This week in Brussels has been key for Global Fund advocacy. The European Commission hosted the pre-replenishment meeting of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria from 9-10 April, gathering representatives from donor and implementing countries worldwide. Civil society organisations and the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) used this opportunity to organise a High Level Panel at the European Parliament and an activists’ rally.

Ahead of the meeting, the Global Fund Secretariat released a Needs Assessments for the three diseases for the years 2014-2016. It estimated that US$87 billion was needed for the three diseases for the three-year period. US$37 billion should be spent by domestic governments in countries implementing programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria and US$24 billion by other international sources during 2014-2016. By raising US$15 billion during the 4th Global Fund Replenishment, and combining it with domestic and other international sources, the global community would reach US$76 billion, or 87 per cent of the overall US$87 billion need.

GFAN together with two European Parliament Working Groups and Friends of the Global Fund organised a High Level Panel in the European Parliament on 8 April to discuss the Global Fund strategy, needs assessment and its new funding model. The High Level Panel gathered:

Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund

Charles Goerens, Member of European Parliament

Dr Viktor Makwenge Kaput, Board Chair of Roll Back Malaria

Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General, DG DEVCO, European Commission

Lucy Chesire, Board Member, Communities Delegation to the Global Fund

Oxana Rucsineanu, Here I Am Campaign Ambassador for Eastern Europe

All panellists described the Global Fund as a success story. They all welcomed the New Funding Model and emphasised the need for a fully-funded Global Fund for the next decade. “Diseases don’t care about budgetary cycles” stressed Mark Dybul. Rather than talking about eliminating the three diseases, he noted that there was a possibility of ending the pandemics within the next 10 years: “Pessimists will find 1000 ways to say you can’t do something. Let’s focus on what we can do.”

Dr Victor Makwenge highlighted that African countries had significantly increased their domestic investments towards the fight against the three diseases. He stressed that Africa was still facing poverty issues and needed multilateral institutions such as the Global Fund and the EU to reinforce their health systems, strengthen the role of civil society and achieve the MDGs in general.

“As a unique funding mechanism it helped to change things in terms of stigmatisation and discrimination by allowing small organisations build their capacity and help grow their activities including education against stigmas” said Lucy Chesire.

MEP Charles Goerens reiterated the European Parliament’s commitment to support the Fund and the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the post-2015 development context: “The EU has an important responsibility and should do more”.

Klaus Rudischhauser highlighted the complementarity of the Global Fund New Funding Model and new EU development policies: “The Global Fund should not exist forever, our overall objective is that countries ultimately pay for their own health systems”. He explained that even though middle income countries were to receive less support through the Global Fund or EU development policies, other instruments were available to fill the gap and ensure a smooth transition.

Oxana Rucsineanu, a former multi-drug resistant patient from Moldova cautioned against taking too abrupt steps in those countries now deemed ‘wealthy enough’ to take care of their own health systems “I’m the living proof that it is worth investing. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here right now”.

After the discussion, advocates gathered in front of the European Parliament for a rally with placards and banners calling for a fully funded Global Fund. They were accompanied by African drummers and dancers.

The next months will be key to ensure that the necessary resources will be leveraged for a fully funded Global Fund. Donors will be invited to a pledging conference for the Fourth Replenishment in late 2013. The location and dates have not yet been finalized. In times of austerity and fiscal constrains, a key question remains: to which extent will each donor contribute to reaching the $15 billion gap? We need to make sure that governments hear Marc’s Dybul messages:  “Invest now or pay forever “.