Family photo of the leaders of the UN’s Global Fund Replenishment campaign.
Global Fund Replenishment family photo. Credit: Global Fund

Live From the UN General Assembly: Global Fund Replenishment | War Crimes in Ukraine | Clean Energy and the Run Up to COP27 (UNGA Day 4)

The annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly is always a key moment on the diplomatic calendar. Hundreds of world leaders head to New York to address the General Assembly and participate in various meetings and events around the city. And each day, I will bring you the key highlights from the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

One of the key events during UN High Level Week in the New York is a major fundraiser for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, hosted by President Biden. This is the topic of our first segment with Francoise Vanni, the Global Fund’s Director of External Relations and Communications.

Our second segment features an interview with Susan Ruffo, Senior Advisor for Oceans and Climate at the United Nations Foundation who discusses a meeting of foreign ministers and civil society leaders focused on the clean energy transition.

This episode also leads off with a discussion about a unique meeting of the Security Council about war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity

Live From the UN General Assembly: Global Fund Replenishment | War Crimes in Ukraine | Clean Energy and the Run Up to COP27 (UNGA Day 4)

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:00:05] Welcome to a special episode of the Global Dispatches podcast, live from the United Nations General Assembly. The annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly is always a key moment on the diplomatic calendar. Hundreds of world leaders head to New York to address the General Assembly and participate in various meetings and events around the city. And this week, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, I am bringing you key highlights from the 77th U.N. General Assembly in a daily podcast series. Today is Thursday, September 22nd, and this will be the final day of our UNGA series. And it was a big day at the U.N.. Leaders speeches continued, including a much anticipated speech from the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley. [00:00:55][50.3]

Mia Mottley: [00:00:56] Years ago we spoke about small island developing states on the front line, because we were the canaries in the mine. Today we speak of all countries and this hot, hot summer with wildfires from California, the heat waves in North America and Europe, the waterways in Europe being prohibited from the ability of vessels to traverse it, to floods in China and above all else, the apocalyptic floods in Pakistan, for which our heart goes out to the people of that country. [00:01:32][35.7]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:01:33] And at the Security Council. This morning, there was a meeting on Ukraine that was unique for the fact that both the secretary general and the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Kahn, briefed foreign ministers. The meeting focused on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion. And here the ICC has had jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute alleged war criminals for crimes committed on Ukrainian territory. Ukraine voluntarily ceded that jurisdiction to the ICC earlier this year. This investigation by the ICC is one of the largest in the history of the court and is impacted by Russian disinformation campaigns. At the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called allegations of mass atrocity in Abuja to be a propaganda campaign. But in his remarks, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan forthrightly described what he has seen in his visits to Ukraine. [00:02:45][72.3]

Karim Kahn: [00:02:46] And the picture that I’ve seen so far is troubling indeed. I have been to Ukraine three times and one has seen a variety of destruction, of suffering and harm. That fortifies my determination and my previous finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe the crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed. And if I may, Madam President, be quite direct. When I went to Bucha and went behind St Andrew’s Church. The bodies I saw were not fake. When I walked the streets, streets of Berdiansk, the destruction that I saw of buildings and schools was all too real. And when I left Kharkiv, the bombs I heard land gave a very somber insight and a very small insight into the awful reality that is faced by many of our brothers and sisters and children that are in a war zone. [00:03:52][65.8]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:03:52] Throughout the meeting, leaders condemned obvious Russian war crimes. Once again, providing a demonstration that Russia is really deeply isolated at the United Nations. Changing gears a bit, we have two interviews for you today. First up, I speak with Francoise Vanni, director of external relations in communications at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund is essentially a multilateral pool of money dedicated to combating those three deadly diseases. It has a highly regarded track record, and one of the major events happening during high level week is a fundraiser known as the Global Fund Replenishment. This happened Wednesday night and is the topic of our first segment. [00:04:44][51.8]

