Former director optimistic Global Fund replenishment can be reached

Mark Dybul, former executive director, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Photo by: Rob Tannenbaum / UN Dispatch / CC BY-NC-ND

BARCELONA — In the face of budget deficits and rollercoaster politics among some of the biggest donors to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, former executive director Mark Dybul is confident the organization will meet its replenishment target of $14 billion this year.

The Global Fund — founded in 2002 and designed to accelerate the end of three of the deadliest epidemics — just needs to show that many countries are increasing their domestic financing toward the diseases and for there to be a better understanding of the interconnectedness between health, education, and economic development, Dybul said.

“If you have 50-75% of populations 25, 35, and younger without health, education, economic growth, and opportunity, what do you think it’s going to look like?”

— Mark Dybul, former executive director, the Global Fund

“What it will take is for people to recognize the links between health and economic growth, which are rock solid,” Dybul said in an interview, adding that he was optimistic the multilateral health partnership will reach its target despite attempts from the Trump administration to reduce its funding.

There has been a question mark over the Global Fund’s ability to garner the funds required for this cycle of replenishment given the current political landscape in countries such as the United States.

While the Global Fund has worked to expand its donor pool, the U.S. remains the largest donor, providing one-third of its budget. Congress has not yet approved the funding for fiscal year 2020 but a bill passed by the House of Representatives allocates $1.56 billion, which would maintain the U.S. commitment to provide one-third of the Global Fund’s budget. The House bill is higher than the Trump administration’s budget, which proposed reducing that commitment to 25%.

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“The U.S. Congress has been rock solid,” Dybul said, who stepped down from the fund at the end of his term in 2017 and is currently co-director of the Center for Global Health and Quality at Georgetown University Medical Center. “In fact, the budget committee just asked for an increase for the Global Fund so they basically ignored bad budgets.”

This demonstrates the strong bipartisan support the fund has garnered, Dybul said. “I have a lot of confidence in the Congress.”

The U.S. commitment to the Global Fund, which by law can only be a third of the organization’s funding, is seen as a bellwether of sorts and has often spurred other contributions. What the U.S. decides to do is key to the Global Fund’s ability to raise the funds it needs in this replenishment cycle.

Devex interview with former director of the Global Fund. Via YouTube.

Other major donors include France, Germany, and the United Kingdom while emerging bilateral donors, such as China and Saudi Arabia, have a nonvoting donor seat.

Earlier this year, head of the Global Fund, Peter Sands, told Devex he remains confident on the fund’s investment case, that there is strong support from donors, and that the fund has a demonstrable record of delivering results.

To pull back on support now would be “really stupid,”’ Dybul said. “It’s necessary for us to stay in the game for a while longer … It's not forever, but it's for a little bit. It's enlightened self-interest.”

“If you’re worried about migration refugees, if you have the population of Africa doubling — which we are projecting, even with decreased birth rates by 2050 — if you have 50-75% of populations 25, 35, and younger without health, education, economic growth, and opportunity, what do you think it’s going to look like?”

The Global Fund will find out if its donors have stepped up in October at the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment Conference in Lyon, France.

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    Rebecca Root

    Rebecca Root is a Reporter and Editorial Associate at Devex producing news stories, video, and podcasts as well as partnership content. She has a background in finance, travel, and global development journalism and has written for a variety of publications while living and working in New York, London, and Barcelona.