In all societies there are many ways to foster change. Take a look at the United Kingdom and you’ll see various activities which a wide range of groups use to bring about new, improved or different ways of doing things. Our grassroots campaigners are excellent examples of this. They spend their time writing to their MPs, meeting with government officials, attending local meetings and trying to get articles placed in newspapers in order to bring public or political attention to a certain issue. It’s easy to see the successes in their endeavours, such as the recent UK pledge to the Global Fund, but underlying everything they do, and the one thing that turns their hard work into policy change, is accountability.
I think accountability matters. But why does it matter for international development? Donor countries need to be held accountable to ensure aid is being disbursed to reach those who need it most, through the interventions which will have the most impact. We know that, it’s the bread and butter of our day-to-day work at RESULTS. But donor funding isn’t a permanent solution and as countries develop and grow, the need for domestic accountability begins to take even greater importance. Governments need to show political leadership and commit to domestic funding to support their own health, education, and social services.
Politicians, community leaders, and civil society have an important role to play in scrutinising policy, holding leaders to account, and driving sustainable financing for services which have previously been supported by donors, as well as to ensure development gains are not lost. What we want, in the long term, is for countries to take ownership of their health programmes (and overall their own development), making them sustainable and ensuring health gains continue, until everyone has access to the health services they need, without suffering financing hardship.
Country ownership of health programmes does not happen automatically. It involves many people with the determination to keep pushing for change and improvement. Political will is often a key factor. Political will refers to the desire within political systems to enact change: it’s driven by creating accountability within systems and has strong impacts on government leadership, sustainable financing and the implementation of programmes and policies. It can be transformative as countries move away from traditional forms of donor financing and transition into more self-sustaining policies.
Today, RESULTS UK is delighted to launch a new policy briefing, which shows the positive effect of political will in encouraging country ownership of immunisation. It uses Uganda’s immunisation programme as a case study to highlight the huge successes that have been won in one of the most important health interventions. RESULTS UK will continue to make the case for country ownership and 2017 will see further research published on the topic.