Also available in: Español
Source: Corresponsales Clave
By: Lídice López
In April, the Global Fund renewed the COVID-19 Response Mechanism and, with it, its commitment to halt this new pandemic and reduce its impact on the response to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, whose achievements were put at risk by the emergence of this new pandemic.
In this context, countries with a grant in place received a communication from the organization encouraging them to submit a request for funding under this temporary mechanism to alleviate the urgent needs of countries facing the pandemic.
In our region, the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Platform for Support, Coordination and Communication of Civil Society and Communities (LAC Platform)–an initiative promoted by VIA LIBRE and supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund)–quickly became available to civil society organizations to support their engagement in the preparation of these requests and the integration of their priorities into them.
In this regard, Anuar Luna Cadena, the LAC Platform’s technical coordinator, points out that this was possible thanks to the work team who knows closely the civil society organizations and networks of key populations affected by the diseases. This allowed them to quickly organize a strategy to help ensure meaningful community engagement in the preparation of C19RM 2.0 funding requests.
“On the other hand,” Luna observes, “our knowledge of the structure of the Global Fund’s financing model and, in particular, of the Country Coordinating Mechanisms, was essential for coordination. We set out to access communities through a joint call with each country’s CCM to inform about the process and the support opportunities the Platform is mandated to offer. This helped us communicate in time with the different groups and decide what kind of support they required.”
This new funding opportunity promoted support initiatives in different instances. “We soon realized that in all countries there was a group of people and experts working on the different tasks posed by another challenge. Understanding that there were ‘many cooks in the kitchen’ helped us understand, from an early stage, that it was necessary to know who else was working on C19RM 2.0, ranging from consultants to international and bilateral cooperation agencies. Contacting colleagues from UNAIDS, the IDB and Pharos, and establishing communication channels, as well as collaborating with the Global Fund’s LAC Team, particularly with country teams, was critical to identify bottlenecks and seek for joint solutions. Another group of key stakeholders were partners in the Global Fund’s Community, Rights and Gender Strategic Initiative (CRG SI). Thanks to the coordination with Partners in Health, we were able to generate synergies to respond to the priorities of people affected by tuberculosis. Another important partnership was the one we established with key population networks. Finally, I would highlight the collaboration with ICASO, which has been the region’s technical assistance provider,” says the technical coordinator.
A tool for local consultations
A central part of the assistance the Platform would provide consisted of helping identify their needs and define their priorities. Anuar tells us that “a methodological framework was required for helping communities carry out this task rapidly. Additionally, we noticed that many documents related to the C19RM 2.0 began to be released very soon: guidelines, guidance notes, recommendations, positioning, guidelines for engagement, etc. Accessing all these documents and organizing them already represented a considerable workload for those guiding consultation processes. That is why we set out to develop a toolbox in conjunction with ICASO and GATE. Then, we shared the tool, and other regions found it useful and did translations into French and Russian.”
The toolbox, available at this link, gathers all bibliographic resources related to the C19RM 2.0, as well as a series of recommendations for organizing consultations. It also includes examples for prioritization. It is an instrument that can be adapted and is not prescriptive, that is, it can be used in whole or in part.
The response of countries
Although requests for funding under C19RM 2.0 have already begun to be sent from the region, the situation is different from one country to another. “In some countries, there are NGO consortia, strong and well-structured networks, organizations with a tradition of collaboration and the ability to generate agreements and consensus very efficiently. However, in others, this context does not exist. I think the countries where it took us longer to start off were those with more fragmentation and less capacity to generate consensus,” says Anuar. He further adds: “It should also be noted that in some countries the CCMs are more prescriptive and less open to consultation or engagement processes, and the same could be said of other government actors. In these cases, it is more difficult to generate the consensus needed for organizing working modalities and providing support for consultations to document the priorities of the communities.”
A frank and open dialogue was the key to success. “In some countries, it was very easy to reach agreements on the importance of consultations being conducted by members of the communities themselves. In others, it was necessary to be very repetitive on this issue, until we managed to convince them of an approach that considers meaningful engagement in all respects.”
The role of communities
In the context of the development of C19RM requests, communities, men who have sex with men, gays, trans women, sex workers and people with HIV are expected to play an important role in managing consultations. “I am convinced that, within communities, there is an enormous capacity. It has been years of developing skills to lead processes of consultation and consensus among peers. Meaningful engagement is also a vote of confidence in the communities’ installed capacities, and sometimes it was difficult to convince them that this is possible,” says Luna.
In some countries, communities are acknowledged, and it was possible to identify consultants with a lot of experience and a lot of capacity to take on this challenge. “Overall, I think this experience has meant a lot of learning for everyone, and it would be very worthwhile documenting it to leave a historical record of the role of communities in the response to COVID-19, a crucial moment in our lives,” closes the coordinator of the Platform.
Communications and social media
The rapid implementation of consultations with CCMs, the identification of consultants and the provision of technical assistance would not have been possible without communications and social media.
The whole process was accompanied by an intense social networking campaign in collaboration with strategic partners, such as ICASO, GATE, Women 4 Global Fund, PANCAP, the other CRG SI Platforms and Corresponales Clave (Key Correspondents). Disseminated materials included the five-step guide for meaningful community engagement, short animated videos summarizing each of those steps, a webinar organized in collaboration with the CRG SI to promote community engagement, the support of the Global Fund Secretariat’s LAC Team to key actors from the region explaining in detail the C19RM components and guidelines, as well as the previously described toolbox aimed at communities. The campaign helped highlight the issue among communities and prepare their engagement in consultation processes.