal Recipients are clear on this accountability.
In this case, the Principal Recipient provided psychosocial support to victims/survivors identified during the investigation. In line with our victim/survivor-centered approach, the Global Fund’s victim advocate and in-country support coordinator provided additional in-person support to all victims/survivors during the investigation. The victim advocate has kept the victims/survivors updated on the progress of the investigation, including publication of the report. The Global Fund is facilitating access to support services for known victims/survivors, including basic needs, medical, and psychological support services.
The sub-recipient concerned is no longer implementing the sex worker program funded by the Global Fund. We will demand that the Principal Recipient ensures that the individual responsible for the sexual exploitation and abuse described in the report will not be involved in the implementation of any Global Fund-supported grants. We will also expect Principal Recipients in South Africa to put in place effective policies and processes to make employees aware of the guidelines for reporting SEAH and that they comply with them by reporting the prohibited practices.
The Global Fund also has a dedicated Protection from Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment (PSEAH) Coordination Unit to institutionalize and coordinate a comprehensive approach to protection from SEAH and related abuse of power, both at the Global Fund Secretariat and across the countries where we invest. The unit includes a prevention team, a victim advocate and case managers.
Through tangible and measurable actions, we are accelerating the implementation of the PSEAH Operational Framework. That effort is fully informed by the needs of the victim(s)/survivor(s), an approach that brings together local partners implementing our grants in each country who are best poised to respond and – better yet – to work to prevent such instances wherever possible. A critical part of our PSEAH implementation work involves ensuring safe and effective reporting channels for any incidents of sexual misconduct across the grants we support and increasing general PSEAH awareness among our most vulnerable beneficiary populations.
As a critical component of these efforts, we are conducting a broad assessment of our Principal Recipients in terms of their capacity to prevent, detect and respond to SEAH. We expect Principal Recipients to have clear and concrete policies on how to prevent SEAH, implement safe recruitment practices, conduct regular PSEAH training for key stakeholders and embed a victim/survivor-centered approach across all activities. We expect Principal Recipients to facilitate or provide assistance to any known victim(s)/survivor(s) related to their safety and protection, medical care, psychosocial support and legal services, as well as to facilitate their timely, safe and confidential access to a remedy. Where gaps are identified in a Principal Recipient’s ability to prevent or respond to SEAH, the Global Fund has put in place processes to support remedial or capacity-building efforts.
Prioritizing countries where the Global Fund has made big investments in activities that are rated high risk for SEAH, we are also integrating grant-level risk mitigation measures through direct engagement with implementers and beneficiaries of the programs. Relying on local stakeholders to help identify areas of SEAH risk and develop corresponding mitigation measures, we are working together to design bespoke interventions that will enable the safest possible delivery of Global Fund-supported health services. Incorporating local voices into SEAH risk mitigation work is a key component of our work to engage and empower the most at-risk and marginalized communities facing an inherent risk of SEAH in their environment.
As the Executive Director of the Global Fund, I want to reiterate that the Global Fund expects its staff and partners worldwide to adhere to the highest ethical standards in the conduct of Global Fund-supported activities and that the Global Fund has both zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and zero tolerance for inaction when such abuse is detected. When allegations of SEAH arise, Principal Recipients are expected to report them promptly to the Global Fund so that together we can ensure an appropriately tailored response.
We hope the report will help dissuade similar egregious conduct and meanwhile encourage the victim(s)/survivor(s) to trust that we support and protect the confidentiality of those who bravely speak out and that we will sensitively and thoroughly investigate allegations. This investigation sends a strong and unequivocal signal that we are, from our Board to our staff and to all recipients of our grants, united in our commitment to protect against any kind of sexual misconduct in Global Fund-funded activities.