Accountability and Collective Action -- Forging New Partnerships for the Future of Women, Children and Adolescents

This blog was jointly written by Dr Flavia Bustreo, (Assistant Director General, Family and Women's Health, WHO) and Jane Thomason, (Chief Executive Office, AbtJTA)

As we get closer to the end of 2015, we think back to the end of September in New York and the buzz around the new bold development agenda. At the General-Assembly, 193 governments adopted the new United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will transform the world we live in.

As health advocates for women, children, and adolescents, it was a bitter-sweet moment as we saw the sharp focus of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 fade, as maternal and child health are now part of a broader SDG3 on Health. We will need to work hard to ensure our priorities remain top priority for countries, that investments and political will remain intact or even better: improve. We are reminded of this particularly now, as we are releasing the latest maternal mortality estimates for the MDG era to share the progress to date, and as we prepare to meet with partners and stakeholders to discuss the future of accountability for women's, children's and adolescents' health.

Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health 2016-2030

In New York on September 26, with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, we launched the 2016-30 Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health. The Strategy is a new roadmap based on the best available evidence to ensure that all women, children, and adolescents survive, thrive, and transform their societies for a healthy and sustainable future. But the challenge is huge: with competition for resources greater than ever and at a time when there are more displaced people on the planet than ever before, the Strategy aims to reach the most isolated and vulnerable and address inequity.

It was also in New York that we started to conclude the accountability work towards the recommendations of the time-bound Commission on Information and Accountability (CoIA) at an annual gathering of partners. This work has established accountability as a cornerstone of a new modus operandi to hold donors and stakeholders to task for their commitments.

Moving forward in the new broad SDG era, we need to keep our focus and resolve to ensure that women's children's, and adolescents ' health remain at the centre of the health and development agenda. For that, we need to continue the good work we have been doing.

Emerging priorities

But, as we prepare to face the challenges, here are some of the emerging priorities.

Resource Mobilization: On September 26, there was excitement around the announcement of US $25 billion of commitments to the revised Global Strategy. However, we know that this is simply not enough. Mobilization of domestic and private financing will be critically important to achieve our goals and in this, a new Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman Every Child will be key. The GFF leads the paradigm shift in development financing and paves the way for a new role for official development assistance in unlocking domestic resources and private flows to provide the platform for financing the new Strategy.

Building Coalitions and Partnerships: We cannot rely on governments alone to accomplish our goals for women, children and adolescents. It will require new and multiple coalitions and partnerships between political leaders, government, development partners, private sector, NGOs, faith-based organizations, and communities. We need a collaborative approach which brings together many elements, including economic growth, good governance, women's empowerment, innovation and data. And most important, we need to reach out to partners who have not yet joined our coalition.

Accelerating Private Sector Engagement: The private sector is a critical source of employment, influence and ideas and presents new opportunities for partnerships in women's leadership, financial services for the poor, health services, prevention of violence against women and entrepreneurship. Partnerships with technology companies offer opportunities to test whether some digital successes models can be replicated. We need to proactively identify and develop innovative private sector partnerships to leverage ideas, capabilities and reach for women, children and adolescents.

Innovation, social networks and entrepreneurship to catalyze transformation: The internet has given information, voice and power to people. Through social media, video and new technologies, we have opportunities to strengthen the voice of marginalized people, especially those of women and the young. We need to draw on international experience and connect innovative ideas with the local private sector, encouraging social finance organizations to support innovation, entrepreneurship and action for pressing development challenges for women, children and adolescents.

Accountability to the people - Pushing the Boundaries:

Here, we need three things:
1) A concerted focus on helping countries to improve availability and quality of data - this week we are seeing particularly with the release of the latest estimates of maternal mortality rates how important the data quality is. We need to move from estimations to real numbers. For this, we need to continue striving for investments in civil registration and vital statistics systems which gives us the exact picture of the numbers - as well as on the systems that look at causes of death, for accurate records and also accurate measures to address the issues.

2) A focus on action, not monitoring. Accountability does not stop at looking at the picture, accountability goes on to point at how we can take the necessary actions to redress the shortcomings, or what we call "remedial action".

3) Independent accountability: this means that we need to resource and mandate somebody to hold us to account. We all - whatever our role- have a responsibility and we need to be prepared to hear how we can do better than we currently are. Someone needs to do it.

All these things we are discussing with our stakeholders on 16-17 November in Geneva.

We look forward to the next steps and to the challenges we will face as we establish the pillars of an accountability mechanism fit for purpose, and which serves to the best interests or our children, women and adolescents.

Follow the discussion and decision about the Global Strategy and accountability on the World Health Organization life-course web.