Washington DC office and Innovative Finance

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The Washington DC office operates in tandem with the Geneva office on day-to-day operations and specialises in areas – such as Innovative Finance – where its expertise and location offer comparative advantage

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Secretariat strives to operate seamlessly as a single organisation across both offices. It has made a significant investment in advanced communications technology to efficiently bridge the two sites. The Washington DC office plays a leading role in the following areas.

Innovative Finance

Innovative Finance is central to the Vaccine Alliance business model. The Alliance already plays a leading role in tapping capital markets for vaccination through the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), accelerating the introduction of critical vaccines through the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), and empowering public-private partnerships through the Gavi Matching Fund.

Gavi seeks to build on those instruments, and to launch new innovative finance mechanisms, over the coming years.

Although this is a global endeavour, many of the key opportunities, stakeholders and skills are in the United States. The World Bank – a member of the Vaccine Alliance, an essential partner in Gavi Innovative Finance activities and treasury manager for IFFIm – is conveniently headquartered a block from Gavi’s Washington DC office. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, another member of the Vaccine Alliance and key funder of both the Gavi Matching Fund and the AMC, has both a DC office and its headquarters in Washington state.

Representation through the DC office with donors and partners

The Vaccine Alliance’s DC-based Special Representative has three primary missions: developing the relationship with (and funding from) the United States government, including through the orchestration of effective advocacy and public policy networks; developing the engagement of the Canadian government as a Gavi donor; and managing Gavi’s engagement with the New York-based parts of the United Nations system, particularly the Office of the Secretary-General, UNICEF and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Also, the DC-based Special Representative is often called upon to contribute to the effective engagement of US-based institutions.  While outreach is a cross-Gavi activity, important relationships are maintained and nurtured via the DC office.

Finance and Operations representation in the Washington DC office

INVESTMENTS: The key role of the investments team is to safeguard and invest the organisation’s financial assets to enable the Executive Team and the Investment Committee to fulfil their fiduciary roles.  The investments team develops the investment policies, investment objectives, asset allocation and construction of the US$ 2 billion cash and investment portfolio.  The team also conducts performance monitoring and risk management reporting.  In addition to activities related to the investment portfolio, the investments team also reviews and makes recommendations on fund options for the Geneva and DC retirement plans, and provides support to the Innovative Finance team on selected projects.

FINANCIAL REPORTING: Gavi’s external financial reporting is primarily under US accounting rules and requires close collaboration with US-based organisations, such as the World Bank.  Therefore, the Washington DC-based Financial Reporting team is responsible for preparing the annual financial statements and other significant external financial reports for all Gavi entities, including IFFIm and the GAVI Fund Affiliate (GFA), whose role is to enter into pledge agreements with sovereign donors and assign these pledges to IFFIm for eventual programme disbursement.  The team also acts as an internal resource for assessing the accounting and tax implications of significant new and technically complex transactions or arrangements, including those that may arise from Innovative Finance team projects.  The Financial Reporting team prepares and maintains Gavi’s accounting policy documentation.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: The IT team is responsible for managing and maintaining all core technical systems for both the primary and failover data centres located in the US, as well as managing Gavi’s information management strategy, application development design and implementation.  The IT team’s main activities include maintaining data centre systems, deploying new systems, monitoring data security, application/database development, information management and help desk functions.  The cost of running data centres in the United States is 30% less than doing so in Geneva.  Gavi has taken advantage of this by locating its primary data centre and failover site in the suburbs of Washington DC.  In addition, the Washington DC metro area is known for being a strong market for IT talent.  Gavi’s IT leadership and half the IT staff are based in Gavi’s Washington DC office.

Comparative advantage

Given that the Vaccine Alliance has offices in two countries, it has the ability to decide where to recruit and locate staff to suit the best interests of the organisation.  While there are many positions that are geographically specific and need to be filled in one location, there are also some positions for which the location is not important, and Gavi may elect to appoint to either office location.  This decision is made by the Managing Director of the team that is recruiting, in consultation with the Executive Office.

Other Gavi departments also are represented in the DC office, including staff from Governance, Policy & Performance, Media & Communications, and Advocacy & Public Policy, each of which provides a critical link between Gavi and its partners in the Americas.

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