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Ivan Varentsov: “The key motivation is to see that your work brings actual benefits to real people”

February 13, 2018

Ivan Varentsov, program coordinator of the EECA Regional Platform and EHRA Advisor on Sustainability and Transition, told Minus Virus on how the priorities are shifted in the new round of the Global Fund Support Program, who can take advantage of TA and how to do it, shared his tips on preventing professional burnout.

Regional Global Fund Communication and Coordination platforms were established in six regions of the world within the framework of the implementation of the Special Initiative on Communities, Rights and Gender (CRG) in 2014-2016. Upon implementation of the first round of the program, the Global Fund Board decided to continue it. And in November 2016, a budget of $15 million was approved to continue implementation of the program, now in form of the Strategic Initiative for 2017-2019. As before, the CRG Strategic Initiative will be implemented through three complementary components:

– Short-term technical assistance program,

– Long-term capacity building of the community-based network organizations,

– Functioning of the Regional Cooperation and Communication Platforms.

At the end of 2017, six civil society organizations were selected by the Global Fund to support the work of Regional Platforms around the world. For the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) was selected as the implementing entity.

Detailed information on the Global Fund’s Community, Rights and Gender (CRG) Program is available on the Global Fund website (in English), including:

– Request for technical assistance (in several languages, including Russian);

– List of frequently asked questions about the program and answers to them (in several languages, including Russian);

– List of organizations – providers of technical assistance.

Information about the Program in Russian is available on the EHRA website.

Иван Варенцов, координатор программы Региональная платформа ВЕЦА и советник ЕАСВ по вопросам устойчивости и перехода

Иван Варенцов, координатор программы Региональная платформа ВЕЦА и советник ЕАСВ по вопросам устойчивости и перехода

Ivan, you have been working in the public health field in different countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia for the past 10 years. What are the basic principles guiding your work?

Ivan Varentsov, Program Coordinator of EECA Regional Platform and EHRA Adviser on Sustainability and Transition.

I do not have an answer about the principles at the moment, but the main motivation for me is to see that my work brings some specific benefits to real people. Perhaps, therefore, I have always tried to work in parallel with regional activities in an organization that provides direct services to key vulnerable groups in the context of HIV – since it is the grassroots level, where one can have immediate contact with those people for whom all this high level activity is intended. Otherwise, it’s very easy to lose the touch with the real situation in which the people, on whom we focus our efforts, actually live. Probably it was the combination of such diverse work activities, which prevented me from professional burnout.

How long have you been working with the Global Fund programs?

In 2007, I began working in the program “Development of the treatment strategy of the Russian Federation population vulnerable to HIV/AIDS”, which was implemented by the “Russian Healthcare” Foundation with the financial support of the Global Fund, and since then, in one way or another, my activities are related to the Global Fund activities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia countries.

Nowadays you co-ordinate the work of one of the six Regional Platforms of the Global Fund for the EECA countries. For what purpose was the program created and why there are six platforms?

Regional platforms are expected to play a key role in ensuring meaningful engagement of civil society organizations and communities in the Global Fund’s processes for the regions concerned. Their responsibilities include support for regional dialogue, the organization of the knowledge and best practices sharing among civil society representatives, and the provision of access for representatives of communities from countries where the Global Fund grants are implemented or which are covered by regional grants to information on the availability of the necessary technical support.

The number of platforms is based on the geographical coverage of the GF activities.

During the new round, the Platform continues its activities to enhance information, communication and coordination of civil society and communities in the following regions: Asia-Pacific, Anglophone Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Francophone Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa.

Only GF program participants or all country NGOs can take part in the program activities?

The platform covers the following countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. Organizations from these countries can qualify for technical assistance under the Global Fund CRG Technical Support Program.

The platform focuses on working with civil society organizations from the listed EECA countries, including network organizations, as well as organizations on the basis of key affected communities and vulnerable groups, such as  people living with HIV/TB, malaria; drug users; sex workers; LGBT; young people; women.

What are the main tasks of the Platform?

