Sarah Hamilton — Human rights funders working group and FCAA AIDS Philanthropy Summit

hamilton_300These are busy times for Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA). On 8th December the organization is set to release the latest edition of its human rights resource tracking report—one recently expanded with a more global analysis. The launch coincides with the 2014 AIDS Philanthropy Summit, which will focus on integration—resource flows, private and public funding, strategies, tools and best practices, both US domestic and global—and close with a panel of philanthropic infrastructure organization leadership.

Based in the US Capitol, FCAA works to mobilize the leadership, ideas and resources of funders to eradicate the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and to address its social and economic dimensions. We asked Sarah Hamilton, program and communications director, to share how local context and collaboration within the WINGS network are helping drive important research and data collection efforts for the organization.

WINGS: FCAA is working on the latest in a series of resource tracking reports that looks at HIV/AIDS grantmaking and funding. What has your global analysis uncovered so far?

Sarah Hamilton: Without revealing too much (it launches on 8 December), I can say that global philanthropic funding for HIV/AIDS is at its lowest point in seven years. One of the many factors causing the decrease is an increase in funds shifting to other areas related to HIV. This year the top five areas of intersection identified by funders were: food/nutrition, LGBT issues, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and human rights. We also began collecting total funding per target populations this year, which will offer a new benchmark in understanding how private funding matches need in the epidemic.

WINGS: You’re launching a new HIV and human rights funders working group in partnership with IHRFG that will consider the current funding and political climate. How has the changing landscape affected your work and how will the working group help address this?

SH: The Work Group was definitely a reaction to the current funding and political landscape. Historically activists have placed human rights at the heart of the HIV movement as the epidemic affects those most marginalized in society: gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs, prisoners and migrants. Yet, recent research from the United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) found that less than 1% of funding for the global HIV epidemic supports human rights programming and advocacy. And, in parallel, there has been an increase in dangerous policies that criminalize LGBTI populations and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in countries such as Uganda, Russia, and India.

The Human Rights and HIV Funder Work Group is a forum for donors to address the short term emergency needs of organizations addressing human rights in the context of HIV as well to coordinate more effective support of global and domestic advocacy done by and for HIV and human rights groups to help them sustain and evolve their work. It’s open to any public and private funder that is addressing the intersection of HIV and human rights.

WINGS: How important is understanding local context and cultures of giving to your work?

SH: Extremely! In 2013 we launched a new effort to identify indigenous AIDS-related private funders outside of the US and Europe, but first took the time to research the different regional and local landscapes in which they fund. Why or why not, for instance, was philanthropy on the rise in South Africa? How is AIDS philanthropy influenced by the local government response (or lack thereof) in certain countries? We didn’t want this to be a singular research project; our goal was to begin identifying this growing field of global funders, and to learn how to better engage them within the philanthropic response to AIDS.

WINGS: The FCAA AIDS Philanthropy Summit in December will focus on integration and finding synergies and intersections in funding across issues, among partners and between sectors. How has your work with IHRFG and others involved in similar issues inspired your data collection efforts? How would you like to see your methods improve?

SH: We have learned immensely from IHRFG and Funders for LGBTQ Issues. Not just in regards to how we collect data, but also how to talk about it and how to engage funders in the process. We came together earlier this year to compare our methodologies and taxonomy and that conversation revealed the complexity in even defining what an AIDS grant is, or an LGBT grant, or a human rights grant, when so many of our members and funders reach the same key populations through similar and intersecting strategies.

We’re collaborating now to try and improve the effectiveness of our resource tracking efforts, with a very lofty goal of someday having a single reporting process and template for funders. Not only will this reduce inefficiencies, but also we believe this collaborative approach will provide the data we need to tell the story of, and build advocacy for, intersectional funding.

Learn more about the 2014 FCAA AIDS Philanthropy Summit and FCAA’s resource tracking report. More WINGS interviews here.

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