Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Stephen Morrison

Director of the Center on Global Health Policy and Senior Vice President, CSIS

Stephen Morrison writes widely, testifies often before Congress, has directed several high-level task forces and commissions, and is a frequent contributor in major media on U.S. foreign policy, global health, Africa, and foreign assistance. He served for seven years in the Clinton Administration, four years as committee staff in the House of Representatives, and taught for twelve years as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin and is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale College.

A promising new consensus among the major partners to the Global Fund seems to lie behind the decisions announced this week to appoint Mark Dybul as the Fund’s new Executive Director, beginning in early 2013; to replace the Inspector General (a special sore point for France, reportedly); and to embrace a more proactive, selective and focused funding model that has emerged out of intensive planning and consultations over the past six months (expertly led, I might add, by CSIS’s Todd Summers, Chair of the Board’s Strategy, Investment and Impact Committee.) 

A few quick thoughts:

Mark Dybul is a solid, affirmative choice: he knows the science, programs, politics, and acute challenges in sustaining funding levels and momentum in the global effort to combat HIV/AIDS. He understands that stabilizing the Fund, the core mission at hand, is a delicate task that must succeed in order to achieve continued progress on HIV, TB, and malaria worldwide.  He has high energy, diplomatic savvy, and – not at all lost on the selection committee –access to Republican appropriators in Congress and former President George W. Bush, who actively backs him.  In addition to all of these factors, Mark has the confidence of the Obama Administration, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and to varying degrees, the other major parties that decided to bring him on board. In these important respects, Mark represents a strong consensus choice. Not every constituency will be happy – which would be true of any candidate – but there is enough happiness in this consensus for the decision to work.  The fault line between the United States and France, very importantly, appears to have been bridged.

It should not be surprising that the prospect of running the Fund was not powerful enough to attract a deeper, more diverse pool of talent. The field of finalists did not include a single candidate from the South nor any with serious senior-level business leadership experience. This is a sobering fact. The two previous Executive Directors (EDs), Sir Richard Feachem and Michel Kazatchkine, were each subjected to sudden and humiliating dismissals. In the current context, getting the Fund back on its feet, a multi-year enterprise, is not a glamorous job, nor one with guaranteed success.  It will remain for some time a hard slog.  (There is a certain irony that Mark Dybul, who now enjoys the backing of the Obama administration, was himself summarily dismissed from his post as Global AIDS Coordinator in the Obama administration’s first week, a harsh and undignified decision . Seems there is still room for forgiveness and reconciliation.)    

Mark’s performance will be judged in 2013 by his ability to do three things well:

  1. Get money from Washington, in the midst of the United States’ worsening fiscal mess, for the Global Fund’s three year replenishment. It seems unlikely there will be another three-year pledge like the Obama Administration’s commitment of $4 billion (2011-2013), but creative options do exist to build confidence and assure that the United States will continue to be the financial and political backbone to the fund. As the Executive Director, Mark Dybul will of course also be called upon to mobilize other major funders, which will be very demanding in the midst of the Euro-zone travails and budgetary and political uncertainty in Tokyo.
  2. Keep the confidence of the board without allowing the board to micromanage the Fund’s decisions, and use that space to build the power, decision authority and competency of the secretariat.  
  3. Show that the new funding model can be piloted successfully in 2013 in a handful of countries.

2012 has been a year of intensive effort by many committed individuals to put the Fund back on its feet and rebuild confidence in it, both externally and internally. Events this week mark a very important passage in that process, and certainly raise hope for further advances in 2013.