October 2008 in Review
In the spotlight
Coalition partners take MVG/PG on the road

This month saw the launch of a concerted effort by Coalition partners to generate global interest and support for the Minimum Volume Guarantee (MVG) and Pledge Guarantee (PG) mechanisms. This move followed statements by UNFPA and the United Nations Foundation, formally acknowledging their interest to serve as managing agencies of the MVG and PG, respectively. Efforts to generate interest began at the World Bank, where more than 20 senior economists gathered for a lunch-time session to learn more about the new mechanisms and assess their feasibility and potential utility. According to Sangeeta Raja, who helped organize the event, there was widespread agreement that the MVG and PG offered great potential to help countries overcome current procurement and financing bottlenecks.

Two weeks later in Berlin, the 7th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development provided the venue for further discussions on the new mechanisms. During the two-day event, UNFPA's Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, met with Susan Rich of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and representatives of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), as well as other stakeholders, to discuss the prospects of these innovative financing instruments and of a start-up phase requiring continued support from interested partners. And finally, at the end of October, Coalition Director, John Skibiak, presented an overview of the MVG and PG to a meeting of more than 80 European parliamentarians and development specialists, including representatives of the Global Fund and UNITAID. The event aimed to increase understanding of the new development aid landscape and portray the current state of aid effectiveness. Click here to read more.

A critical component in all these awareness-raising efforts has been the development of a series of three “Donor Ask Statements,” each of which clearly spells out the specific role donors and other key stakeholders can play in supporting the MVG and PG. The statements will soon be available on the Coalition website. For more information, contact MVG/PG Advisory Group Coordinator, John Skibiak.

Coalition on the scene
Working Group leaders get off to a running start

Fresh from recent elections, leaders of the three Working Groups (WGs) gathered on October 22 for an all-day orientation session with Secretariat staff. Held at the Secretariat’s offices, the meeting had four key objectives: to clarify the roles and responsibilities of WGs and WG leaders; to share information on the work being carried out within each WG; to identify strategies for enhancing WG effectiveness; and to identify ways in which WGs can contribute more effectively to the Coalition’s strategic goals. At the meeting, Secretariat staff unveiled a new PowerPoint presentation designed to make the Coalition’s Strategic Plan and monitoring & evaluation activities more understandable and applicable to the work of the WGs. WG leaders praised the outcomes of the meeting and agreed to make them a regular event, perhaps to coincide with the Executive Committee’s semi-annual meetings.

Changes in the air for Coalition Communications

Coalition members will see some notable changes in the Secretariat’s communication programme as current Communications Officer, Catherine Potter, begins her maternity leave next month. Effective November 17, all activities and correspondence relating to both the newsletter and website will now be handled by Bonnie Keith, who has been seconded part-time from PATH to support the work of the Secretariat. Bonnie will be based at PATH’s Washington DC offices, thereby making her more accessible to our colleagues on the other side of the pond. Please join us in welcoming Bonnie, who can be reached directly at bkeith@path.org or via the Secretariat’s communications address, communications@rhsupplies.org.

Financial sustainability of Secretariat under review

This month, members of the Executive Committee reviewed and provided feedback on a draft concept paper, developed to facilitate Committee discussions on the Secretariat’s funding needs. Building on the Secretariat’s experience over the past two years and the results of a membership-wide survey on the Secretariat’s performance, the document presents a broad vision of the future and outlines an operational framework by which the Secretariat can effectively support the Coalition’s goals and objectives. The Executive Committee is scheduled to discuss the paper at its upcoming semi-annual meeting and endorse the broader dissemination of the membership-wide survey.

Making headway: the search for a new Chair

With Wolfgang Bichmann’s term as Executive Committee Chair due to expire in May 2009, the search for his successor is well underway. Since the announcement in May this year of Margret Verwijk’s departure as Co-chair, members of the Nomination and Executive Committee have been actively engaged in discussions with interested parties. In accordance with the Coaltion’s new membership policy, the Executive Committee reverted to its original policy of a single Chair, with a tenure of two years.

