There are more than 270 million people who use drugs in the world, which is approximately equal to the population of Russia, Germany, and South Africa combined. In addition to criminalization and violence, drug users are at high risk of various health threats including HIV, TB, and infectious hepatitis.
Over the past 20 years, the Global Fund has been the largest, and often the only, source of funding for health services for people using drugs in middle and low-income countries. Will the Fund continue the support of harm reduction programs? What will happen next after 2022? Will only medical services be funded, or advocacy and the creation of the friendly social environment also will receive support? These issues are being discussed now, in the preparation of the Global Fund’s new strategy to 2030.
The Global Fund recently held 6th Partnership Forums to discuss its strategy for 2030 (“Where do we want to be by 2030? What is the smart way to adjust the agenda and shape the programs we want?”). Several thousands of representatives took part in the Forums representing governments, medical professionals, international donors, and communities of key populations, including people who use drugs.
Ganna Dovbakh (EHRA Executive Director), Mick Matthews (NSWP Senior Program Officer), and Anton Basenko (INPUD Board member) shared their views on what are the main issues that were promoted on behalf of people using drugs at the Forums:
“First of all, we need to decriminalize using and possession of drugs. The decrease of the pressure from police is the only way to increase the trust from people using drugs to the governmental policy. The second is the promotion of gender-sensitive and gender-transformative services, including for women who experienced violence. For the EECA region, we have to prevent the pressure on community organizations and advocate for the access to public funding for organizations of people using drugs”.
“The three goals I would like to underline as crucial for people using drugs: decriminalization of drug users, that has to be a clearly expressed position of the Fund; improvement on human rights and gender equality in the global policies and national projects; and the increase of funding available for people’s using drugs community organizations”.
“There are many objectives that should be included in the next Global Fund Strategy but these three would make a huge difference. 1) A separate funding stream for key populations. Too little funding filters down to drug users led organisations. 2) The Global Fund to leverage its influence on decriminalisation. This is the biggest barrier to realising drug user health and rights and the Global Fund does nothing towards changing the situation. 3) Engage people who use drugs as experts to develop and implement the Global Fund approach to Human Rights. Until the GF starts acknowledging PWIDs as experts the GF will always fall short in this area”.
If the Partners’ meeting is over, does this mean that the window of opportunity for advocacy has closed? Not. Does not mean.
The approval of the new strategy of the Global Fund will happen in November 2021, and this will be done by members of the Global Fund’s Board. This means that people using drugs can work with the Board members directly and through the Delegations. Board members and the Delegations still can make significant changes to the strategy.
Besides, during 2022, the Global Fund is going to tune the structure of its Secretariat, and this is also an important opportunity – to ensure such a structure of the Secretariat so that allows the most effective implementation and evaluation of important for people using drugs points of the new strategy.
Here are the thoughts of Ganna, Mick, and Anton regarding the work that community and activists personally can do to promote the changes of the Global Fund strategy for making it sensitive to the needs of people using drugs:
“We have to keep advocate. I believe that policy-makers can hear pragmatic arguments”.
“People using drugs have to continue to be loud, promoting realistic messages along with other communities. The GF Strategy is unlikely to focus on issues for PWIDs specifically, so it is important to understand how the drug using communities’ agenda can be pushed through other means, such as a focus on key populations for example.
I am personally going consistently and loudly push for key population issues within the Communities Delegation, at the Board of the GF and through its Strategy Committee, with other NGO Delegations to the Board, through GFAN, the Partnership Forum, and in every strategy related meeting. I am one of the loudest voices and make no apologies for that”.
“Community still have a chance to ensure the recognition of the people’s using drugs views and position for the new strategy. It is important that many people and organizations keep raising their voices together. We expressed our position during the Partnership Forums, so now we need to ensure that we have been heard!”
Any one of you can continue to advocate for the better recognition of our needs in the new Global Fund strategy:
- Contact the Communities Delegation to the Global Fund Board and ask them to keep you informed on and engaged in the continuous development of the new strategy,
- Contact the Global Fund Board members and representatives of Developing and Developed Countries NGO Delegations and inform them of your concerns regarding the future work of the Global Fund, and your propositions to the new strategy.
More voices mean bigger attention.
Links to the Delegations online resources:
Communities Delegation: https://communitiesdelegation.org/
Developing Countries NGO Delegation: https://www.developingngo.org/
Developed Countries NGO Delegation: https://www.facebook.com/DevelopedCountryNGO/ The complete text of the community statement regarding the new Global Fund strategy is available by the following link: https://custom-eur.cvent.com/6c71790d1eae4eed96eaa07c241f3393/files/6aef0f3f52fd43a3890713691c99980e.pdf