1 May 2019
Getting countries to sign and ratify is a very slow process

The Global Fund has announced that its Agreement on Privileges and Immunities (P&I Agreement) came into force when a 10th country, Sénégal, ratified it on 17 April 2019.

The Fund called this step “an important institutional milestone” that establishes critical protections and rights for the Global Fund’s staff and resources in the course of staff carrying out their duties in various countries.

This means that the Global Fund now benefits from privileges and immunities in the 10 countries that have ratified the agreement as well as in four countries that have granted protection to the Fund through domestic legislation. Though only 10 countries have ratified the P&I Agreement, 16 countries have signed it. (See table below for lists of the countries.)

(When a head of government of a particular country signs the P&I Agreement, this signifies an intent to provide P&I. The P&I Agreement is said to be ratified when the legislature of a country has written it into law.)

All of the countries that have signed or ratified the P&I Agreement are implementing Global Fund grants. Two of the four countries that have extended P&I through domestic legislation, Switzerland and the U.S., are not implementing grants; however, these countries host personnel from a large number of U.N. and other international organizations. The headquarters of the Global Fund are in Geneva, Switzerland.

Table: Countries that have formally extended privileges and immunities to the Global Fund

Countries that have ratified the P&I Agreement (10) Countries that have signed the P&I Agreement but not yet ratified it (6) Countries that have extended P&I through domestic legislation (4)
Burkina Faso
Côte d’Ivoire


Global Fund spokesperson Seth Faison told Aidspan that virtually every country where the Global Fund awards grants supports privileges and immunities in principle, but that getting that written into law and passed by a legislature can be a slow process in many countries. Faison said that the agreement that entered into force on 17 April was “an important legal milestone but did not signal an immediate practical change of conditions in any country.”

Background on the P&I Agreement

The attempt to establish a P&I agreement has had a long history, starting in December 2009 when the Global Fund Board recognized the need to obtain privileges and immunities “as necessary for the effective exercise of its functions and efficient use of its resources.” At that time, the Board recommended that countries consider granting privileges and immunities to the Global Fund either by enacting their own legislation to confer the same “status, capacities, privileges and immunities enjoyed by international organizations” within their respective legal systems, or by signing onto the Fund’s P&I Agreement.

In December 2010, the Board reiterated this recommendation to countries implementing Global Fund grants. Almost four years later, in November 2014, the Board asked the Secretariat to dedicate further resources to this effort; asked the Audit and Finance Committee (AFC) to oversee it; and tasked Board Leadership with forming an advisory group made up of donor and implementing country representatives to advocate for the adoption of privileges and immunities. Shortly thereafter, in March 2015, the Privileges and Immunities Advisory Group (PIAG) was established.

In October 2016, the EGC requested the Secretariat, in collaboration with the PIAG, to develop further proposals to enhance the levels of signature and ratification of the P&I Agreement. In June 2018, the Board authorized a second term for the PIAG (the first term expired in 2018).

Many international organizations, notably those within the United Nations (U.N.) family, benefit from some form of privileges and immunities conferred by countries in which they operate. U.N. organizations are governed by the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted in February 1946. As of February 2016, this convention had been ratified by 162 of the U.N.’s 193 member states.

In November 1947, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a similar convention for specialized agencies, i.e. autonomous organizations working with the U.N. such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Health Organization. This convention has been ratified by 127 members states.

Next steps

Faison told Aidspan that the Global Fund Secretariat is working proactively in many countries to get the P&I Agreement ratified. “It is a point that our executive director and our head of grant management bring up in high-level meetings all the time,” he said. Work on P&Is goes on continuously, Faison said, “but it doesn’t surface because progress and impact are hard to quantify.”

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