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Budget advocacy: key to accountability – and a better nutrition deal for children

by Sylvia Szabo and Hugh Bagnall-Oakley

Accountability – a buzzword for both the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – is not only an important concept, but a principle that should be routinely implemented in developmental plans and strategies.

It’s defined by the UN as:

“the process of holding actors responsible for their actions”


“the concept that individuals, agencies and organizations  are held responsible for executing their powers according to a certain standard (whether set mutually or not)”.

Clearly, to hold others accountable for their actions, it’s indispensable to collect, track and analyse micro- and macro-level data.

So far, the main focus of data collection and analysis has been on outcome indicators measuring the progress (or lack of it) of programmes and interventions at the national, regional and global levels.  In the context of work on nutrition and food security, programme managers and analysts are particularly interested in disaggregated data measuring prevalence of undernutrition and the performance of nutrition-sensitive interventions, including in agriculture and water & sanitation sectors. Once collected, these data tend to be transformed into socio-economic indicators, which allow harmonisation of the process and comparisons across regions and countries.

But there’s  another important source of data that should be used as part of any accountability process. Budgetary allocation and public expenditure reviews are a key means to track governments’ commitment to human development, including nutrition targets. They also provide civil society organisations with the information they need to advocate for increased public spending on nutrition.

See Scaling Up for Nutrition’s 3-step approach to budget analysis.

More exciting than it looks. Representatives from Indonesian civil society organisations share experiences of budget advocacy to help get children a better deal on nutrition.

Save the Children is among the leading organisations working on budget advocacy to influence governments to prioritise expenditure on nutrition.  As part of that work, in December 2015, we – the authors of this blog post – undertook a visit to Save the Children’s Indonesia country office to run a workshop on budget analysis and budget advocacy – and to hold meetings with key stakeholders involved in budget advocacy.

In Indonesia, budgetary processes are complex and involve allocations at national, provincial (propinsi), district (kabupatan), sub-district (kacamatan) and village (desa) levels. By engaging with Save the Children’s Indonesian country office – and with other country offices – we’re supporting  an unprecedented effort in collecting and tracking budgetary allocations to nutrition at national and sub-national levels.

This can help build a more efficient SDG accountability framework and accelerate progress towards nutrition-related SDG targets, including those under SDG2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.


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