iERG News

news and updates FRom the ierg

The World Health Organization has launched a new web site on results, resources and oversight related to women's and children's health, in support of Every Woman Every Child. The site will track progress on the implementation of the recommendations of the Accountability Commission and inform the international community about the work of the independent Expert Review Group (iERG).








November 23, 2011
Ottawa, ON Canada

Welcome to the first news update from the independent Expert Review Group, created earlier this year by the UN Secretary General to follow up the work of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health and the Commission on Information and Accountability. We have a four-year lifespan and our first report will be delivered to the UN General Assembly in September, 2012.

Let me first introduce you to the team.

iERG_1From left to right: Dr. Marleen Temmerman, Dr. Richard Horton, Mrs. Joy Phumaphi, Dr. Carmen Barroso, Dr. Dean Jamison, Dr. Miriam Were. Not pictured: Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta. ©ACDI-CIDA/ Patrick Doyle

Carmen Barroso's experiences during Brazil's emergence from dictatorship shaped her life-long commitment to human rights, civil society, and social change. She has dedicated her life to realising sexual and reproductive health and rights for all women and girls. She leads the Western Hemisphere Region of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, having successfully directed the MacArthur Foundation's Population and Reproductive Health Program for over a decade.

Zulfiqar Bhutta is a Professor and Founding Chair of Women's and Children's Health at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. His contributions to our understanding of maternal and child health have been prodigious. His publication and awards achievements are second to none. He currently co-chairs the Countdown to 2015 initiative, and he is a Board member of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. He is one of our most successful scientific ambassadors for women's and children's health today.

Dean Jamison is an outstanding economist of his generation. He is currently Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington. He also holds academic appointments in China and Australia. Of the many initiatives he has led, at least two have changed the way we think about health and development. His World Development Report in 1993 for the first time made the economic case for investing in health. And the Disease Control Priorities Project helps countries allocate their limited resources far more rationally.

Joy Phumaphi co-chairs the iERG. She is a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health and the Global Vaccine Council, as well as being Executive Secretary of ALMA. She has had cabinet responsibility in Botswana for Lands and Housing, and subsequently for health. She has led WHO's work on women's and children's health as an Assistant Director-General. Recently, she served as Vice-President at the World Bank's Human Development Network. Joy's focus is on healthy human capital and measuring results.

Marleen Temmerman spans two very different worlds with skill and achievement. She is a professor in obstetrics and gynaecology and Founding Chair of the International Centre for Reproductive Health at Ghent University in Belgium. In 2007 she was elected a Senator in the Belgian Parliament. Her special interest is reproductive health and rights, and she is especially concerned about the global neglect of family planning. She is a strong advocate for greater political engagement by the health community, and she vigorously supports and actively participates in the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Miriam Were is Kenyan. Her work and reputation as an academic and public health advocate and activist were recognised by her receipt of the first and prestigious Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize. Her particular commitment is to community empowerment. She has held leadership positions across government, the UN system, and academia. She continues to express justified shock by the degree to which Africa continues to face such appalling health problems and extremely high mortality for mothers and children.

And, lastly, my name is Richard Horton, and I work at a medical journal, The Lancet. Since 2003, we have published series on maternal, newborn, and child health, focused on low and middle income settings. More recently, we have broadened this work to include the related issues of nutrition, primary health care, health information systems, child development, stillbirths, TB, vaccines, social determinants of health, and the right to health. I hope this work, produced by hundreds of great scientists and public health workers, has helped to shape our modern hopes and expectations for women and children.

ierg_ottawa_compressedStakeholders gather in Ottawa during the "Delivering Results for Women and Children" forum. ©ACDI-CIDA/ Patrick Doyle

We all met - Zulfi by telephone - in Ottawa at a conference organised by WHO and the Government of Canada, "Delivering Results for Women and Children." Prime Minister Stephen Harper co-chaired (with President Kikwete from Tanzania) the Commission on Information and Accountability, and his Government remains committed to seeing the results of that Commission translated into health improvements for women and children. We were gathered in Ottawa to advance the ten recommendations of the Commission, to emphasise country implementation, and to operationalise the work plan developed by WHO and its partners to ensure that its recommendations are realised. The iERG met in parallel with this meeting.

The principles that will govern our work are country engagement and ownership of the Commission's accountability framework (monitor, review, and act), transparency in the way we work, participation by all constituencies concerned with women's and children's health, and (perhaps most important of all) trust. Without trust, the conclusions we draw and the recommendations we make will have little consequence.

Hon Beverley J. Oda, Canadian Minister of International Cooperation,
shakes hands with Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World
Health Organization, at the opening of the "Delivering Results for
Women and Children" forum. ©ACDI-CIDA/ Patrick Doyle
How should we be held accountable? By adherence to the values and principles we have set out above, of course, but also to the most important objective of all - the demonstrable and measurable acceleration of progress to save the lives of women and children in some of the most disadvantaged countries in the world (75 in all).

At our first meeting, we identified six priority areas of work for the next year (as I mentioned, we are charged to report our findings at next year's September UN General Assembly meeting).

First, to report the commitments made by stakeholders to advance the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child effort in support of the Global Strategy. And, of course, to investigate whether those commitments have been delivered or not.

Second, to measure progress on the delivery of the Global Strategy itself. We are a creature born of the Commission, which is itself a product of Every Woman Every Child. We have a responsibility, as its grandchild, to ask how the health of the Global Strategy is shaping up.

Third, we will report on progress in implementing the Commission's other nine recommendations (the tenth was our creation). Some of these recommendations have to be delivered in 2012, so the pressure is on all partners (and us) to make sure that progress has happened and is fully documented. Our priorities for the first year will be: the use of the 11 indicators identified by the Commission for monitoring progress in countries; the creation of country compacts between governments and development partners to facilitate resource tracking; the establishment of national accountability mechanisms to monitor, review, and remedy progress on women's and children's health; and the revision of the OECD-DAC's Creditor Reporting System so that spending on reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health can be fully captured.

Fourth, we want to identify great examples of good practice in accountability for women's and children's health.
Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair of the iERG, speaks during the
"Delivering Results for Women and Children" forum.
©ACDI-CIDA/ Patrick Doyle

Fifth, we need to map out the obstacles to achieving the Global Strategy, as well as obstacles to ensuring the proper accountability arrangements set out by the Commission.

Finally, we have to make recommendations about the effectiveness of the accountability framework agreed by the Commission and how it might be improved.

To help us do this work, we have adopted a communication strategy that focuses on outreach (meetings, advocacy, and calls for evidence), publications (meeting reports, blogs, journal articles), web tools (for data collection, reporting successes), and media activity.

Part of our challenge is going to be learning about the successes taking place in many countries. In Ottawa, we learned about the progress being made in accountability in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through a mix of political commitment and technological innovation, accountability can be delivered, even in the absence of a strong and fully functioning health system.

We can't do everything ourselves. We are going to rely on partners to help us generate the evidence we need to do our work. More on this matter at a later date. In the meantime, all of this work is going to require considerable resources. We have enough investment in the iERG for its first year. We are working closely with WHO to make sure we can be properly sustained over our entire four-year lifespan.

Finally, I want to thank not only my colleagues on the iERG. I also want to thank the small team at WHO that is working with us to make accountability the new catalyst for global health progress. Thanks to the work of Marie-Paule Kieny, Ramesh Shademani, Natasha Shapovalova, and Anne-Laure Lameyre, we will endeavour to meet the expectations of the Commission and, more importantly, the hopes of women and children worldwide.

At the opening of the conference hosted by Canada, Minister Oda (Canada's Minister for International Cooperation) described the Commission's findings as ushering in "a new dialogue in development." (Read Minister Oda's remarks.) We share that view. We are determined to see it fully realised.

Posted on behalf of the iERG by Richard Horton
Co-Chair, iERG