The Future of Advocacy: GI's Darby Major Interviews Dr. Duff Gillespie of AFP

Darby Major, former Advance Family Planning (AFP) communications intern and Anchor Grant's newest staff member, sits down with Dr. Duff Gillespie, AFP's Principal Investigator and well-respected senior scholar at the Gates Institute (GI). To learn about AFP's new The Future of Advocacy: Local Ownership, Sustainability, and Grant-making options brief and their advocacy approach, check out the full Q+A below: 

Why did AFP decide to focus on donor funding options for advocacy?

Going back to the Paris Declaration three decades ago, there has been a philosophical intention amongst donors to encourage and enable developing countries to take ownership of the development process. Many of the ways donors support countries and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) make attainment of local ownership more difficult. For example, local ownership is assumed to be sustainable but requires a critical mass of expertise to develop strategies, establish personnel requirements, build budgets, and have discretionary funds. The funding agreements of both bilateral donors and foundations typically do not have elements in them which would help governments and NGOs take local ownership. The Gates, Packard, and Hewlett foundations suggested we review the evidence base, consult with advocacy experts, and look at various options for them to consider in promoting local ownership. For example, grants and contracts could be longer and have funds specifically for capacity building. Other options are outlined in the brief requested by the foundations, The Future of Advocacy: Local Ownership, Sustainability, and Grant-making.


How does the AFP advocacy effort fit with others to sustain strong advocacy, particularly in low- and middle-income countries?

AFP is a project, not an organization. As a result, we have limited life, less flexibility and a much smaller footprint in developing countries. We have worked in ten focus countries; large international NGOs work in 50-60 countries. AFP has 11 staff members, whereas an international NGO has hundreds in their local and international offices. Their capacity is much bigger, and as a result AFP has reached out to these organizations to coordinate and collaborate with one another to strengthen advocacy within their strategies and programs. This “mainstreaming of advocacy” initiative includes Marie Stopes International, AMREF, Jhpiego, Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs, Pathfinder International, and the Population Council. The effort has been very successful and has increased advocacy capacity and actions. The diffusion of evidence-based advocacy principles with INGOs and locally led coalitions has resulted in a network of advocacy efforts and champions resulting and created greater access to quality family planning and other health interventions. 


Why is advocacy important now and what happens next?

There is always going to be a gap between what is needed to provide full access to quality family planning and health services. This is a huge issue both in the United States and among resource-limited countries in the global south. Many low- and middle-income countries are highly dependent on donors to supplement the domestic funds needed to provide minimal health services, and family planning services, in particular. The immediate issue in scarce resource environments is to increase and maintain the investment that donors and governments are making to sexual and reproductive health and family planning services. Since government funding commitments must be renewed every year, open-ended advocacy efforts are needed to ensure steady funding and service availability. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are still controversial in the United States and abroad. There are recurring attacks on access to family planning and support for SRHR. Advocacy is a way to counteract misinformation, disinformation, and blatant attacks. Lastly, unanticipated events such as COVID-19 impact health systems of individual countries and the SRHR of individuals who live there. The pandemic has put stress on family planning services where resources were already scarce. While you do not want to take away resources from combatting COVID-19, you also want to make sure essential health services are maintained. This results in a delicate balance to make sure people have access to the maximum amount of resources. Strong advocacy and partnerships between donors, NGOs, governments, and advocates are and will continue to be critical.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 12:00