The NGOs and Communities Board Members and Liaison Officers met with the UNITAID Secretariat on 13 November 2015 to discuss UNITAID civil society engagement. UNITAID currently has no mechanism to fund CS and no strategy for how to engage CSOs. The Secretariat requested this meeting in order ‘explore strategic engagement areas related to the role of CS in UNITAID with a view to maximize the impact of UNITAID investments’. Our discussions on the day were largely structured around CS engagement in UNITAID grants, UNITAID’s strategic and upstream processes and UNITAID’s IP work.

CS engagement in grants

  • The Secretariat has done a mapping of where grantees are already engaging with CS. This mapping is based on project reports and a survey that was recently sent to all grantees. The Secretariat hopes to be able to monitor CSE from this baseline in a more robust manner once UNITAID’s new M&E system is fully developed.
  • Lelio Marmora (Executive Director of UNITAID) outlined his vision for UNITAID’s engagement with civil society. UNITAID’s role is to bring innovation to the response and its success is measured through scale up of UNITAID product by partners. Lelio sees a role for CS in driving this scale up through demand creation. For example, he sees CS advocating to national governments to adopt new guidelines, or to the CCM to include a UNITAID product in the next concept note. Lelio also sees a role for CS in tracking UNITAID projects, providing verification of what is happening in country beyond grantee reports.
  • The NGOs and Communities delegations agree that CS can play a role in UNITAID projects through demand creation and monitoring and evaluation. As well as the advocacy element of demand creation, we see a role for CS to do demand creation at the community level, focused on increasing health literacy.
  • Practically, Lelio sees CS engagement as the responsibility of grantees and suggested that a proportion of grantee budgets should go to CSOs where appropriate. The Grantee would be responsible for training CSOs to bring them up to speed on the technical aspects of a project and would also fund salaries and core costs to enable the CSO to do advocacy work with communities, the CCM and the government.
  • A key point of discussion throughout the day was how to identify the right CSOs for grantees to be engaging with. To avoid bias and to ensure legitimate representation of communities, the Secretariat suggested working through the already established CCMs. NGOs and Communities suggested that while the CCM will be the best mechanism in some countries, alternative platforms, including PEPFAR, will be more appropriate in other countries, particularly given the diversity of UNITAID’s projects. The NGOs and Communities delegations have requested that the Secretariat fund a mapping of CSOs working on UNITAID-related issues which may help in identifying CSOs for grantees to work for.
  • The Secretariat will begin implementing CSE immediately through the New Grant Management Package which has been adjusted to include guiding questions on how grantees will engage with CS. Similar changes will be made to the proposal and project development documents. The Secretariat will also look at existing grants to see where CSE can be retrofitted. Programme managers will be responsible for CSEalthough the NGOs and Communities delegations raised concerns about the capacity and skill set of programme managers and suggested a central CS advisor or focal point was needed as well. At the NGOs and Communities delegations’ suggestion, the Secretariat will develop guidance on best practice CSE to share with grantees.
  • There was acknowledgement from our delegations as well as the Secretariat that the monitoring and evaluation element of CSE needs more thinking and development before it can be operationalized.

CS engagement in UNITAID strategic and upstream processes

  • As they develop the new operating model, the Secretariat is trying to systematize consultation on upstream strategic processes. The NGO delegation will continue to push for those systems to enable CS to contribute to UNITAID upstream processes.
  • The Secretariat plans to hold 3 rounds of consultation of the 2017-2021 UNITAID strategy. The Secretariat will present its initial analysis and a set of strategic options to the Board in March 2015. Once the Board has given feedback on strategic direction the Secretariat will work with the NGOs and Communities delegations to identify stakeholders and opportunities for consultation. The Secretariat plans for the majority of consultations to happen as side events to international consultations, although the NGOs delegation suggested the merits of having at least one UNITAID specific consultation.
  • The NGOs and Communities Delegations and the Secretariat agreed to work more closely together on resource mobilization. Where there is a risk of donors reducing their contributions, our delegations will reach out to partners in the relevant country to coordinate information sharing and advocacy when appropriate. We will also work more closely on efforts to secure new donors.

CS engagement in Intellectual Property

  • During the November Board Meeting, the NGOs and Communities delegations met with Lelio and discussed holding a small consultation to discuss policy choices and political issues around IP.
  • Lelio is keen for UNITAID to play a key role in IP, especially as the Global Fund moves away from IP. Lelio is interested in developing a UNITAID IP strategy, similar to the disease specific narratives the Secretariat has recently prepared. From an IP narrative, the Secretariat would develop IP areas for intervention and launch an IP call for proposals. The NGO delegation agreed to share a paper developed on IP in 2013 to initially inform this process. Lelio agreed to identify someone within the Secretariat to lead on this process and to set out a timeline for working towards an IP call for proposals.

Next Steps 

  • The Secretariat and the NGOs and Communities delegations will meet every 6 months to discuss, plan and monitor UNITAID’s CSE.
  • Instead of a CSE strategy, the Secretariat and NGOs and Communities delegations will develop CSE principles that will provide a high level framework to structure UNITAID’s CSE and the Secretariat will provide a yearly report to the PRC or Board, in the same way it currently reports on its partnership with the Global Fund.

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