Leadership at essential global health institutions must be held accountable
Contact: Mark Harrington, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
New York City, September 13, 2020 – Treatment Action Group (TAG) strongly condemns alleged bullying, harassment, and racism directed toward staff and contractors of the Stop TB Partnership, as reported by The New York Times. As a long-term and current grantee of the Stop TB Partnership, we stand in solidarity with current and former staff and contractors whom this harassment and racism has affected. We say to them: you are our colleagues, and we care about you and your right to work in a safe and affirming environment. We demand accountability across the leadership, senior staff, Board, and donors of the Stop TB Partnership.
The Stop TB Partnership is the global standard bearer of the world’s united response to the TB epidemic. It is one of the largest conduits of funding for civil society and affected communities working to end TB, having made important gains and reforms to the global TB response in recent years. We have a long and fruitful collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership and believe in its important work to raise political will for ending TB and challenging the status quo that has allowed TB to persist for decades.
However, an institution with a leadership and culture that allow bullying and harassment cannot adequately and fully represent the aspirations and demands of communities affected by TB, a disease which disproportionately affects oppressed communities. An organization that covers up racist behavior and sanctions staff for speaking out cannot lead the global charge against a disease that primarily affects Brown and Black people. The Stop TB Partnership cannot champion a human rights-based response to TB while allowing abuse to proliferate within the agency. We can only do the collective accountability work needed to accelerate the TB response if we hold our own institutions accountable.
To that end, as constituents deeply concerned about the longevity, health, and mission of the Stop TB Partnership, we call for:
- The completion and publication of key findings of the ongoing independent review of allegations of racism and misconduct at Stop TB Partnership. The findings of this independent review should be made public, and if allegations of abusive behavior, toxic management, or racism are found to be credible, we ask the Stop TB Partnership Board to actualize its commitment “to rapid and transparent action on those findings.”
- If these findings warrant such action, upon the release of the report, we would call for the immediate resignation or removal of those involved in leadership and Board positions involved in perpetrating and covering-up episodes, incidents, or historical patterns of abuse and racism. These vacated leadership positions and board seats should be filled by representatives of communities most affected by the TB epidemic.
- The implementation of a zero-tolerance policy and the establishment of independent accountability mechanisms where employees and contractors can freely report and safely express encounters with abuse and misuse of power, without fear of retaliation, demotion, or job loss.
- The provision of mental health services and appropriate reparations, to be determined in consultation with former and current affected staff and contractors, to support and appropriately compensate those that have endured abusive management, racist behavior, or trauma while employed under these conditions.
- The integration of racial justice programming in all aspects of the Partnership’s work and particularly within its communities, human rights, and gender department. There is a long history of organizing to end TB from a framework of racial justice and equity, from the work of the Young Lords to provide chest radiography for TB to Puerto Rican communities in New York, to the provision of TB screening and free meals for schoolchildren at the People’s Free Health Clinics organized by the Black Panther Party. This work was part of a larger movement aspiring toward decolonization and liberation. Unfortunately, there is a long and continuing history of colonization in public health and TB. Explicit principles of racial equity and decolonization must inform the Partnership’s programs, grantmaking, advocacy, and support to civil society and affected communities.
- Donors to the Stop TB Partnership to leverage their funding commitments to support the necessary institutional reform as detailed above.
Multilateral global health institutions – including the Stop TB Partnership – are critical to ensuring coordination and accountability in the TB response. This is especially true today as the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelms national TB programs, threatens decades of hard-won gains, and exacerbates the risks and challenges faced by TB-affected communities. The Stop TB Partnership’s critical support for the work and priorities of civil society and affected communities must continue. TAG hopes that the allegations raised against leadership will be fully and transparently investigated by an independent body, that those findings will be made public and action taken on them, and will not undermine donor support for this important institution, and we urge the accountability needed for systemic reform and justice for the victims. We look forward to continued collaborations with a Stop TB Partnership that is anti-racist, just, and supportive of all partners and staff.
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About TAG: Treatment Action Group (TAG) is an independent, activist and community-based research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, prevention, a vaccine, and a cure for HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C virus. TAG works to ensure that all people with HIV, TB, and HCV receive lifesaving treatment, care, and information. We are science-based treatment activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions.