UK attaches strings to $1.4B Global Fund pledge

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel at the Global Fund Fifth Replenishment Conference held in Montreal, Canada. Photo by: The Global Fund / Vadim Daniel

The United Kingdom’s contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria comes with strings attached: The country will withhold 10 percent of its pledge if the Global Fund fails to meet 10 benchmarks for improvement.

The unprecedented move takes the U.K. Department for International Development’s payment by results agenda — through which organizations receive funding only after achieving impact — to the multilateral stage.

At the fifth replenishment of the Global Fund, which took place Friday and Saturday in Montreal, Canada, the U.K. government pledged 1.1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) toward the fund’s $13 billion goal. In addition to the 10 percent conditional funding, this includes a $200 million matching scheme for malaria with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector donors.  

The decision to add caveats to the Global Fund pledge is in no way a reflection of the performance of the Global Fund, Mike Podmore, the director of STOPAIDS and an alternate board member of the Developed Country NGO Delegation at the Global Fund told Devex on the sidelines of the replenishment.

In fact, it may be the organization’s high performance that makes it a good candidate for DfID to try the approach multilaterally. The Global Fund scored in the top five in the International Aid Transparency Initiative Index, and which achieved “Very Good Value for Money” in DfID’s 2011 Multilateral Aid Review.

“Even some of the best performing international aid institutions can improve and deliver better value for taxpayers and those in need. That is why we are using this investment in the Global Fund to secure a demanding performance agreement to make sure U.K. aid achieves the maximum possible impact,” Priti Patel, U.K. secretary of state for international development told the audience at the replenishment.

The arrangement is the first of many DfID intends to apply to multilateral commitments.

“Performance agreements will become the norm for DfID’s engagement with international institutions as Global Britain uses its leadership to demand more for U.K. taxpayers and the world’s poorest,” Patel said.

Podmore echoed that expectation, adding, “It’s an approach DfID is intending to roll out with all its relationships with multilaterals, so it’s an attempt to help the Global Fund and other organizations be the best institution that it can be, and is in no sense a critique of what it does,” he said.

DfID’s conditions for the Global Fund include both concrete and general benchmarks. Global Fund must achieve $250 million in savings by 2019 and reduce the incidence of HIV in women and girls, including pregnant women and unborn children, by 40 percent, for example. Less specific criteria include calls for increased contributions from the private sector and following through on performance benchmarks already set by the Global Fund itself.

The replenishment also saw unprecedented turnout by the private sector, doubling their investment up to $250 million. The U.K. government, along with the Gates Foundation, included in their pledges up to $200 million in matching funds for private sector commitments in tackling malaria.

Members of civil society also said DfID told them in meetings the Global Fund pledge will not interfere with the new Ross Fund, a one billion pound fund introduced in November 2015 to “help combat serious diseases in developing countries,” though the agency has yet to confirm this publicly.

The U.K. is the third largest contributor to the Global Fund since its founding in 2002, after the United States, which pledged $4.3 billion in this replenishment, and France, which pledged 1.08 billion euros ($1.2 billion).

Flavie Halais contributed reporting to this story.

Read more international development news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive the latest from the world’s leading donors and decision-makers — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.