WHS 2022: Happy Birthday, BACKUP Health!
Celebrating 20 years of technical support for global health financing
BACKUP Health team members handing out the birthday cake during the celebration and launch of the GHPC study about 20 years of BACKUP Health © GIZ/Steffen Kugler
In high spirits and festive atmosphere, representatives of BMZ, Global Fund, BACKUP partners, WHS delegates and BACKUP team members celebrated 20 years of BACKUP’s unique way of delivering technical assistance to the GF and other global health initiatives.
As delegates emerged from their final sessions of the day on 17 October at the World Health Summit a jazz version of ‘Happy Birthday’ wafted through the conference lobby. In the first floor’s Geneva Lounge, delegates and invited guests assembled in relaxed and joyous atmosphere to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Germany’s BACKUP Health initiative, perhaps one of the most remarkable contributions of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to global health in this period.
Clemens Gros, Director of Insights for Development and author of the study to be launched as part of the event, moderated the evening’s programme. He invited everyone to enjoy jazz, a glass of champagne and a piece of birthday cake as they listened to the birthday wishes BMZ, the Global Fund and several longstanding BACKUP partners would deliver in the coming hour.
BMZ: BACKUP has been a flagship of Germany’s commitment to multilateralism
Dr Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk, BMZ Deputy Director Global Health, spoke first, highlighting the fact that BACKUP embodies German development cooperation’s interconnected approach of combining support to multilateral institutions with targeted and demand-oriented technical support at country level.
She said that BACKUP’s demand-oriented technical assistance has boosted the effectiveness and sustainability of Germany’s investments in the Global Fund, fully in line with BMZ’s strategy to work towards inclusive and resilient health systems around the globe. Nodding to the representatives of the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) present at the event, Dr Rödiger Vorwerk lauded BACKUP as best practice example for BMZ’s successful collaboration with other development partners such as FCDO, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Expertise France. She ended her short speech on a passionate and cheerful note:
I love BACKUP – happy birthday!Dr Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk
Global Fund: ‘The history of the Global Fund and BACKUP is a great one!’
Next, Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) delivered his warm and humorous birthday message: ‘I stand here as a fellow 20 year-old: the Global Fund, too, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. So, BACKUP, maybe next year when we’re both 21, we could go out for a drink in New York?’ He continued
The history of the Global Fund and Backup is a great history and one that everybody involved in BACKUP should be proud of!Peter Sands
Peter Sands underlined that he valued the way BACKUP works, regarding it as important complement to realising the objectives of the grant applications the GF approves and funds.
Friends of the Global Fund: Keep promoting civil society, human rights and gender equality
Sergius Seebohm, Advisor for Germany of the Friends of the Global Fund, delivered the birthday wishes from Heide Wieczorek-Zeul, Federal Minister of the BMZ when Global Fund and BACKUP Health were founded. In her place, he stated that
BACKUP Health makes sure, that the core principles of civil society participation and accountability, which make the Global Fund unique, are maintained as cornerstones of the capacity development with partner countries.Sergius Seebohm
Aidspan: ‘Let’s keep challenging and improving the status quo.’
Next in line of the well-wishers was Ida Hakizinka, Executive Director Aidspan, the independent observer of the Global Fund and a long-term BACKUP partner and grant recipient. According to her, BACKUP Health has been instrumental to Aidspan’s mission, for example by strengthening national supreme audit institutions in recipient countries: ‘Our partnership with BACKUP Health resulted in an increase in the number of national Supreme Audit Institutions conducting not only financial but also programmatic audits of Global Fund-supported grants, some of which were discussed in parliamentarian committees and led to important questions being raised by parliamentarians regarding their governments’ grant implementation and sustainability.’
African Constituency Bureau: ‘BACKUP has backed-up Africa’s voice in GF governance’
Josephat Kakoma, Executive Director for the African Constituency Bureau for the Global Fund, described how BACKUP’s support had enabled it to play its role:
BACKUP has indeed lived up to its name by backing us up in engaging stakeholders like the African Union, the regional economic communities and the constituent countries so that they collectively form a stronger African voice in Global Fund governance bodies.Josephat Kakoma
He wished BACKUP well for the coming years, stating that his organisation counted on it to continue backing it up in its efforts towards the shared goal of ending HIV, TB and malaria by 2030.
Frontline AIDS: ‘BACKUP has an outstanding record in strengthening democratic accountability mechanisms’
Next, Olga Golichenko, Lead for Health and Community Systems Advocacy at Frontline AIDS and a Ukrainian, took the microphone, highlighting one more reason for which partners appreciate BACKUP Health: ‘Strong governance structures and communities’ participation in decision-making are essential for pandemic preparedness, prevention and response systems.’ She continued:
BACKUP has an outstanding record in strengthening democratic accountability mechanisms to address HIV/AIDS and other most pressing global health challenges.Olga Golichenko
Launching the study: Learnings from 20 years of working for – and between – the Global Fund and recipient countries
Following a musical interlude, Anna von Roenne, Managing Editor of Healthy DEvelopments and the German Health Practice Collection, and Clemens Gros, author of the study, rose to the challenge of presenting the essence of the study ‘The German BACKUP Health Initiative: Learnings from 20 years of working for – and between – the Global Fund and recipient countries’ in less than four minutes. Central learnings that emerged from 24 key informant interviews include that
- Agility, flexibility and recognising windows of opportunity have been essential for impactful technical assistance
- Some of the Global Fund’s core principles, such as civil society participation and accountability, still depend on external support by partners like BACKUP Health to be fully operationalised
- Despite the Global Fund’s ambition to align itself with recipient country systems and priorities, some opportunities to do so have been left unexploited
- The Global Fund and BACKUP Health were created to tackle inequities in global health outcomes. Today, twenty years later, they must tackle inequities in global health governance
FCDO: Working alongside BACKUP has been a new experience and a very positive one
As representative of one of the newest supporters of BACKUP Health, Claire Moran, Director Global Health FCDO, took the stage to round off the many contributions to this birthday celebration.
FCDO created six posts for technical advisors from the UK to be seconded to the BACKUP Health offices in partner countries and were surprised to see how popular these jobs are: ‘We put six of our best people in the BACKUP country teams to support all of the large health initiatives to deliver more coherently and to focus on supporting health systems, but also reaching those vulnerable.’ Claire Moran summarised what FCDO appreciates about BACKUP Health:
‘We love the fact that BACKUP support is truly demand-led; the quality and the skill of their grant management; and its focus on the most marginalized and vulnerable.’
BACKUP Health: In an era of ever more complex challenge, collaboration matters
On behalf of his team, Jean-Olivier Schmidt, Head of the BACKUP Health programme, thanked all BACKUP-partners and well-wishers on behalf of his team for the work realised together over the years. Collaboration matters, he stated, ever more so in an era of complex and growing challenges. This is why BACKUP looks forward to continuing and expanding its partnerships aimed at building resilient health systems.
Anna von Roenne, October 2022