Strong advocacy, coalition building and parliamentary engagement – three building blocks to honouring commitments


A mother in Zambia cares for her child. Credit: Collins Kaumba/World Vision

Emma Edwards, Campaign Advisor, Child Health Now, World Vision International

The Independent Expert Review Group (iERG) was formed in 2011 by the UN Secretary-General to follow up on the work of the UN Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, and required to report annually on progress at the UN General Assembly. In its 2012 progress report, the iERG stated: “We want to see independent accountability not only become a new norm in global health, but also demonstrably improve the lives of women and children worldwide”. 

Accountability is something we at World Vision take seriously. As a signatory to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, more commonly known as ‘Every Woman, Every Child’, we recently commissioned an independent assessment of World Vision’s commitments to this initiative. To do this is complicated, and requires the work of many, particularly our health colleagues in developing nations. The comprehensive report subsequently prepared by Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP found that “World Vision continues to make much progress on its commitment to ‘Every Woman, Every Child,’ and is firmly on track to meet its full commitment.” 

Our approach to accountability was also supported in the report’s finding that “World Vision has achieved much through strong advocacy and parliamentary engagement, coalition building and strategic alliances.” Much of this has been undertaken through World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign, working in over 30 countries and at multiple levels of decision-making to contribute to a significant reduction in child and maternal mortality focusing on the poorest, most vulnerable and hardest to reach communities. 

The Child Health Now campaign is also working with communities to create the conditions for change at the local level. This is evident through large-scale popular mobilisation activities such as the Global Week of Action and the mobilisation of local communities through World Vision’s Citizen Voice and Action methodology, using participatory governance to facilitate local level accountability. Importantly, evidence shows that government failure at the local level is being used as a powerful vehicle to engage with local parliamentarians and influence national health policy.

Earlier this week the iERG released its 2013 report at the United Nations General Assembly. In its report, they noted that ‘”political momentum for women’s and children’s health has continued to grow at an extraordinary pace during 2012 and 2013.” This is welcome news and I was particularly drawn to following statement in the preface of the report: 

“There is a compelling need to step back and ask: What is actually being achieved for women and children? Are the promises made at international conferences being delivered? What tangible and material benefits are women and children seeing from these commitments? What barriers exist to prevent political momentum from being converted into better results?”

These are critical questions for the global civil society to consider, if we want to continue to positively influence the political debate on maternal and child health and ensure the continuation of the political ‘goodwill’ generated by the momentum we are currently witnessing. 

Through the Child Health Now campaign, World Vision will continue to raise the calls for increased political accountability from the communities in which we work at the local level, through to the national and global levels. We join with the iERG in calling for global accountability for the benefit of improved health for women and children and are calling on world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to ‘Close the Gap’ on maternal and child health inequity by restating their commitments to improving maternal and child health. With less than 1,000 days until the deadline for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, this is where a renewed sense of urgency on part of governments, civil society and the private sector is paramount, to ensure that no woman loses her life in childbirth, and every child, no matter where they are born, has the opportunity to celebrate their fifth birthday.

Please join with us by adding your voice to the Child Health Now campaign to ‘Close the Gap’ on health inequity and ensure leaders remain accountable for their commitments to maternal and child health. 

Click here to read the Independent High-Level Assessment of World Vision International's Commitments to the UN Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, 'Every Woman Every Child'.