Francoise Vanni: [00:04:45] We are fighting the deadliest diseases in the world HIV, TB and malaria. And for those three diseases, COVID 19, has very much set us backwards. [00:04:53][8.2]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:04:54] Next, I speak with Suzanne Ruffo, senior adviser for oceans and climate at the United Nations Foundation, who was attending a meeting of Foreign Ministers and civil society leaders committed to transition. [00:05:06][12.0]

Suzanne Ruffo: [00:05:07] I think there’s an important focus on how that clean power will really benefit all so developing countries, but also vulnerable communities within developed countries and big economies. [00:05:17][9.8]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:05:18] Here is my conversation with Francoise Vanni of the Global Fund. [00:05:22][3.7]

[00:05:22] We are speaking following the Global Fund replenishment, which was one of the major moments during high level week. It happened Wednesday evening. Before we talk about the substance of what happened. Can you set the scene for us? What was the room like? President Biden was the host. I know many heads of state spoke. Just take listeners inside that room briefly. [00:06:00][38.6]

Francoise Vanni: [00:06:01] Before we go into the room, let me just set the scene from what’s at stake perspective, given that we are fighting the deadliest diseases in the world, HIV, TB and malaria. And for the three diseases, COVID 19 has very much set us backwards and we very much need to recover the lost ground if we want to continue to save lives and reach the 2030 targets. So we went into this room as global fund partners, very much having in mind the number of lives at stake. And the room was full of commitment, I would say, to make sure that we continue this fight despite the quite challenging environment we find ourselves in. So a lot of energy, a lot of commitment in the room, a lot of excitement around the leadership of President Biden and the United States government. And it was a very packed room with a very high level of attendance from many, many countries and private sector partners and community and civil society organizations. So the partnership very much coming together full of excitement, I would say, commitment to make sure that we continue to fight for what counts. [00:07:12][70.9]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:07:13] So what were some of the major pledges that were made last night? [00:07:19][6.0]

Francoise Vanni: [00:07:20] So we raised yesterday $14.25 billion so far, which is a very significant outcome and the largest achieved so far by the Global Fund and any other global health organizations. We got very significant pledges from key donors. In particular, I would highlight the United States for a pledge earlier this year, back in March, $6 billion for the Global Fund, very much setting the mark for anybody else to follow their leadership. And then that represents a 30% increase over the six replenishment pledge, which is in line with our investment case and the funding needs for the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. And yesterday we were able to secure other G7 commitments along the same lines. So in particular, we had a 30% increase from the six replenishment pledge from Germany, from the European Commission, from Japan, from Canada, also a very significant increase, over 20% from France, 20% increase from the Gates Foundation and many other implementing partners and donor partners committing to very significant pledges. Probably the most remarkable being the pledge from Korea who quadrupled their commitment over the six replenishment pledge. So a very, very significant step up. So despite, you know, the world being very concerned by implications of the war in Ukraine, other conflicts, inflation, food and energy crisis, climate change and so on, it was a formidable demonstration of the commitment to the fight against the deadliest diseases. We still have two big donors, founding partners of the Global Fund, the UK and Italy, who could not pledge yesterday given their specific national circumstances. But we fully expect them to pledge in the coming weeks into a just outcome for the seventh replenishment soonest. [00:09:25][124.6]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:09:26] So I wanted to dial in a little bit on that $6 billion pledge from the Biden administration. Under U.S. statute, the U.S. can pledge $1 for every $2 that is raised from the rest of the world. And your target for this replenishment was $18 billion, meaning that the United States, the Biden administration was going to max out its pledge if every other country in the world maxed out. So it is, I think, significant that the U.S. made this pledge. Also significant is that last night this $18 billion goal was not reached. You did note that the United Kingdom, which is historically one of the largest donors, did not make a pledge last night because obviously there’s a very recent change in government. Similar circumstances in Italy, but it seems hard to imagine that the pledges from the U.K. and Italy will fill that gap between 14.25 and 18. What are you expecting? [00:10:37][70.7]

