Breaking: Peter Sands is new Global Fund executive director

Peter Sands is the new executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Photo by: Remy Steinegger / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

MANILA — Peter Sands was announced as the new executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Tuesday.

The news follows a chaotic few days during which Sands withdrew from the leadership race “for personal reasons” and then unexpectedly re-entered the race on Monday.

But on Tuesday, the former CEO of Standard Chartered PLC beat the three other candidates to the leadership role: Simon Bland of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS; Frannie Leautier, formerly of the the African Development Bank; and Anil Soni of the global pharmaceutical company Mylan.

Most early reactions have been positive and congratulatory, with different global health leaders expressing interest in working with the new Global Fund leadership.

“Peter Sands brings exceptional management and finance experience, and a heart for global health,” said Aida Kurtović, the chair of the Global Fund board. “At a time when we face complex challenges, his ability to mobilize resources while managing transformational change is exactly what we need. We expect him to take the Global Fund to the next level.”

“Peter has real vision and great management experience, and can lead the Global Fund, global health and development to a new level in sustainable financing and private sector engagement,” his predecessor, Mark Dybul, told Devex.

Chris Collins, president of the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, also underscored Sands experience in both global health and finance.

“I am confident that the Fund will continue to achieve impressive results under his leadership,” Collins said in a news release shared with Devex. “The commitment to innovation, transparency and independent oversight of the Global Fund – which Mr. Sands emphasizes – will help the organization continue to achieve impressive results against the world’s biggest infectious disease killers.”

But they also pointed out the huge challenge ahead for Sands, both in ensuring his organization delivers for the millions living and at risk of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria — the fund’s main focus areas — and in sustaining political and donor support for the fund to continue its life-saving work.

“Mr. Sands arrives at The Global Fund with a difficult, but important job waiting for him,” Gayle Smith, president and CEO of the anti-poverty advocacy group the One Campaign, said in a news release, noting how 17 million people living with HIV globally still do not have access to life-saving treatment.

“As some leaders around the globe are questioning the efficacy of global health and development programs, now more than ever, it's important for The Global Fund to have a strong leader, like Peter Sands, at the helm to articulate the immense value these programs have on those in need and the developed world,” she added.

Many spoke of the need for Sands to quickly engage U.S. policymakers. “It will be important for him to engage the U.S. administration and Congress quickly and effectively,” Dybul said.

Amanda Glassman, chief operating officer and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, meanwhile, emphasized the need for the fund to “generate concrete results” amid risky budget cuts in the U.S.

“While much progress has been made to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, the Fund will need to maintain or scale up efforts to sustain the success we’ve had. To do that, the Global Fund’s leadership must prioritize maximizing results, minimizing waste, and more rigorously evaluating its own programs,” Glassman said in a statement sent to Devex.

Sands also needs to facilitate the entry of generic drugs “so that whatever funds are available, the Global Fund will save more lives.” said Thiru Balasubramaniam, Geneva representative of NGO Knowledge Ecology International.

Some, however, expressed concern on the selection process, and seemed upset the board has not addressed the events of the past few days. The process has often been compared to that of WHO, during the organization’s search for its next director-general.

In his remarks during a one-on-one interview with Devex, Sands shared that he is “delighted” to be given the opportunity to lead the fund, seeing it as an opportunity to take his “engagement and commitment to global health issues to another level.” He aims to step up the fund’s ambition by mobilizing greater resources and finding ways to ensuring those resources are deployed even more effectively.

As for the process, he said it’s the job of the executive board to determine it, but that, in his perspective and based on his experience, it’s been an “incredibly thorough process.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments on Sands’ appointment.

Read more Devex coverage on the Global Fund.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.