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Global Financing Facility Gets Lifeline in Addis

Just as it seemed the Global Financing Facility (GFF) for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health might fade into obscurity, Canada, Japan, the U.S., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have stepped in with $214 million in new commitments. They were made during the official high-level launch of the GFF in Addis Ababa, alongside the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3). These new commitments bring the GFF’s resource envelope from $800 million to $1.14 billion. Not only do the new pledges bring the GFF closer to its goal of raising US$2.6 billion by 2020, they send an important signal that the GFF is a viable funding mechanism.

The GFF has the potential to bring much-needed new resources for women and children’s health including, sexual and reproductive health. Governments in the four frontrunner countries—Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and DRC—are in the process of drafting investment cases to shape how GFF funds will be used. And civil society organizations have spent countless days trying to shape the governance and operations of the GFF. They were successful in getting the GFF’s global framework to focus on reproductive health, but it is too soon to tell whether their advocacy will result in country investment cases which prioritize reproductive health and rights.

Many other challenges remain. It will be important to ensure that funds committed to the GFF are actually disbursed. There are also serious concerns that GFF money will not be additional. This means that funds previously dedicated to sexual and reproductive health programs and UNFPA could be diverted into the pool of GFF funds. From there, the money could go to a range of health services depending on the priorities outlined in a country’s investment case.

There are also broader concerns about the legitimacy and effectiveness of multi-stakeholder partnerships including the GFF. At the FFD3, feminist organizations have raise red flags about multi-stakeholder funds including the GFF. They are not governed democratically, they promote siloed approaches, provide unpredictable funding, and fail to use a rights-based framework. Broader civil society critiques of multi-stakeholder partnerships call out a lack of transparency, oversight, lack of accountability, and an excessive reliance on the private sector. Even donors—most notably Sweden—have publicly expressed concerns that the GFF will increase fragmentation and the money would be better invested elsewhere.

Four donors gave the GFF a lifeline today, but whether the GFF will overcome the broader challenges is yet to be seen. I’m still cautiously optimistic about the potential of the GFF in bringing new funding to sexual and reproductive health, but it will take the continued engagement of champions to make sure that GFF funds are additional and that they benefit the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls in the developing world.

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