Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

The independent expert review group (iERG): the value of accountability

World Health Assembly
22 May 2014

The iERG was created 2011 as part of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (The Global Strategy) and the Commission on Information and Accountability. Its mandate is to monitor the implementation of Commission’s recommendations, and to hold all partners to account under the Global Strategy’s goal of saving the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. In a side-event held during the 67th World Health Assembly, members of the iERG – including its newest member, 22 year-old Sejal Hathi – took stock of their on-going accountability work, and welcomed feedback from the audience.

“support countries until they can be self-sufficient, otherwise advances will be eroded”.

WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan

The resounding message that iERG members have heard at country level – including recent visits to Peru and Malawi – is that accountability is indeed important to people, both for the achievement of results and to ensure the dignity of women and children. There are strong examples of national accountability mechanisms at the country level, and iERG members have been impressed by both citizen and government commitment to the independence of such mechanisms.

Country representatives took the floor to express their commitment to accountability and to share some of their experiences. Ministerial representatives from Malawi and Tanzania emphasized how accountability is accelerating progress towards the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5 and shared best practices, including scorecards to monitor RMNCH progress at the regional and district level. A representative from Canada highlighted Canada’s ongoing commitment to ensuring accountability and results for maternal and child health, demonstrated by their recent announcement of US$3.5 billion to improve the health of mothers and children for the period of 2015-2020.

Another strong message from iERG members was that the largest number of the poor live in middle income countries, and international development partners must continue to support these countries to achieve their health and development goals. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan also voiced her concern about development partners exiting middle income countries too soon and called upon Member States to “support countries until they can be self-sufficient, otherwise advances will be eroded”.

Dr Chan also urged the iERG and others in the room to “think about accountability in the post-2015 development agenda.” Both she and Priya Mehra, representing the UN Secretary-General, agreed that the iERG was a potential model when considering how to hold all stakeholders accountable for the sustainable development goals in the post-2015 era. After call, Dr Chan concluded, “what gets measured gets done.”