April 2007 in Review



In the spotlight


Successful meeting in London

From 27–28 April 2007, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition convened in London for its seventh semi-annual membership meeting, hosted by Coalition partner, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). The membership meeting was the culmination of many smaller gatherings held earlier in the week, including working group sessions, a Communications Task Force discussion, a reception for members of London’s reproductive health community, and on Thursday, April 26, the executive committee meeting.

At the two-day membership meeting, over 50 participants exchanged ideas and information with the aim of finalizing the Coalition’s three- to five-year strategic plan. Participants reviewed and revised the latest draft of the plan, which had been developed by a task force of Coalition volunteers, with input from the executive committee and general membership. The discussion was informed by breakout sessions divided across and along working group lines, and a series of panel presentations that placed the reproductive health supplies challenge within the context of the changing environment for development assistance. Finally, participants were updated on new developments in the WHO prequalification process.

In May, contents of the meeting will be posted on the Coalition website, starting with the presentations. In the meantime, drafts of the membership and executive committee meetings will be circulated for input and then posted once they have been approved.





Coalition on the scene


Membership plan – call for input

Earlier this month, Director John Skibiak submitted to the executive committee a memorandum on Coalition membership, highlighting the most relevant strategic issues, suggesting various membership options, and outlining the implications of each for Coalition management. At its April 26 meeting, the committee agreed that membership was a top priority and recommended that concrete proposals for resolving the matter be completed by mid-summer. To this end, they recommended that the Secretariat adopt a consultative process, following the task force model used to develop the Coalition’s three- to five-year strategic plan. The Secretariat looks forward to broad-based participation in this consultative process and invites anyone interested in joining to advise them in writing by Friday, May 18 at RHSCSecretariat@path.org.

Themes for the October meeting

For the first time in its history, the Coalition has the luxury of knowing well in advance where and when its next membership meeting will be held. Hosted by USAID, the meeting will take place in Washington, DC at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel on 24–25 October. It will be preceded by the executive committee meeting, which will take place on 23 October at the offices of PAI. The Coalition is also fortunate in having identified a geographic focus for the meeting, which will be Latin America and the Caribbean. Although six months may seem like light years away, the logistics of preparing an agenda, invitation list, and other arrangements cannot be underestimated. For that reason, the Secretariat encourages anyone with ideas, suggestions, or thoughts about the October meeting to forward them at the earliest convenience.





Highlights from the Working Groups


Market Development Approaches Working Group

Due to scheduling conflicts, only five members of the MDA WG were able to attend the group’s half-day working session in London. But the small size did not prevent them from engaging in a frank and fruitful discussion, particularly on the future direction of the group itself.

“Demand” once again figured prominently among the WG’s topics of discussion. Earlier, WG Chair Ben Light circulated a think-piece on the subject and its relevance to supply security and the Coalition’s work generally. Though members agreed that demand was a key concept for much of the Coalition’s work, they asked for greater clarification on the subject, and for a better understanding of the ways the MDA WG could add value to it.

Surely, the most notable achievement of the meeting was agreement on the future strategic direction of the MDA WG. Members acknowledged the fact that the group is, in many ways, markedly different from the other WGs. It more heterogeneous and lacks a systematic internal access to funds that permits it to move ahead with its own independent priorities. These factors have hampered the development of its workplan, and contributed to the lack of progress on the MDA Evaluation and Country Typology.

Given these considerations, the WG has decided to limit the scope of its activities to those already being undertaken by member institutions. It also envisions a scope of work focused, at least for the time being, on the issue of generics: from active pharmaceutical ingredients to the end user (manufacturing, prequalification, regulation, procurement, and distribution).

Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group

On Wednesday, April 25, a joint meeting of the RMA WG and Gates–funded Project RMA yielded a number of important decisions, including the identification of Burkina Faso and Uganda as focus countries for working group activities. They agreed to meet again in June by teleconference to select the first of up to four additional countries. To help inform the process, they are constructing a matrix of partner actions that will include such items as IPPF’s work to establish NGO advocacy coalitions and DSW’s work with regional networks.

In addition to the identification of focus countries, five regional Network NGOs have been awarded small grants to explore the issue of reproductive health supplies among their member organizations. Adoption of the supply issue by these NGOs has the potential for considerable impact insofar as each has access to many civil society groups.

And with Phase I of the Istanbul Country studies nearly complete, the WG announced that Phase II will include a comprehensive assessment of civil society in each country. During the WG meeting, members discussed the process for developing the methodology for this work.

Finally, Tanvi Pandit-Rajani of HPI Project/Constella Futures introduced portions of the USAID-funded draft Advocacy Toolkit. The RMA WG announced that it will be soliciting feedback from other WGs on selected sections of the toolkit. Included within the toolkit is a resource databank that will eventually be posted on the Coalition website. The group hopes to roll out the completed toolkit at the October membership meeting.

Systems Strengthening Working Group

On Wednesday, April 25, members of the SSWG met to discuss a host of activities being conducted under their auspices:

Reproductive Health Interchange (RHI). Representing the RHI, Mimi Whitehouse noted that use of the RHI database/website has increased over the past few months. She also discussed plans to expand the number of data sources on the RHI, including Crown Agents procurements and, thanks to their introduction of a new computerized tracking system, data from PSI. Finally, Mimi reported that the RHI Management group would soon be visiting five countries to obtain feedback on the RH Interchange from donors, and health and program managers. The five countries include Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Guatemala and Honduras.

One-Stop Source. During the SSWG meeting, participants offered input and insight into the construction of a “one-stop” data source for country-level supplies information. To be housed on the Coalition’s new website, the new data base will assemble in one place, supplies-related information sources such as DHS surveys, national health accounts, the contraceptive security index, SPARHCS and logistics system assessments, and family planning effort scores

Tool Inventory. Members of the SSWG have agreed on the need for an inventory of existing software tools on all aspects of supply chain management. The inventory would facilitate comparisons among tools, as well as provide a basis for assessing their relative strengths and capabilities. At present, a scope of work is being prepared for an independent consultant who could undertake this work.

Countries at Risk Group (CAR). The CAR has adopted a new, expanded format for collecting country-level supply information provided by USAID|DELIVER. This format will detail stock status by program and product, and provide information relating to policy, financing, donor coordination, and other issues. Hopes are that data from the UNFPA’s CCM program will also be made available in summary form for use by the group.

Minimum Volume Guarantee/Pledge Guarantee (MVG/PG). Since last December, the SSWG has focused its efforts on fine-tuning the MVG/PG mechanism(s) and determining the parameters of a meaningful field test. A revised TOR was prepared by Alan Bornbusch (USAID) and KfW consultant Sandra Rolet and submitted to SSWG members for review prior to the spring membership meeting.

In London, Alan Bornbusch expressed his view that MVG/PG preparation had reached a stage where further steps would be carried out more efficiently through a smaller dedicated committee. The SSWG endorsed the proposal and a small MVG/PG Committee was formed of potential stakeholders/contributors to the mechanism: KfW, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, the Dutch Government, the World Bank, and UNFPA, with USAID as an observer. At the Committee’s first meeting on the afternoon of April 26, Wolfgang Bichmann agreed to spearhead the effort with the support of a consultant. The Committee will now finalize the TOR and get the design team on board.



Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition

Rue Marie-Thérèse, 21
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 210.02.22
Fax: +32 (0)2 219.33.63