17 March 2011

Advancing the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health

Working Together to Implement the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health

Half a year after the launch of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health, a high-level group of governments, private sector companies, civil society organizations, academic institutions, UN agencies and representatives from the office of the UN Secretary General met to take stock on progress in the implementation of the strategy and pave the way for further action.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, opened the meeting which he co-hosted with Saad Houry, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

“As a community, it is a good time to come together to ensure that our collaborative work translates into concrete results for countries. We must also ensure that we communicate those results, so that even more partners can come on board and support this important initiative,” Dr. Osotimehin said to the 50 participants, many of whom connected by video-conference from all over the world.

Global strategy for saving lives

The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, also called Every Woman, Every Child, is a roadmap that identifies finance and policy requirements plus critical interventions to improve health and save lives.

At the launch in September 2010 at the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal Summit, numerous partners and governments put forward commitments, totaling around USD $40 billion.

Since then more commitments have been put forward, but a sustained implementation effort is required in order to meet the target of saving the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.

Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, brought a warm greeting to the meeting participants from United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon: “The Secretary-General is extremely impressed by the level of dedication and enthusiasm which he is witnessing at every meeting or event he goes to related to this effort. The Global Strategy would not have been possible without your strong advocacy and outreach, nor without your intellectual and expert contributions.”

He emphasized that women’s and children’s health is now unarguably a leader’s level issue, that cooperation on all levels is required and that the life of every woman and child counts.

Critical work areas

At the meeting, the participants reviewed results from and discussed the three main work areas of the Global Strategy:

  • Implementation work at the country and global level – translating financing, policy and service delivery commitments into impact on the ground and adding value through innovation;
  • Development of a global Accountability Framework for resources and results; and
  • Mobilizing and keeping the momentum among world leaders and global stakeholders.

Many speakers complimented the collaborative work and leadership role of the five UN agencies UNFPA, UNICEF, UNAIDS, WHO and the World Bank, known as the Health 4+ (H4+) in ensuring commitments from a growing numbers of developing countries to improve maternal and child health – and working together to assist the countries in making the commitments into real action.

Working with civil society

Tuesday 22 March, UNFPA hosted a phone conference for a group of International Non-Governmental Organizations and other stakeholders involved in the Global Strategy.

The call focused on how the NGOs and civil society can support and work with the H4+ to secure commitments from countries yet to engage with the Global Strategy.

The immediate goal is to have forward forward-looking, specific and measurable commitment from the 50 countries with the highest maternal mortality by September 2011. So far a little over half have made commitments and implementation has started.

"The involvement of international NGOs and civil society in the countries is very important if we want this to be more than beautiful words. They are the ones who work in the communities where women live and die. They can hold the governments accountable and push for more commitments and action," said Laura Laski, Chief of UNFPA's Sexual and Reproductive Health Branch, and focal point for the H4+'s work with the Global Strategy.