First meeting of Accountability Commission on Women’s and Children’s Health


26 January 2011 - 1st meeting of the Accountability Commission
26 January 2011 - 1st meeting of the Accountability Commission

High-level Chairs and Commissioners of the new Information and Accountability Commission on Women’s and Children’s Health have convened for their first meeting at WHO. The Commission’s two eminent chairs each led sessions: President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete headed the session on accounting for results with Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper leading the session on accountability for resources. Vice-chairs, Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the ITU, and Margaret Chan, Director-General WHO supported discussions focused on papers from the two expert technical Working Groups with 30 high-level commissioners from government, civil society, academia, and multi-lateral agencies.

Mr Kikwete emphasized the challenge ahead: “The (MDGs) on maternal and child health are lagging far behind target.” But Mr Harper’s message was one of hope: “Improvements to the health, education and living conditions of millions of women and children will mean a wave of hope that will ripple through the developing world,” said Mr Harper in his opening statement.

The Commission was formed in December 2010 following the launch of the UN Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health in September with global pledges of US $ 40 billion for MDGs 4 & 5. In July, the G-8 Muskoka Initiative pledge US $ 7.5 million to women’s and children’s health.

The accountability framework proposed by the Commission will: track results and resource flows at global and country levels; identify a core set of indicators and measurement needs for women's and children's health; propose steps to improve health information and registration of vital events - births and deaths - in low-income countries; explore opportunities for innovation in information technology to improve access to reliable information on resources and outcomes. The Commission will report in May 2011.

Resource and Results Working Groups

Expert Working Groups presented two discussion papers: Richard Horton and editor of The Lancet addressed how to improve accountability for results; Mariam Ally, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, addressed the best ways to ensure accountability for financial resources. The discussion papers are available on the Commission’s website and comments are invited.

Commissioners present included representation from 12 countries, including Qatar, France, Ethiopia, USA, Norway, Lebanon, India, Senegal, Ghana, Rwanda and the African Union. Other commissioners included representatives from civil society academia, multi-lateral organizations and the private sector. PMNCH and members were represented: by representatives of PMNCH country members, the Chair of PMNCH Board, Dr Julio Frenk, as well as other constituency members including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Women Deliver and World Vision International.

Quotes of Note

H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, Co-chair and President of the United Republic of Tanzania

Of the eight millennium development goals set by the UN for 2015, said Mr Kikwete “the ones on maternal and child health are lagging far behind target.” “This is a stark reminder of the enormity of the challenge,” said Mr Kikwete, pointing out that Africa has just 12 per cent of the global population, but accounts for half of all maternal deaths and half the deaths of children under five:” He noted that not only those who made commitments need to be accountable but that the recipient countries and civil society must also held accountable for the use of the funds. Commending both Working Groups for their excellent and professional work on the discussion papers, Mr Kikwete said: “We had a very successful first meeting of the Commission... this was a successful start of the work of this Commission."

H.E. Stephen Harper, Co-chair and Prime Minister of Canada

“This is about the future, the future of families, of communities, countries and indeed ultimately of humanity...Improvements to the health, education and living conditions of millions of women and children will mean a wave of hope that will ripple through the developing world.... We understand that we must strive to build support not just for our noble objectives, but also for our commitment to the highest standards of oversight and accountability for the dollars that we are dedicating to them."At the press conference, Mr Harper told reporters: “The agreement on accountability is essential and the foundation of the work of the commission is to ensure the respect of commitments made, that the resources are spent accordingly and the desired results achieved.”

Dr Margaret Chan, Vice-chair and Director-General, WHO

"We must identify expedient ways to improve tracking of resources and make sure investments in women's and children's health deliver the intended results. Accurate and reliable information is fundamental to meet our objective and monitor progress towards achievement."