Members of Countdown 2015 Europe gather in Lyon for Annual Strategy Session

On October 1, 2008, 18 European sexual and reproductive health and rights NGOs met in Lyon for their Annual Strategy Session. Advocating under the banner of Countdown 2015 Europe, the group invited partners from the broader RH supplies community, including the Coalition, Project RMA, UNFPA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During the meeting, participants looked back over the past year to identify best practices and lessons learned. They were also presented with the methodology and first findings of a Coalition exercise designed to map out the global advocacy landscape for RH supplies. Project RMA presented the Coalition’s new advocacy guide and toolkit, which offers valuable input on messages for RH supplies advocacy. By the end of the day, participants had agreed upon directions for the coming year and opportunities for increased synergies in RH supplies advocacy. For more information, contact An Huybrechts, Project Coordinator for IPPF European Network.

Highlights from the Working Groups
Systems Strengthening Working Group (SSWG)

This month, almost 20 SSWG members assembled for the first time under the leadership of the WG’s new leader, David Smith. For two days, members met at the offices of the Coalition Secretariat where they reviewed progress on different workstreams, including the Countries at Risk (CAR) group, the MVG/PG mechanisms, pre-qualification, RHInterchange (RHI), and the Software Tools Review. They also discussed potential new workstreams such as RH Supplies in Emergency Settings (see below), Professionalism of Logisticians, and Planning and Procurement Forecasting. Last but not least, Wolfgang Theis of KfW provided an update on the work underway on a new West African financing mechanism (see below). Minutes of the meeting are now available on the Coalition website by clicking here. For more information, contact David Smith.

RHI: On October 3, the RHI's Management Group met in Brussels to review the RHI's business plan. The meeting was facilitated by Dalberg Consulting, which is working closely with UNFPA, the next operator of the RHI, to articulate the best growth opportunity for the RHI in the near and longer term. The group agreed on a path forward that continues to serve country-level buyers and managers of RH commodities at any level, but that also allows for changes in the software to enable transactions and information sharing required by the MVG and PG mechanisms. Under this strategy, the RHI will continue to expand its existing offering, but will also leverage its learning, information, and relationships to support additional customer needs. More transparent and timely information can be expected to help the MVG and PG ensure customer satisfaction, responsive suppliers, and good risk management. The formulation of the next phase of the strategy will continue throughout 2008. For more information, contact the RHInterchange team.

West Africa RH financing mechanism: In April 2008, the Belgian consulting firm HERA was retained by KfW to investigate the feasibility of a regional financing mechanism for RH commodities in West Africa. Working with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), the planned mechanism is nearing realization with five countries having been chosen to pilot the scheme. In mid November, a workshop to define key project components will take place in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. For more information, contact Wolfgang Theis of KfW.

RH Supplies in Emergency Settings: Interest is building within the SSWG for the establishment of a new workstream to address Focus Area 2.4 of the Coalition’s Strategic Plan, namely the need for a coordinated response to provide RH supplies to countries suffering from conflict, disasters, etc. Insofar as any response would, by definition, straddle both advocacy and systems strengthening, the workstream would crosscut both the Resource Mobilization and Awareness WG (RMA WG) and SSWG. This issue was discussed at the recent SSWG meeting, where participants noted UNFPA’s current programme provides emergency RH kits. There was also discussion on such issues as pre-positioning of stocks, the problems of labeling, and the challenges of supply chain mapping in emergency settings. Anyone interested in joining this workstream should contact Maaike Van Min of MSI or Steve Kinzett of the Secretariat.

Market Development Approaches Working Group (MDA WG)

An MDA WG teleconference on October 9 saw progress being made on its Total Market Initiative (TMI) workstream. Two WG members announced that they had begun a scoping exercise to identify one or two countries that could serve as initial case studies, pending the availability of funding. A two-day meeting is scheduled to take place on November 17—18 in Washington, DC, to design and cost out a TMI study proposal.

Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group (RMA WG)

RMA WG sets course of action: Newly elected RMA WG Co-chairs, Neil Datta and Sandra Jordan, met for the first time in Brussels on October 22 to develop a WG action plan for the months ahead. With feedback and input from a small group of RMA WG players—Matthew Lindley, IPPF London; Ben Light, UNFPA; Mercedes Mas de Xaxas, PAI; and Liz Bennour, IPPF—European Network, Brussels—the following were identified as key areas for activity: the continued improvement of the advocacy toolkit; the global advocacy/mapping project; and the “financial ask,” using the Supply Gap Analysis. Other areas identified for coordination and monitoring included Project RMA, Countdown 2015 Europe, and mobilizing for RH/HIV Integration. The RMA WG will also initiate proactive and ongoing communications with the other WG heads to determine where—and when—the RMA WG can step in and help advance the work of the other WGs. This would include assisting the SSWG on the MVG/PG, the Supply Gap, and the proposed RH Supplies in Emergency Settings workstream. Workstream leaders will be identified to lead projects and collaborative workstreams set up with well-defined workplans. Information sharing will become more intensified and centralized, and the RMA WG will meet face-to-face annually with interim communications carried out through emails and phone calls. The Co-Chairs identified as a key challenge the need to engage all members and identify new members from the global south. For more information, contact Neil Datta or Sandra Jordan.

Financial Ask update: Members of the RMA WG met by teleconference on October 16 to discuss the final draft of the Supply Gap Analysis paper and assess how useful the analysis will be in terms of the “Global Financial Ask.” Documents written by PAI proved helpful in comparing the original and recent gap analysis and in summarizing the recent funding “asks” of other global health initiatives such as Stop TB. Participants agreed that the analysis was helpful in advocating for the allocation of supply-earmarked funding at a global level, but with the increasing trend towards “sector-wide funding,” especially by European development partners, the need also exists for more country-level supply gap analyses. Further analysis and interpretation of the “gap” paper will be undertaken once the report is finalized and published. For more information, contact Neil Datta.


Project RMA: Project RMA has announced this year's small grant recipients. They are a diverse group of regional and global NGO networks, committed to placing RH supplies high on the agendas of the ICPD+15 process at regional and global levels. Recipients include the Asia Pacific Alliance, the Central and Eastern European Women's Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, the Youth Coalition, the East African Reproductive Health Network, MSI, Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network, and the Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. Their advocacy efforts will include targeting national delegations to ICPD+15 review meetings, promoting the importance of RH supplies among parliamentarians, and developing regional strategies to increase access to RH supplies. Contact Jess Bernstein of PAI for more information.

This month, Project RMA has seen some exciting new developments in Uganda and Tanzania. For more information, click here or contact Sarah Shaw of IPPF.

Upcoming Events

4 Nov Formal signing of France's membership in the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition; Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Paris
10 Nov Executive Committee meeting; UNFPA Headquarters, New York, USA
11 Nov Update on Global Programme; UNFPA Headquarters, New York, USA
11 Nov Donor Convening on MVG and PG; Dalberg Global Development Advisors, New York, USA (by invitation only)
12-13 Nov West Africa RH Financing mechanism workshop; Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
16 Nov Local Governance and Health MDGs Event, European Development Days; Strasbourg, France
17-18 Nov Total Market Initiative meeting (MDA WG); Futures Group International, Washington, DC, USA
19-21 Nov Project RMA meeting—Global Policy Frameworks: Turning Commitment into Access for RH Supplies; Accra, Ghana
20 Nov Global Advocacy Mapping Exercise meeting with stakeholders; Futures Group International, Washington, DC, USA
24-25 Nov PPD International Forum: ICPD@15, Progress and Prospects; Kampala, Uganda
25 Nov Global Advocacy Mapping Exercise draft report presentation; Coalition Secretariat, Brussels, Belgium

For more details on the above and other events, see the events calendar on the Coalition website.