USUAL SUSPECTS MAKE ROOM FOR CITIZEN LEADERS AT THIS YEARS UNGA
October 2, 2014For immediate release
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USUAL SUSPECTS MAKE ROOM FOR CITIZEN LEADERS AT THIS YEARS UNGA
“I’m so respectful of what the White Ribbon Alliance has achieved to date and what it aspires to do, that at any speaking opportunities I would be privileged to give up my role to somebody from that organisation.” Ray Chambers, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA), a global network of advocates for maternal health, made a BIG splash at this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with its call for the ‘Usual Suspects’ to move over and make way for Citizen Leaders to speak at a wide range of important events on women and children’s health.
The campaign, which included the high profile distribution of issue 2 of the White Ribbon Alliance’s Citizen’s Post tabloid newspaper at events by ‘newsies’, created a huge stir and was successful at persuading an unprecedented number of big name ‘Usual Suspects’ to give up their speaking places on important panels for Citizen Leaders. For example Richard Horton (Chief Editor of The Lancet), Kathy Calvin (President & CEO of the UN Foundation), Flavia Bustreo (Assistant Director General for Family & Community Health at WHO) and Ted Turner (founder of CNN) all commended the campaign, calling themselves ‘Usual Suspects’ before handing over to citizen leaders to speak in their place.
Watch the Citizens Post Round-Up Report by WRA Citizen Reporters at the UNGA to see and hear what leaders had to say.
Flavia Bustreo gave up her speaking slot to WRA Tanzania Leader Rose Mlay, at the Every Woman Every Child Evening Reception, where Kathy Calvin also moved over for Memory Banda, Let Girls Lead Youth Advocate from Malawi. Both Ray Chambers and Ted Turner wanted to give up their speaking slots at the MDG advocates breakfast on Thursday, however, the organisers said only one person could do this. Ted Turner gave up his speaking slot for GirlUp Co Chair Karina Jougla and Ray Chambers endorsed the campaign.
At the Merck for Mothers event, Chaired by Devex founder Raj Kumar, Kumar gave a shout out to the WRA Campaign, displayed the Citizens Post on screens and held up the paper on the panel before handing over to Lennie Kamwendo, Midwife and Chair of the Board, WRA Malawi, on the floor. What’s more, two Women Deliver advocates were given a platform at the One Voice meeting - all thanks to the WRA’s Campaign, which created more citizen representation than first intended.
So what was the point? Accountability is one of the biggest buzzwords within the global health and development space, and there is increasing recognition that sustainability and accountability are linked. Citizens, coordinated by civil society organizations, have an immense role to play in translating government commitments beyond New York to ensure that they are delivered to women in their own countries. This often means identifying local barriers to commitments being delivered and then systematically advocating for the changes at national and district level. It means bringing together communities, health care providers, district leaders, and elected officials to discuss what isn’t working and coming up with practical solutions.
“Asking for space for these citizen leaders was not a token exercise to give voice to those on the ‘frontlines’ to provide a reality check of sad and heart wrenching stories. Instead, the platform given showcased the evidence that progress on achieving commitments can be greatly accelerated with strong citizen engagement. With less than 500 days remaining until the end of the Millennium Development Goals, we want to highlight how much more can be done if citizen leaders are supported to lead the change and continue to work with and push governments to deliver,” Betsy McCallon Executive Director of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.
So what’s next? Over the next year, White Ribbon Alliance and partners will be holding a series of national level dialogues to influence the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to shaping the next phase for Every Women Every Child so that momentum is not lost, existing commitments are not swept under the rug, and gaps are prioritized.
The White Ribbon Alliance will be advocating for several of the Independent Expert Review groups recommendations including a new independent accountability mechanism with formal citizen engagement. We will be feeding into the Global Financing Facility consultations, including advocating for civil society funding as a central part of the accountability strategy, keeping up the global drumbeat and amplifying national successes.
At the 2015 UNGA the White Ribbon Alliance is calling for a Citizens Hearing to hold governments Accountable to their promises.
So, next time leaders meet in New York, London or Geneva applauding new policy, financing and program commitments, White Ribbon Alliance will call on them to actively support the crucial role citizens must have if we are to make sure these promises make a difference in the lives of women and children.
About the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood
Healthy mothers make a healthy world. White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere.
The good news is that the numbers dying in childbirth have come down by half in recent years, but this is after decades of neglect. Fifteen years ago the global Big Cheeses set 2015 as the target date for the eight ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs), one of which was reducing deaths in childbirth by three quarters while providing universal access to reproductive health. We have failed to meet it, and the death rate for mothers in many countries remains a global disgrace.
Over a decade ago, White Ribbon Alliance formed because the voices of women at risk of dying in childbirth were not being heard. We rapidly grew as thousands of people and groups joined the network, speaking as one voice. We are the biggest citizen led coalition for maternal health and we campaign nationally as well as on the global stage to persuade Heads of State to keep their promises and deliver on their commitments to maternal health.
We mobilize citizens and provide a platform for women and men to demand change.
More information: whiteribbonalliance.org, Facebook.com/whiteribbonalliance