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The role of civil society in the international health partnership

Last weekend I took part in a meeting of the Civil Society Consultative Group for the International Health Partnership (IHP+).

I recently became the Alternative Northern Civil Society Representative for the IHP+ so this meeting was a great opportunity to catch up on the latest developments and to meet other civil society organisations (CSOs) involved in the IHP+ and aid effectiveness.

What is the IHP+?

Launched in 2007, the IHP+ is a partnership of 30 developing countries, 13 donor governments and 12 international agencies and foundations.

By becoming signatories to the IHP+, partners have committed to put five Paris Principles of aid effectiveness into practice in the health sector. The key principle of national ownership, for example, will mean that developing countries are put back into the driving seat rather than responding to donor priorities.

The IHP+ has five main areas of focus: coordinating support for better health sector planning processes; creating greater confidence in national health strategies through encouraging joint assessments; mobilising more unified support for national strategies through country compacts; developing one framework to monitor results and promoting greater mutual accountability.

Why is the IHP+ needed?

Development assistance for health has more than doubled over the past decade. Along with increased resources, the number of organisations involved in global health has also risen.

At the country level, there is a lot of duplication and developing country governments have to devote huge amounts of time and resources just to managing the needs of different funders.

In the 4 years since it was launched, there has been a dramatic in the number of developing countries involved in the IHP+.

This is a clear indication that countries see the need to make health aid more effective in order to see better health outcomes for their citizens.

Countries are already reporting successes which are attributed to their involvement in the IHP+. Nepal for example, has been able to use joint assessment tools to strengthen its national health plan and successfully implement a free maternal care policy. The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen a two-thirds reduction in transaction costs by setting up one unit to coordinate donors.

What is the role of civil society?

In addition to the 55 signatories, civil society is represented in the governance structure of the IHP+ by two Civil Society Representatives and their Alternates.

Since country ownership does not just mean government ownership, the IHP+ encourages the involvement of civil society at all levels. CSOs participate in the joint assessment of national strategies and in the monitoring implementation and results. In some countries, CSOs have even signed up to country compacts.

Upcoming opportunities

The IHP+ is a great platform for CSOs to influence national health policies.  They can also ensure their experiences are shared at a global level through the Civil Society Representatives.

Over the next few years, many countries will be developing new health strategies and it is crucial that civil society is engaged in these processes from the beginning to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised are not ignored.

In 2012, IHP+ Results, an independent consortium, will produce another set of scorecards to assess each IHP+ partner’s performance and these will be great tools for holding governments and development partners to account.

To find out more about the IHP+ and how you can get involved visit www.internationalhealthpartnership.net

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