Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Deborah Derrick

President, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Deborah Derrick is a global health thought leader with nearly two decades of policy and international development experience. As President of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, she leads the organization in educating and engaging U.S. decision makers on the lifesaving work of the Global Fund. Deborah previously served as a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign and as a senior advisor at the State Department and on Capitol Hill. Deborah holds a master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University and a bachelor’s in Economics from Duke University. She has lived, studied and worked in the U.K., South Africa, Poland and Canada.

In the discussion surrounding the upcoming change in leadership at the Global Fund, we must keep sight of this important fact: The Global Fund has done a tremendous job saving lives.

Over the past decade, Global Fund-supported programs in 150 countries have saved 8.7 million lives from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. And perhaps more impressively, Global Fund financing has continued to save more than 100,000 lives per month – even in the midst of great managerial changes and organizational restructuring.

It is also important to remember that, while the final choice of a new Executive Director is critical, the environment that he or she will inhabit at the Global Fund is much better positioned for success than even two years ago.

Over the past year, as a result of efforts led by the U.S. and other donors, the Global Fund has undertaken a series of reforms that are unprecedented in scope. It has cut its staff by 20% while refocusing the remaining staff on programmatic work so that priority countries – those with 70 percent of the disease burden and grants – get twice as many dedicated staff members for grant development and implementation. The Global Fund is poised to finalize a plan revamping all of its programmatic work to focus grants more tightly on low-income countries with a high disease burden. It has hired a chief risk management officer who has developed pilot risk programs in implementing countries to ensure that resources are safeguarded while lives are saved and hired a chief financial officer with more than 25 years of experience as a senior executive.

With roughly three-quarters of the Global Fund’s reforms completed and an able support structure in place, the new Executive Director will be able to hit the ground running:

  • with ongoing and strengthened bipartisan support from the U.S. and other donors;
  • with a highly qualified and engaged executive team ready to bolster and guide the new leader’s vision; and
  • ready to usher the discussion at the Global Fund back toward what matters most: the work of saving and improving lives.

Implementing the new model, the Global Fund’s new Executive Director will be able to direct increased resources and energy on the end-users – children and families who are sick and in need – and communicate their stories to donors, reminding the world what is at the heart of the Global Fund’s reforms.

Continued success will depend not only on what has changed at the Global Fund, but also – and perhaps most importantly – what will remain the same. The Global Fund was conceived a decade ago as an emergency response, and a transformation was necessary to ensure it could continue its lifesaving work into the next decade. But these efforts cannot be successful without preserving the core components that make the Global Fund a model to be emulated, such as shared responsibility, country ownership and accountability.

The Global Fund finances programs that are identified by the recipient countries themselves, building capacity and allowing local stakeholders to develop and implement the strategies that will save the most lives. And each $1 that the U.S. invests in this effort is matched by more than $2 from other donors. This leveraging ensures partnerships across multiple fronts and will allow the Global Fund’s already impressive results to strengthen despite future economic swings and hurdles. Transparency and accountability are also keystone principles of the Global Fund model. And for two years in a row, the Global Fund has been rated among the most transparent institutions in the world. Without these core attributes, there would be little chance for sustainability of Global Fund-financed programs.

The new Executive Director will lead a changed Global Fund, but one that has remained true to the principles that have helped it to save and improve the lives of millions. Millions of mothers able to care for their children, millions of children able to attend school, and millions of people restored as productive members of their communities.

Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images