Francoise Vanni: [00:10:38] So we very much expect both the UK and Italy to need to make strong pledges. The are both funding partners, founding members of the Global Fund, very, very important donors. The UK is historically the third largest donor to the Global Fund. They have contributed so far a total amount of £4.43 billion. So a very, very important donor to the Global Fund. So we very much look forward to a strong pledge. Similarly for Italy, they have given us all the reassurance that they intend to make a strong pledge. So obviously, this is our expectation. However, as you said, it’s very likely that the sum of those two pledges would make us reach the 18 billion target. So we will have to continue our raising efforts as we move forward and very much work towards maximizing the impact of every single dollar that we have raised and will continue to raise in order to achieve our goals and to save how many lives we possibly can. [00:11:41][62.6]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:11:41] And it’s just worth emphasizing that if that 18 billion is not reached, the max contributions from the U.S., the 6 billion is necessarily going to have to leave some money on the table. But, you know, focusing on what was raised and what you expect to be raised, how will those dollars be put to use in the service of fighting AIDS, TB and malaria over the next three years? [00:12:07][25.3]

Francoise Vanni: [00:12:08] We very much intend to leave as little money from the U.S. government on the table as possible. If our target is very much to try and maximize that, but we’ll see how far we can get. As I said, our efforts are not over, we will continue efforts in the coming three years as we implement a new cycle on ground. How I’m going to be guided by the new strategy of the Global Fund was approved by a board last year which looks into building on the lessons of 20 years of impact during which we have saved 15 million lives, but also the lessons of COVID 19 and what it has taught all of us. So the strategy is very much focusing on both fighting the three diseases with very focused efforts to address some of the challenges that we keep facing, for example, in the area of HIV prevention, but also beyond the three diseases, the strategy that will guide us as we implement the seven replenishment is going to be much more deliberate in strengthening health systems, including community systems, which have proven to be so crucial in fighting not only the old pandemics, but also the new ones such as COVID and the ones that may come. So we will be much more deliberate in investing in health systems, community systems, to help the countries and communities we support be better prepared for any future health threats. There will also be a much more significant effort around strengthening community leadership and making sure that communities affected by the three diseases are at the center of the response of designing and implementing the response to those three diseases. So these are some of the guiding principles for the three years to come. [00:13:54][105.7]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:13:54] And I just note that the ambient sounds of UN high level week in the motorcade passing by is now going from wherever you are on the east side of New York to wherever I am, which is just fitting for the moment. I wanted to go back to how you started our conversation, discussing the progress and more recently, the lack thereof in the global fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. We were making a lot of progress, it seems, and then COVID hit. How has the pandemic impacted what progress had been made against those three diseases? [00:14:34][39.7]

Francoise Vanni: [00:14:35] COVID 19 has been devastating in terms of the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. And in 2020, we got backwards in program indicators across the three diseases for the first time in 20 years history. [00:14:50][14.5]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:14:50] I mean, that’s worth emphasizing. There has been since the advent of the Global Fund. Just unrelenting progress against these diseases. But then COVID hit. [00:14:59][9.3]

Francoise Vanni: [00:15:00] Absolutely. We had made progress year after year. And it was the single most significant obstacle in the fight. So in 2020, we got backwards very significantly, and perhaps it’s worth highlighting that we’ve got backwards even more so in areas such as prevention and testing for HIV, but also very much in terms of identification of TB missing cases and TB treatments. We’ve got significantly backwards. The good news, though, is that in 2020. One, thanks to a massive investment supported by many of our donors, including the United States. We have been able to support countries to fight back and we have seen results that we’ve just published actually, that demonstrates that countries are on the on the recovery path. 2020, the impact was, as I said, devastating. We can see in 2021 countries going back to the trajectories that we want them to be on recovering some of the lost ground across the three diseases. So it’s really down to leadership in countries, both of obviously governments, but also communities. The innovations that we have put in place and also the additional funding that we’ve been able to deploy to support the efforts. So we are getting back on track, but we are not there yet. This is why this replenishment is so important to make sure that we very much recover the lost ground and completely get back on track to achieve the 2030 target. But we are not there yet. [00:16:36][95.6]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:16:37] So say the end number of the global fund replenishment is just short of 18 billion is say 16 or 17 billion. Is that funding sufficient to regain the progress that had been made prior to COVID and continue this kind of shift that you just identified starting to happen last year in 2021 towards progress against those diseases? [00:17:04][27.7]

