Nairobi-based accountability for Global Fund

As I contemplate an imminent trip to Kenya in less than two weeks, I was doing a bit of research on government accountability, and stumbled upon an interesting organization — Aidspan — which is, ” an international non-governmental Kenya-based organization whose mission is to reinforce the effectiveness of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” The director recently penned an article about the non-disbursement of round 2 funds, in which he concludes that 20,000 lives were “not saved,” as a result of the bungling. Apparently, he has been closely following all of the grants to Kenya and has identified local and international mis-management, while also highlighting some real improvement in recent years.

In some ongoing work I’ve focused on accountability at the very local level. But in a world in which development is being governed at so many levels, this type of “watchdog” organization seems extremely valuable. In certain circumstances, overly zealous critics can de-legitimize important aid projects by crying foul at every minor wrong turn. But Aidspan seems truly committed to making the Global Fund work, and communicates its concerns both publicly and privately, as appropriate. Clearly some research is needed, but such citizen-based accountability initiatives would seem to be a key ingredient for promoting effective global governance.

While the organization appears to have been founded by a British economist — Bernard Rivers — he decided to base the organization in Kenya, and to develop a Kenyan staff to implement its mission. In the unlikely event that I have some free time in Nairobi, I will try to learn more about their work.


Kenyans protest global fund withdrawal

Last week, I wrote about the severe funding shortfalls that are jeopardizing the solvency of the Global fund for HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Shortly after my post, I read that Bill Gates ponied up $750 million. He and I must have been on the same wave length. Moreover, I was just finishing the Steve Jobs biography — which was fascinating, and a great read — but boy does Jobs have a lot of vitriole for Gates. Ok, I digress.

The point I wanted to make is that Kenyans have been protesting the prospects of the global fund spigot going dry as thousands rely on that funding to support their AIDS treatment. It’s not clear from the news stories how large the protests have been. But one of the things that has fascinated me about the history of the African AIDS pandemic is how little activism there was on the ground in the years before widespread funding of treatment and other programs.

Now that such treatment has been provided, if it gets taken away, there will almost certainly be quite a bit of resentment and people will protest on a wider scale. My first instinct was to suggest that this is an exemplar of the power of loss aversion. But the truth is, the value of AIDS treatment was probably largely incomprehensible in the abstract, and it’s only after years of experience that citizens have come to understand how this medical technology can be life-saving. The global fund deserves a solid share of the credit for making this possible.