In order to ensure progress in functioning as the Regional Platform of the EECA, EHRA will concentrate on the following objectives over the next two and a half years:

Task 1. Promote meaningful participation of civil society and community representatives in the Global Fund processes by raising their awareness and knowledge through regular bilateral communication and providing accessible information.

Task 2. Improve the impact of programs and interventions supported by the Global Fund, as well as response to the epidemic in general, by strengthening the role of civil society and communities affected by HIV, TB and malaria in relevant processes.

Task 3. Increase access to technical support for civil society and community organizations by coordinating relevant activities within the component of the Special Initiative on Short-term Technical Support, as well as interaction with key technical partners at the national, regional and global levels.

Task 4. Support strategic initiatives to develop the capacity of civil society and communities by providing opportunities for participation and engagement in decision-making processes, in particular those relating to community, human rights and gender issues.

Which areas of assistance are available for NGOs in the countries?

The Platform Team will gladly provide support on issues related to enhancing the meaningful participation of civil society and communities in the development, implementation and evaluation of programs supported by the Global Fund in the EECA region, including:

– Matters related to obtaining technical assistance for participation in all stages of the grant cycle, including country dialogue, the development of a funding application, participation in the monitoring and implementation of the grant program, etc.

– Matters related to obtaining technical assistance for participation in the development, implementation and monitoring of the strategy for the transition to sustainable development of HIV, TB and malaria programs.

– Matters related to the structure of the Global Fund, its activities at the global, regional and country level, the relevant procedures and policies of the Fund, as well as opportunities for civil society and community representatives to participate in these processes.

– Other information matters that are important to ensure meaningful participation of civil society and community representatives in the Global Fund processes to strengthen the fight against the three diseases in the EECA region.

What useful tools for the development of NGOs are available within the platform? Is there a schedule of planned activities?

The activities of the Regional EECA Platform for the next 2.5 years will include:

– National workshops and workshops for representatives of civil society organizations and communities involved in the implementation of the Global Fund’s country grants as subrecipients and second tier subrecipients;

– Holding a regional meeting of the members of the Country Coordinating Committees (CCMs – non-governmental sector representatives from the EECA countries);

– Assisting organizations in the preparation of technical support requests within the framework of the CRG Strategic Initiative;

– Preparation and dissemination of information materials on the activities of the Global Fund;

– Holding thematic webinars;

– Coordination of communications and other activities.

The Platform website is still under construction; we expect it to be launched by the end of February. However, we invite you to subscribe to our updates on the Platform page, as well as to join the Platform group on Facebook.

The Platform program is being implemented for the second time in the EECA. Have the program priorities shifted as of today?

During the implementation of the first phase of the Regional Platform Initiative on Community, Rights and Gender more emphasis was placed on strengthening communication about the Global Fund processes among organizations and civil society groups.

The new phase of the program envisages increasing the Platforms’ role in helping civil society organizations and communities to identify needs, understand technical support capabilities, and prepare solid requests for technical support under the relevant Global Fund programs.

In the first round, the Platform activities were implemented in partnership between the three regional organizations. Are you going to attract partners (sub-recipients) in a new round or you have already established connections?

At this stage of the implementation of the Regional Platform project, no formal partnerships with other regional organizations are expected. But at the same time, within the framework of the Platform’s work, EHRA plans to actively interact with other key regional networks of communities and organizations in the EECA region. In particular, EHRA will build close partnerships with the organizations that have been selected as technical support providers in the EECA region within the Global Fund’s Community, Rights and Gender Assistance Program to provide timely and quality assistance.

How to obtain technical assistance within the program?

To apply, please fill out the CRG technical support request form and submit it on behalf of the requesting support organization(s) at: CRGTA@theglobalfund.org.

How will the decision-making procedure for providing technical assistance to the received requests take place?

First of all, the Global Fund Secretariat will verify the request for compliance with certain requirements, and if eligible, the request will be ranked in priority using a set of criteria including the following indicators:

Applicants have explored and exhausted all other ways to access technical support.

– 343Applicants took into account the appropriate procedures and deadlines throughout the grant period.

Interview by Inna Gavrilova

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