Next week, global health decision makers from around the world will be gathering in Washington DC for the biannual Global Financing Facility (GFF) Investors Group meeting.With civil society organisations from the six of the sixteen GFF countries in Nairobi last week for the E4A - MamaYe and Africa Health Budget Network’s joint training on health budget advocacy, it was an excellent opportunity to reflect on progress ahead of the April GFF meetings.
Together with Waci Health, HENNET and KANCO, the Africa Health Budget Network co-hosted a regional GFF reception on Thursday 6 April. The event brought together Dr O.A. Omar, GFF focal point at the Ministry of Health in Kenya; Toni Lee Kuguru from the World Bank; a member of the County Assembly from Nairobi county; and civil society representatives from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Cameroon. Aminu Magashi Garba, Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network and one of the two civil society representatives to the GFF Investors Group, explained the importance of the GFF – a multi-stakeholder financing facility in support of Every Woman Every Child – as well as the importance of effective civil society engagement in the GFF. That’s something that he and Angela Mutunga, his fellow civil society representative on the GFF Investors Group, help to ensure.
Dr O.A. Omar, GFF focal point at the Ministry of Health in Kenya Earlier that day, the Africa Health Budget Network also invited members of the GFF civil society working group in Kenya to join a session dedicated to the GFF at our regional health budget advocacy training. The training was part of longer-term technical assistance to six CSOs that were selected based on a call for applications (see more information here).
Shared CSO experiences
Aminu moderated a panel discussion with Amadou Cheikh Kanoute of CICODEV in Senegal, Merlin Tsamo Louis of Positive Generation in Cameroon, and Johnpaul Omollo of HENNET in Kenya. They shared their experiences of engaging in the GFF, best practices, and challenges. GFF civil society panel discussion.
Johnpaul emphasised the importance of building the trust of government, showing the value of civil society as allies, and communicating a clear, unified message. Based on this, HENNET has been widely engaged in the GFF process in Kenya, especially in the development of the GFF Investment Case. HENNET has mobilised its network members to represent civil society at different levels in the GFF. The only area they did not participate in was the development of the Project Appraisal Document.
Amadou spoke of the need for civil society to focus on the issues they want the GFF Secretariat to take on board, rather than on who is going to the meetings.
“I don’t care who represents us, as long as they represent our message.”
In Cameroon, Louis explained that there are three CSOs on the GFF country platform. Originally, civil society was involved in the development of the GFF Investment Case. However, there has been very limited transparency throughout the process and they are hoping to form a coalition to help monitor GFF implementation and to share information with the wider civil society community.
The audience asked insightful questions of the panel and raised important issues for discussion, drawing upon the experiences of first-, second- and third-wave GFF countries in the room. For example, Victor Lansana Koroma, Executive Director of Health Alert Sierra Leone and the civil society representative selected by the government of Sierra Leone to attend the April GFF meetings, was keen to learn from their experiences. He’s very aware of the responsibilities of his role and is organising a pre-departure GFF meeting with civil society and government in Sierra Leone.
All in all, it was clear that participants at the Washington DC meetings need to have the full picture of what is happening in the GFF countries, and the reality for the people that the GFF aims to support. All the participants in the room agreed that
“We have to move as a team, as a country, to take forward civil society’s message.”