Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health

Message from the Chair: first meeting of the iERG

We all met - Zulfi by telephone - in Ottawa at a conference organised by WHO and the Government of Canada, "Delivering Results for Women and Children." Prime Minister Stephen Harper co-chaired (with President Kikwete from Tanzania) the Commission on Information and Accountability, and his Government remains committed to seeing the results of that Commission translated into health improvements for women and children. We were gathered in Ottawa to advance the ten recommendations of the Commission, to emphasise country implementation, and to operationalise the work plan developed by WHO and its partners to ensure that its recommendations are realised. The iERG met in parallel with this meeting.

The principles that will govern our work are country engagement and ownership of the Commission's accountability framework (monitor, review, and act), transparency in the way we work, participation by all constituencies concerned with women's and children's health, and (perhaps most important of all) trust. Without trust, the conclusions we draw and the recommendations we make will have little consequence.

How should we be held accountable? By adherence to the values and principles we have set out above, of course, but also to the most important objective of all - the demonstrable and measurable acceleration of progress to save the lives of women and children in some of the most disadvantaged countries in the world (75 in all).

At our first meeting, we identified six priority areas of work for the next year (as I mentioned, we are charged to report our findings at next year's September UN General Assembly meeting).

First, to report the commitments made by stakeholders to advance the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child effort in support of the Global Strategy. And, of course, to investigate whether those commitments have been delivered or not.

Second, to measure progress on the delivery of the Global Strategy itself. We are a creature born of the Commission, which is itself a product of Every Woman Every Child. We have a responsibility, as its grandchild, to ask how the health of the Global Strategy is shaping up.

Third, we will report on progress in implementing the Commission's other nine recommendations (the tenth was our creation). Some of these recommendations have to be delivered in 2012, so the pressure is on all partners (and us) to make sure that progress has happened and is fully documented. Our priorities for the first year will be: the use of the 11 indicators identified by the Commission for monitoring progress in countries; the creation of country compacts between governments and development partners to facilitate resource tracking; the establishment of national accountability mechanisms to monitor, review, and remedy progress on women's and children's health; and the revision of the OECD-DAC's Creditor Reporting System so that spending on reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health can be fully captured.

Fourth, we want to identify great examples of good practice in accountability for women's and children's health.

Fifth, we need to map out the obstacles to achieving the Global Strategy, as well as obstacles to ensuring the proper accountability arrangements set out by the Commission.

Finally, we have to make recommendations about the effectiveness of the accountability framework agreed by the Commission and how it might be improved