PEPFAR Watch - Tools For Civil Society


After significant pressure from civil society around the world, the U.S. global AIDS program—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR)—is breaking new ground by opening its decision-making and planning process to civil society and affected communities.

Annual plans, known as Country Operational Plans, are the basis of PEPFAR’s funding for the following year. The Country Operational Plan (or COP) lays out important decisions regarding how money will be allocated, what interventions will be supported, where PEPFAR will focus geographically and programmatically, and what goals each country program will work to achieve. Civil society voices are critical to ensuring that these processes reflect real, lived experiences and that outcomes emphasize the priorities of communities most affected.

Civil society activism in the process can shift large sums of money toward better meeting the needs of communities, ensuring greater impact on the epidemic.


What is PEPFAR?


How can you influence PEPFAR plans?




We know programs are better when civil society knowledge and community priorities drive decisions. This year, civil society coalitions in PEFPAR countries, in partnership with global activists, worked to identify changes to PEPFAR plans that would push more money into the critical, evidence-based programs that directly reach people living with HIV and improve the health and wellbeing of affected communities. 

Activism for a transparent process

Activists from the North and South worked together for several years to push for the opening of the PEPFAR decision-making process to people living with HIV and other civil society. Related advocacy documents:

Activist demands presented at PEPFAR COP

At the recent Frankfurt COP Regional Review, Chamunorwa Mashoko, an AIDS activist from Zimbabwe representing civil society and the Zimbabwe Advocacy Core Team (PEPFAR Watch Network members), presented to all in attendance of the PEPFAR COP Review, describing civil society's demands for improvement to the PEPFAR consultation process. Read his speech, prepared by the civil society team in attendance after insisted on a spot on the agenda, and download his presentation. At the subsequent review, in Windhoek, this practice was adopted by PEPFAR, and included in the agenda in advance.

Official communication between PEPFAR and activists

  • On March 25, 2015, activists from 5 countries, wrote to Ambassador Deborah Birx expressing concern about how the civil society society consultation process was unfolding. In their letter, they requested access to key data and draft plans to provide the basis for informed, meaningful engagement by civil society.

Read the letter from civil society and Ambassador Birx’s response to activism for access to PEPFAR’s plans


A presentation developed by Health GAP with an overview of the goals of and scope for civil society engagement in the development of PEPFAR Country Operating Plans, and a list of important dates to take note of to influence the 2015 COP.

Civil society can and should be meeting with PEPFAR teams at country level to review the previous year's performance and the next year's targets. This is list of suggested questions to bring to these meetings, developed by our colleagues at AVAC. These questions are meant only to serve as a guide. The answers you get are not final—raising these and other issues are an important first step that can help change programming and priorities.

Community Update produced by our partners at the Global Forum on MSM and HIV calling on to ensure that key populations are meaningfully included in civil society consultations and that sufficient funding is allocated to act upon civil society recommendations. The update details how service providers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and other key affected populations can participate in civil society consultations for the PEPFAR COP 2015 development process. Available in English and French.

A basic schema for how PEPFAR relates to other national processes and how civil society can get involved, developed by Health GAP and AVAC in 2013. Some details have changed, but the basic process is accurately described.

Malawian advocacy organizations and Health GAP have together launched a call for access to treatment for all people with HIV in Malawi, in line with science and human rights. This policy brief, released at a recent press briefing in Lillonge, describes their policy recommendations. Press coverage from the launch is available here and here.


Direction from PEPFAR headquarters to countries about how to prepare this year’s Country Operational Plan. Note sections requiring civil society engagement including: Section 2.3 Coordination and Strategic Communication with External Partners during COP Planning (p. 22-32) and Section 3.3.1 Civil Society Engagement Checklist and Documentation Process (p.103-106)

All previous Country Operational Plans are available here, including key documents from last year that have been recently released. FY 2014 documents available include COP Executive Summaries, Budget and Target Reports, and Approval Memos for all countries.


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