White Ribbon Alliance



May 28, 2014

Four years have passed since governments made their historic financial, policy and programmatic pledges to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women and Children. So far, they have reported on their own progress to international bodies but as yet there has been no independent review of how they are doing and limited transparency on what has been delivered.

This week, 28th-30th May, the Canadian government hosts the ‘Saving Every Woman and Every Newborn’ Summit in Toronto. When he launched the Muskoka Initiative in 2010, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper promised to make sure that all pledges to maternal and newborn health would be honored, resources spent effectively and that accountability for results would be an integral part of the initiative.

Then in 2011, Prime Minister Harper and Tanzania’s President Kikwete Co-Chaired the Commission on Information and Accountability, launching key recommendations including a focus on transparency and data collection. These were widely welcomed given how many deaths still go uncounted or not properly recorded – but a number of these recommendations have already passed their deadline.

Meanwhile there has been growing demand from citizens as they increasingly call their leaders to account. Indeed politicians themselves often ask civil society to keep up momentum, but to do this properly the international community must invest much more in civil society.

We must also recognize that the most important evidence comes from the men and women who daily face the painful loss of their sisters, wives, daughters, mothers - due to slow delivery on commitments.

Our experience as White Ribbon Alliance shows that even with modest support, citizen led accountability might not bring major health outcomes immediately, but it can bring rapid and sustainable change. For instance, in Tanzania, citizens surveyed their own health facilities, found services woefully lacking – and then asked the government keep its promise to provide emergency life saving care in half of all health centres. Through public meetings, media pressure and meetings with the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers, specific budget pledges are now on the table and last week 81 Members of Parliament backed the push to close the gap between promises and reality.

As we come ever closer to the 2015 deadline date, White Ribbon Alliance members around the world are calling on Prime Minister Harper and President Kikwete to take urgent action by asking other governments and development partners to:

  • Deliver on their commitments made to the Global Strategy for Women and Children
  • Have greater national oversight and transparency in line with the recommendations
  • Encourage WHO to release the national accountability plans publicly
  • Fund civil society organizations advocating for transparency and delivery of commitments
  • Encourage other development partners to invest in meaningful citizen engagement and support governments to respond to citizen demands

When launching the Commission in Geneva in 2011, PM Harper spoke of how “our collective efforts will ensure tangible progress in achieving our goals, but only if we remain fully committed to making the recommendations in this report a reality."

We now ask Prime Minister Harper and President Kikwete to deliver on their own promises.

Betsy McCallon
Executive Director
White Ribbon Alliance