13 Dec 2018
Communities Delegation at the Unitaid 30th Executive Board Meeting
The Communities Delegation to the Unitaid Board, representing people living with the Diseases, actively participated in the 30th session of the Executive Board in Marrakesh, Morocco on 5 and 6 December 2018.
Prior to the Board meeting, the Communities Delegation held a 2-day meeting to review the agenda documents and prepare the interventions of the Communities Board Member in order to forcefully represent the voices and concerns of the communities at grass root and country level and bring the lived experiences and social impact of Unitaid’s interventions to the technical and political Board discussions.
New Areas for Intervention
The Communities Delegation welcomed the approval of two new areas for intervention: to support innovative, long-acting medical technologies to prevent and treat infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries, and to promote new tools for the diagnosis and treatment of Plasmodium vivax malaria. In approving these two new areas in which Unitaid will target investments, the Board opened the way for Unitaid to invite innovative projects for funding in 2019.
Communities Board Member Kenly Sikwese particularly appreciated this opportunity for issuing grants up to US$ 70 million in Long-Acting (LA) technologies for which he had advocated during previous Board meetings. “This is a promising technology from a community perspective, with the potential to significantly improve adherence and quality of life, especially also for HCV and PrEP. It will however be important for grantees to hold extensive consultations with all the affected populations on their preference for the delivery models, whether it be injectables, implants, rings, patches or weekly capsules,” he said before the Board unanimously approved the resolution.
The Delegation also supported the Board’s decision to explore projects to support the safe use of tafenoquine and other tools to fight Plasmodium vivax malaria which is prevalent in Asian countries, Latin America and parts of Africa. This new area for intervention will explore opportunities such as piloting a new single-dose “radical” cure for Plasmodium vivax and supporting development of quality-assured paediatric treatments.
The Secretariat presented a proposal for discussion and decision by the Board on potential opportunities for Unitaid in unlocking financing for HCV elimination. The proposal represents a departure from Unitaid’s normal modus operandi of catalytic funding interventions to shape markets and leverage innovation. Rather than fund direct market interventions it intends for Unitaid to alleviate the service costs of debt contracted by developing countries in order to finance national HCV treatment programs. Unitaid would support countries by decreasing the cost impact of loans from development banks by financing the interest and service fees on the loan through a “loan buy-down” mechanism.
Based on intense discussion regarding Unitaid’s core mandate, the Secretariat’s capacity and expertise, and concerns regarding increasing debt of developing countries, the Board called for the Secretariat to explore other options under the “HCV/co-infections Area for Intervention” during the mid-term Strategy Review and did not adopt the proposed resolution.
Unitaid Board extends tenure of interim Chair and vice-Chair and other Governance updates
The Board thanked the interim Chair and vice-Chair for extending their terms until the June 2019 Executive Board meeting in Seoul, when a new Chair will be selected. The call for nominations will open in January and the shortlisted candidates will be invited for interviews from mid-April onwards.
Key governance decisions taken at the 30th Board Meeting included the approval of the 2019 Operating Budget in the amount of US$ 30.1 million, a US$ 1.5 million (5%) increase over the previous year. Main drivers of the increase are the expansion of Unitaid’s grants portfolio and a near fully staffed Secretariat.
Unitaid received 114 grant proposals in 2018, two times more than in 2017 and three times more than in 2016. The Communities Delegation joined the call from the NGO Delegation for the inclusion of more civil society members in the independent Proposals Review Committee to ensure a better understanding of the realities on the ground when reviewing the grant proposals.
The Delegation supported the approval of the Principles for Special Engagements, providing the framework for the Secretariat to engage with partners on initiatives that do not fit the “box”, i.e. Unitaid’s current Operating Model. Special engagements would be applicable to investments that are relatively small in size. The recent opportunity to co-fund with the Elton John AIDS Foundation is an example of what a Special Engagement could mean. The project is to develop an HIV self-testing campaign aimed at young men in Kenya, with the financial support of all the partners – including Unitaid.
The Board endorsed a revised risk management policy after a long process, after the auditors’ request to ensure that the policy enabled the Board to have the right tools and framework to better monitor the efficient implementation of the grants.
The Communities Delegation to the Unitaid Board represents people living with and affected by HIV, TB and Malaria and those co-infected with HIV and HCV. The Communities Delegation has the goal of representing the views, voices, needs and interests of Communities living with the Diseases at Unitaid Board and Committee level. It aims to be transparent, accountable and to prepare communities to engage in Unitaid’s work areas that directly affect those living with the diseases at grassroots and country level, especially in the global south. Since 2015, the Communities Delegation to the Unitaid Board is hosted by the Cape Town office of the Global Network for and by People Living with HIV (GNP+). For more information, please contact Wim Vandevelde, Liaison Officer, Communities Delegation, email@example.com