Francoise Vanni: [00:17:05] The answer to that question is no. When we published our investment case for the seventh Replenishment back in February this year, we were very clear in our assumptions and in our modeling that we needed at least $18 billion. And this at least is important because it is based on the assumption that implementing countries are going to increase very significantly, that domestic resources allocated to the fight against the three diseases and to health more generally. And this is going to be challenging given the current economy context. Secondly, assumptions, we’re also assuming that there would still remain a funding gap to fund the global plans against the three diseases. So in a way, we were already shooting below the actual targets in terms of the global funding needs for the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. So we were already sort of at an at least level. We are assuming and we are continuing to assume that countries will step up, but we know it’s going to be challenging given the context. So the $18 billion is really the targets and the minimum of required. So if we don’t meet this target, indeed we will have to look at how we maximize the impact of every single donor, as I said. But also we will have to face some choices in terms of how we prioritize our work in coherence with our strategy, but with a little bit less resources than the ones that we need. [00:18:32][87.1]

[00:18:35] Francoise, thank you so much for your time on this very busy day for the Global Fund. I much appreciate it. [00:18:41][6.0]

Francoise Vanni: [00:18:41] Thank you very much, Mark. [00:18:42][1.0]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:18:56] A big thank you to Francoise for taking the time to speak with me about the Global Fund replenishment. And now for our final segment of this series. We are turning to Suzanne Ruffo, senior adviser for oceans and climate at the United Nations Foundation. [00:19:12][16.3]

[00:19:12] So I am in New York. You are in Pittsburgh. And I should say there is historic precedent for the center of action shifting to Pittsburgh during high level week in 2009, the G-20 held a meeting in Pittsburgh in the middle of high level week, and you had diplomats going back and forth between Pittsburgh and New York all week long. All to say that there’s nothing unusual about me speaking to someone from Pittsburgh about what’s going on. And what is going on is the Clean Energy Ministerial, which I know you have been participating in. Can you tell me what is that meeting and why is it significant, and what’s been going on? [00:20:06][53.9]

Francoise Vanni: [00:20:07] The Clean Energy Ministerial is a really important part of our climate strategy globally, and I think what’s exciting about having it in Pittsburgh now is that we are bringing together not only the Clean Energy Ministerial, but also what’s called mission innovation. And these are both designed to bring ambitious governments together to help solve the climate crisis, essentially by focusing in on the need to produce clean, plentiful and cost effective energy. So this is really significant because we’re bringing together these two different efforts to really supercharge all these efforts to develop and implement and scale clean energy solutions around the globe. And not only is it a government meeting, but it also brings in private sector and academics and youth and civil society. Everyone is concentrated on this one topic here in Pittsburgh. [00:20:56][48.5]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:20:56] And what’s going on with that topic. Have there been any specific outcomes? What’s like the global situation on clean energy and where do we need to be to be closer to the Paris Agreement goals? [00:21:10][13.7]

Francoise Vanni: [00:21:11] So we’re just getting rolling in Pittsburgh. So the anticipation is pretty high. But basically, you know, power is one of the biggest sources and energy is one of the biggest sources of emissions. So in order to meet the Paris targets and get to our 1.5 goals, we really need to decarbonize the energy sector. And so what we’re doing in Pittsburgh is talking about the whole range of what that looks like. So we’re talking about power generation, transportation, industrial production, buildings, so everything from electric vehicles, shipping, aviation, renewable energy, nuclear, all of those things are on the table here. And the key theme here is really about implementation. You know, there’s been lots of discussion. There’s been lots of commitments. But how do we really make this happen? And that’s really what we’re watching for here. [00:21:55][44.3]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:21:56] So the meeting in Pittsburgh and ongoing events here in New York come at a key moment in international climate diplomacy. We are just a few weeks away from COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. How does what’s happening in Pittsburgh and also what’s happening here in New York fit into broader trends that we’re seeing leading up to COP 27? [00:22:25][29.4]

