There is growing recognition of the potential for citizen-led accountability. Both the SDGs and the EWEC Global Strategy call for accountability frameworks to be inclusive, participatory, transparent and people-centred. However, for citizen-led accountability initiatives to thrive, deliver results and be incorporated into broader accountability frameworks operating at national and global levels, a concerted effort must be made to engage citizens and inform them of their rights. Such efforts are also essential for ensuring that citizens’ voices are heard by decision-makers at all levels of government: local efforts operating in isolation have limited reach and potential, resulting in “a voice without teeth”. With the support structures and amplification of voice provided by a wider network, duty-bearers are more receptive to citizens’ asks and demands.
World Vision, Save the Children, International Planned Parenthood Federation and White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) formed a partnership in 2015, pooling their social accountability-related networks to reduce duplication and achieve more effective work jointly. This partnership works collaboratively with state and government institutions and decision-makers to foster trust between duty-bearers and rights-holders. The partners have launched a number of highly successful initiatives, including the following.
The partnership has coordinated citizens’ hearings around the world, at which thousands of citizens and community groups, including children’s, adolescents’ and women’s rights groups, have engaged with decision-makers and service-providers to discuss health services and identify strategies for immediate improvements in their local area. Citizens’ hearings provide opportunities for citizens to shed light on SRMNCAH issues, seek solutions, set priorities, and monitor and review progress.
In 2015 and 2016, citizens’ hearings were held in more than 20 countries in Africa and Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Citizens’ hearings have helped to identify priorities for the SDGs and the updated EWEC Global Strategy, and to persuade governments to establish accountability frameworks.
In Tanzania, in order to address the lack of investment in comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care (CEmONC), WRA Tanzania and its members advocated for an increase in and ring-fencing of the budget allocation for CEmONC. WRA Tanzania worked with member organizations, religious leaders and village health teams to raise awareness among citizens of the CEmONC funding gap. Through media partnerships, WRA Tanzania ensured that health officials and other government leaders heard the stories and evidence collected from mothers and their families, and that community demands were discussed and addressed. On a regional level, citizen-led efforts in Rukwa region contributed to the creation of five health facilities providing CEmoNC services, each serving between 7000 and 15000 people.