The apprehension among civil societies is palpable across all the 10 Global Financing Facility (GFF) countries in Africa. From the 4 frontrunners countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and DRC) to the 2nd wave countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Mozambique, Liberia and Senegal. The cause of the concern is fairly the same, civil societies as many reported weren’t carried along and weren’t fully involved and consulted in the GFF process as well as development of the country investment cases.
Many of these concerns were reechoed during the GFF Learning Meeting; Civil Society Pre-Meeting that took place on the 14 November 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. 2 of us that were in the Nairobi meeting were opportune to join another international stakeholders Consultation: “Accountability for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health post-2015” on 16th and 17th November 2015, Geneva convened by W.H.O in charting a way forward for the updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030), launched in September 2015 at the United Nations General Assembly. My final message which I summarized in a plenary panel session was a call to the international community and African heads of states to embrace the role of civil societies in setting country agendas as well as implementation with respect to GFF, Global Strategy and Sustainable Development Goals which support transparency and better health outcomes.
Coming back to the Nairobi meeting which was a pre-meeting ahead of the 16-18 November, multi-stakeholder groups from the GFF frontrunner countries and second wave countries that gathered to exchange experiences and lessons learned on implementation at a GFF Learning Meeting.
The 14 November Pre -CSOs meeting aimed to share experiences on CS engagement in the development of health financing strategies and RMNCAH investment cases as well as propose a robust set of minimum standards for CS engagement. It brought together 45 civil CS representatives from 13 countries – including 10 of the 12 Global Financing Facility (GFF) countries, CS representatives on the GFF Investors Group, PMNCH and GFF Secretariat. The meeting was charged with frank and robust plenary and group discussions with a set of powerful recommendations.
Participants unanimously agreed that the coordination of CS was critical and recommended the following;
- To-date, civil society engagement has been highly variable across countries, but many country CSOs have expressed that they have had challenges and very little exposure to the GFF.
- The meeting called on the civil society value to be recognized as they want GFF to be successful, which is why we want to be part of it. CSOs have a lot to add, and civil society representation is not just about ‘checking a box’. CSOs have valuable knowledge, experience and skills to contribute, including: Technical assistance for planning and implementation, reaching hard-to-reach populations, independent accountability, enhancing communication and transparency with a broader network of stakeholders, presence at sub-national level, for implementation and monitoring/accountability and representing citizen voices.
- Adopt the Minimum Standards recommended by civil society to ensure that civil society and other stakeholder groups, are meaningfully engaged in GFF processes.
- Include multiple CSO representatives in Country Platforms. CSOs are diverse and require sufficient seats to allow for adequate representation. They should be able to select their own representatives, with clear selection criteria, including representation from national and sub-national levels (included in minimum standards).
- Enhance communication about GFF, including global/regional/national documents, timelines, and processes; CSOs should be represented on the editorial board of the GFF website and involved in the development of the communications strategy, there should also be a separate non-World Bank site for CSOs to share information on the GFF and mailing list, key resources and tools and provide a space for exchange (an information hub for CSOs, with an interactive component), there should be a coordinating group of CSOs involved in the GFF at the global, regional, and national level, to allow for alignment of efforts and resources and regular exchange and in the meantime, investment cases and all information on country platform focal points and timelines must be available online.
- Ensure adequate resources for CSO Engagement; there should be GFF funds set aside at the central/global level for CSO engagement. It is recommended that a specific grant/fund that CSOs can access directly (rather than only relying on governments to disburse a percentage of country funds to CSOs) and GFF secretariat and Investors Group must also seek out other complementary, independent, non-GFF funds for CSO-led accountability.
While these recommendations are well crafted with good intention, they will not be implemented by the countries by just sharing with them. The CSOs must be proactive and rise up above reportedly previous passive involvement, reach out to their governments’ GFF representatives and negotiate the aforementioned.
All comments to Dr Aminu Magashi Garba Coordinator Africa Health Budget Network & Publisher Health Reporters (firstname.lastname@example.org)