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Summary of Every Woman Every Child Side Event on Accountability at the UN CSW

March 2, 2012

“Keeping Promises, Measuring Results: Enhancing Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health”

>>View photos of the event on Flickr.

On Friday, March 2, 2012 the Government of Canada, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and the United Nations Foundation hosted a side event in support of Every Woman Every Child during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  The event articulated the links between this year’s CSW theme – the empowerment of rural women – and the goals of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, and outlined the effort’s robust accountability framework and important role of stakeholders.

Opening the session, H.E. Guillermo E. Rishchynski, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations, provided context as to why women’s health matters within the context of empowering rural women, pointing to the higher maternal mortality rates and staggering statistic that women giving birth in urban areas are twice as likely to be attended by a skilled health worker as compared to in rural areas.

Dr. Purnima Mane, President and CEO of Pathfinder International, made a strong case for investing in women as an “investment in the growth of economies”, adding that commitments to the Global Strategy are part of global efforts to promote sustainable development.  Dr. Mane also spoke about the 11 health indicators in the report of the Commission on Information and Accountability (COIA), which will allow stakeholders to track progress and ensure commitments are delivering results.  Specifically, meeting the unmet need for family planning alone would avert 53 million unwanted pregnancies, 25 million abortions, 640,000 newborn deaths and 150,000 maternal deaths.   

Articulating the success of Every Woman Every Child over its first 18 months, and looking ahead to 2012, Ms. Rebecca Affolder, Adviser for Global Health Policy and Coordination in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, said that 2012 will focus on showing results, reaching the most vulnerable, scaling-up successful initiatives, and expanding the range of actors involved.  Ms. Affolder also announced two recent developments, including a new commitment by the HRP (the UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction),to develop a coordinated research agenda for women’s and children’s health, and a soon-to-be-launched commission on overlooked lifesaving medicines and commodities for women’s and children’s health

Dr. Carmen Barroso, a member of the independent Expert Review Group (iERG), articulated the effort’s accountability framework, and explained that the iERG will monitor the implementation of the COIA recommendations and submit its first report in September 2012.  She provided examples of mechanisms already in place in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where web-based reporting systems and alignment of national health plans, respectively, will help facilitate accountability.   To ensure the highest levels of commitment to implementing the Global Strategy, the iERG has issued a call for evidence from all stakeholders to generate information on vulnerable and hard to reach groups including refugees, displaced populations, people living in occupied territories, young women and women seeking access to safe abortion. 

Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament in Uganda, articulated the essential role of parliamentarians within the context of Every Woman Every Child’s accountability framework, highlighting a recent Ugandan resolution which includes provisions to recruit more midwives, register pregnant women, report annually on the status of maternal health and improve the accessibility of health services, among other measures.  Looking forward, Uganda, Canada and India will present a resolution to the upcoming Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly on the role of parliamentarians to securing the health of women and children.

Speaking from the floor, World YWCA General Secretary and Commissioner Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda made an impassioned plea that women must be a driver – not beneficiary – of the accountability framework. She said that Every Woman Every Child must take an intergenerational approach, looking at health indicators across a woman’s lifetime.  Vanita Gowda, Senior Director, Advocacy and Communications for Women Deliver, spoke on behalf of President Jill Sheffield and previewed an upcoming Africa regional consultation to be hosted by Women Deliver in March around the meeting of the IPU, which will discuss best practices and challenges in attaining MDG5.   Additional topics raised in the dialogue included the role of civil society in advocacy and accountability and the potential of mobile technology to help reach rural and indigenous women.

Another key issue discussed in the dialogue was the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or “Rio+20”, and panelists underlined the importance of integrating health into the social pillar and mobilizing to ensure health remains high on the post-2015 development agenda.