Francoise Vanni: [00:22:27] Yeah, I think the timing is really critical here, and the timing is good to have this discussion. When we get to Egypt, we really want governments to focus on what’s possible and what can be done to actually achieve the Paris goals. And again, that focus is going to be on implementation. So what’s happening here in Pittsburgh, bringing together the private sector, finance, civil society, governments and governments at all levels is really providing momentum and confidence so that governments can go in and say, we can do this, it’s viable. We’ve got our constituencies behind us, and there is a path forward that’s going to truly leave no one behind, which is one of the key parts of the Paris Agreement. So I think governments will have the support and confidence to go in and make hopefully good decisions when they get to Sharm El-Sheikh. And I think that’s true of what’s happening in New York, too. [00:23:14][47.6]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:23:15] Are there any specific outcomes you’re looking towards, either in any meeting in New York this week or in Pittsburgh that you think would be particularly like relevant or impactful in that lead up to COP 27? [00:23:32][17.1]

Francoise Vanni: [00:23:33] I’ll talk about Pittsburgh. There’s not one specific announcement, but I think what we’ll see are announcements on investments in clean energy across the board. And more important than that, but some really concrete targets for delivering that energy. So what does this really look like on the ground or in the case of shipping in the water? I think there’s an important focus on how that clean power will really benefit all so developing countries, but also vulnerable communities within developed countries and big economies. There has been a real focus on developed economies for, you know, a lot of reasons, including the fact that they produce a lot of emissions. But I think will be a new focus in New York, in Pittsburgh and in Sharm El-Sheikh on solutions that are appropriate for developing countries and particularly developing countries in Africa and these vulnerable communities. And I think. There is no less need to drive innovation there. I also think there’s going to be a focus on new collaborations. You know, this isn’t just government decisions. It’s about what we need to do with private sector, with civil society, and really start across sectors. So here in Pittsburgh, just as an example, we’re having conversations between green hydrogen producers and shipping companies and shipping leaders to really talk about how green hydrogen can help provide the fuels that we’ll need to decarbonize the shipping sector, which is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize. So I think those kinds of partnerships, those kinds of discussions are what we’re expecting. [00:24:58][84.7]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:24:59] So you’ve mentioned shipping a couple times now. What role do oceans and the shipping industry play in providing opportunities for solutions on climate change challenges? And how are those issues being discussed this week and how do you expect those discussions to unfold in the weeks leading up to COP 27, and in COP 27? [00:25:25][25.8]

Francoise Vanni: [00:25:26] So, I think there’s a growing recognition from governments and from others that, you know, the ocean is not just a victim of climate change. You know, we have a historical narrative that we all have to protect the ocean. I think we’re seeing more and more that actually the ocean plays a critical role in protecting us from climate change. It absorbs a good portion of the carbon dioxide we’re putting in the atmosphere. It absorbs the heat that we’re putting in the atmosphere. So we really need to think about the ocean’s role in all of this. Shipping alone is 3% of global emissions. That would make it the eighth largest emitter if it was a country. So it’s a really important sector that we need to tackle, and it is a big part of the trajectory towards getting towards a 1.5 agreement because 80% of the goods that we consume as a global population travel on ships somewhere. I think in the broader narrative, we’ll also see more ocean solutions, things like coastal ecosystems that can sequester carbon, but also help provide resilience for the communities behind them. We’ll see offshore wind energy, offshore renewable energy becoming a bigger and bigger portion of the energy that we’re consuming as a planet. So thinking about how we really use those types of solutions to get us towards our goals is going to be really important. And I think you’ll see that theme come out in New York. It’ll come out in Pittsburgh around shipping and offshore energy, and it’ll come out in Sharm El-Sheikh from nature based solutions to energy. [00:26:48][81.8]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:26:49] Susan, thank you so much for your time. This is really helpful. [00:26:52][2.5]

Francoise Vanni: [00:26:53] Thank you. [00:26:53][0.3]

Mark L. Goldberg: [00:27:01] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharpe. If you have any questions or comments, please email us using the contact button on or hit me up on Twitter @MarkLGoldberg. Please rate and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts. [00:27:01][0.0]