Last August when Nepal was granted $11 million by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, there was considerable euphoria.
But since then, the government has been unable to find a Nepali organisation capable of managing such a large project and the money looked like it would never reach Nepal. The government advertised twice, but failed to find a partner to administer the funds to go to the National AIDS Centre and other non-profits working to combat AIDS.
"It's a messy job, which is why many INGOs did not apply," says a development agency representative, requesting anonymity.
As the deadline approached this month, the government decided at a Country Coordinating Mechanism meeting in Kathmandu, to hand over management responsibilities to the UN system in Nepal. Donor, multilateral agencies, INGOs, NGOs and activists are members of the Mechanism that endorses proposals to the Global Fund for approval. One member told us the group had no option but to get the UN to help out. "It was the next best thing to returning the money to the Global Fund, but it won't be an easy project to manage, even for the UN," says activist Rishi Ojha, a CCM member.
Some activists and NGOs are fuming over the decision and suspect the UN will only fund NGOs that are its cronies, a fear dispelled by Pramod Kafle of the charity, ActionAid Nepal: "The UN will not have control over the money, organisations that had already been selected years back for funding will benefit."
At least 19 NGOs, INGOs and government agencies have already qualified for the Global Fund grants and the first tranche of about $4 million is expected soon. "There is more than enough money, and I don't think the fund will be limited to a select few. More organisations can apply," says Ojha. The $4 million will have to be used within the first two years of the grant period and if the UN and development agencies fail to disburse it, the chances of getting the rest of the $11 million for the remaining three years will diminish.
The Global Fund has already approved grants for four rounds across the world. Each round consists of five-year grants. Nepal's $11 million is from the second round and we missed funding opportunities during the third round as the government and CCM failed to send any proposals. For the fourth round, a group of agencies like Action Aid Nepal, Harm Reduction Council and Family Planning Association of Nepal decided to take their own initiative and sent in proposals bypassing the government-dominated CCM.
The Global Fund recently complimented proposals sent from Nepal by non-CCM organisations as among the best in the world. There is a strong chance that proposals worth $45 million will be approved in the fourth round. "I think the government should realise that it can't bear all responsibilitie. Civil society is also capable of working in the national interest," says Kafle.
Nepal's CCM has come under heavy criticism for lack of urgency in addressing the country's AIDS threat. Most of the members selected by the government have little knowledge of HIV/AIDS issues. AIDS activist Rajiv Kafle is one of the most vociferous critics, saying more HIV-infected activists should be included in the body.
The representation by the donor and multilateral agencies in CCM is also minimal and there are fears Nepal may lose opportunities for future resources for the anti-AIDS campaign from the Global Fund. (Naresh Newar)