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Chelsea Phipps’s Blog

GAVI: An Encouraging Partnership for Taking Action on Global Goals

Chelsea Phipps

Posted May 9, 2014

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In recent weeks, some NGOs and a few governments have begun to express concerns about “multi-stakeholder partnerships” as a means for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals expected to be adopted by the UN in 2015.  They worry that business interests will have undue sway in public-private partnership (PPPs) and “privatize” the UN’s development agenda.  Yet the experience of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) shows that a PPP can lead to more action and greater impact than governments acting alone on this critical public health issue.

Launched at the 2000 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, GAVI has supported the immunization of 440 million children, preventing 6 million deaths. Its main strategy to improve the immunization marketplace is to work with industry to ensuring there’s enough supply, enabling innovation, and keeping prices low.

National governments in countries eligible for support must also contribute – there’s “no free lunch” as Seth Berkeley, GAVI’s CEO, said at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He explained that starting in 2011 countries “graduate” in order to keep immunization prices in line with what countries are capable of paying – a feature to help ensure the alliance’s sustainability.

Civil society and local groups also have a role to play in GAVI’s work. Civil society organizations (CSOs) help develop public policy, advocate for greater investment in GAVI’s cause, hold GAVI stakeholders accountable, and assist in the delivery of health services and immunizations to the most vulnerable populations that often get left out of immunization campaigns. CSOs have a seat on the GAVI Alliance’s board and participate in its activities.

Robert Clay, the USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health, explained that the U.S. has always financially supported GAVI because of its proven track record of achieving real, concrete results on the ground. In fact, he said, the U.S. has given more than $1 billion to GAVI since its inception. The report launched at the CSIS event, Replenishing GAVI in 2014: Options for U.S. Engagement, recommended the U.S. even further increase its funding to GAVI. 

The Gates Foundation has also funded GAVI, in part because of its alliance model that pulls in not only governments, but the private sector as well. Nicole Bates, the Gates Foundation’s Deputy Director of Global Policy and Advocacy, stressed the importance of immunizations being a collective effort, saying that there is increased accountability when there is “collective buy-in.”

The author of the Replenishing GAVI report launched at CSIS that recommended that the U.S. increase support to GAVI, Katherine Bliss, noted the need for Alliance to improve its data gathering to determine which activities work best for improving vaccine coverage and equity. This is just one more example of how a ‘data revolution’ is needed across the board with sustainable development activities to improve implementation and assist in monitoring and evaluation.

GAVI is an example of how governments, business, and civil society can work together to produce real, concrete results toward a global goal to improve human health. Its success suggests the UN should take a harder look at partnerships to assess their performance and potential. The United Nations has begun to do so as part of the current Millennium Development Goal 8 calling for a global partnership, but much more needs to be done to ensure partnerships like GAVI are supported and encouraged to do even more.  

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Laura CooleyMay 12 2014 01:37 PM

GAVI is a nice example of a public-private partnership and has definitely helped to rejuvenate attention to childhood immunization worldwide. As Chelsea Phipps suggests, the GAVI alliance would not have been possible without the strong support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and early donors such as Norway and the US. Thanks also must go to the global visionaries who conceptualized it and carried it forward, including Dr. Mark Kane (formerly of PATH and the WHO), and the many colleagues at WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, PATH as well as pharmaceutical representatives of the vaccine manufacturers (IFPMA), not to mention the participating Ministries of Health and civil society within country--the direct beneficiaries.

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