Country ownership has been a catchphrase repeatedly used to describe how to make the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief more sustainable. Many AIDS groups, however, fear that country ownership will only transfer the responsibility and leadership of PEPFAR-backed programs to aid-recipient governments that lack the financial, technical or medical capacity to implement these programs.
By country ownership, users of the programs must also be the owners, according to Wafaa El-Sadr, director of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs. Beneficiaries of the programs must have a say and the capacity to shape how a program is being implemented, she said in a video posted at Science Speaks.
El-Sadr also stressed that country ownership must not only be defined as the process of transferring funds to a central government. If this were the case, some disenfranchised groups may lose out on assistance since not all governments are “benevolent,” she added.
The capacity of aid-recipient governments at all levels need to be improved to ensure that the country ownership approach works, El-Sadr said. Non-state actors such as civil society groups should also benefit from technical assistance to improve their capacity.