Some Accountability on the Way for “Every Woman, Every Child” Pledges?

On the sidelines of the Millennium Development Goals summit at the UN in September, the Secretary General presided over a meeting called “Every Woman, Every Child” which raised $40 billion in pledges for maternal and child health and women’s empowerment. The meeting included the adoption of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which matched that $40 billion with discrete policy pledges from recipient countries.  If these pledges are followed though, the strategy document estimates that 16 million lives may be saved by 2015.

Of course, the operative word here is “if.” Donors have a troubling history of making grand pledges at conferences when everyone is watching, only to scale back or not follow through with the pledges later on. For their part, recipient countries sometimes fail to efficiently implement earmarked projects, frustrating donors.

To avoid these common pitfalls, the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health called for an accountability mechanism to monitor pledges and the effectiveness of aid projects.  Today, the UN announced that Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health will “link resources committed to women’s and children’s health with the results they are intended to achieve.”

The commission will be co-chaired by Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. The Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Hamadoun I. Touré, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, will act as vice chairs.

According to a release, the accountability framework proposed by the commission will:

  1. Track results and resource flows at global and country levels;
  2. Identify a core set of indicators and measurement needs for women’s and children’s health;
  3. Propose steps to  improve health information and registration of vital events — births and deaths — in low-income countries;
  4. Explore opportunities for innovation in information technology to improve access to reliable information on resources and outcomes.

The commission will hold its first meeting in January, and release its first report in May, so it will still be a few months before we see the extent to which the commission is able to achieve its mandate.   For the sake of the 16 million lives potentially saved, let’s hope this new accountability mechanism inspires donors and recipients to fully honor their pledges.