Reflections on Civil Society Engagement in the GFF - progress recorded but more need to be done
Global Financing Facility
As we participate in the workshop for the 10 new Global Financing Facility countries (Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, Tadjikistan, Tchad, Pakistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe) (background presentations available here), we contemplate on the trajectory of Civil Society engagement since the start of the GFF.
As we participate in the workshop for the 10 new GFF countries (Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, Tadjikistan, Tchad, Pakistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe) (background presentations available here), we contemplate on the trajectory of Civil Society engagement since the start of the GFF.
Progress has been made. Civil Society participation in country delegations was secured for 80% of the countries, in many of these countries, Civil Society participated in national briefing meetings prior to the workshop and in some countries such as Ghana, Civil Society has already created a working group on the GFF and identified focal points for Civil Society to lead on GFF related work.
While progress is noted some challenges remain that if resolved could exponentially increase the Civil Society contribution to the GFF process through investment cases that respond to the needs of populations, aligned civil society service delivery and demand generation activities, and accountability for results and resources.
BUILDING CIVIL SOCIETY CAPACITY
One of the greatest value add identified by countries participating in this meeting for the GFF is the provision of technical assistance for the prioritization of RMNCAH+N interventions and for resource mapping. Civil Society participating in the workshop noted that a similar approach of provision of technical assistance around key issues would increase their health and financial literacy and enable them to engage meaningfully in the investment case development process and to monitor its implementation. While capacity building needs are obviously context specific, a general consensus has emerged around a number of approaches:
Early identification of Civil Society networks, information sharing on the GFF process and contacts, and support for the creation of a functional coalition. Participants noted that support for coalition building needs to address certain constraints that exist in countries. The Civil Society landscape in countries is very fragmented and competitive. For instance in Mauritania and Kenya there are tens of thousands of registered civil society organizations, many of which are organized in networks around diseases, driven by donor financing, and few of which are incentivized to collaborate and coordinate beyond their remit. As such capacity strengthening on coalition building needs to include information on how to incentivize participation (for instance through the creation of the thematic sub groups, the use of technical experts from member organizations in relevant government led conversations, the creation of space for civil society in constrained environments etc) and joint resourcing of civil society coalition through voluntary contributions. Information on coalition building should also center on how effective coalitions address gaps between national and community level organizations. Special steps need to be taken to respect the local context in particular in terms of what it means for CS coalitions to be inclusive, representative and structured.
Identification of Civil Society contribution to the GFF process, mapping of Civil Society capacity needs and resources. Civil society who have engaged effectively in GFF countries have developed engagement strategies or action plans in support of the achievement of consensus based objectives. The GFF CS engagement strategy and related youth addendum and implementation plan provide illustrative objectives and activities that can guide the development of these action plans in countries. Many of the Civil Society coalitions that developed action plans noted that as as they started to think through implementation of the identified advocacy and accountability activities, realized capacity gaps within the members of their coalitions which needed to be filled to enable implementation. As such they recommend GFF Civil Society coalitions or working groups undertake a mapping of capacity building needs (such as on advocacy, data collection and use and accountability) and availability of human and technical resources to fill these needs. They also call on financing mechanisms such as the small grants mechanism and the GFF resource hub to make flexible funding available to facilitate the mapping and subsequent trainings.
Support for trainings on budget analysis and advocacy. The role of Civil Society in domestic resource mobilization is recognized by all stakeholders and the need for increased capacity on budget analysis and advocacy for Civil Society at all stages of the GFF process has been recognized and recommended as one of the capacity building pieces around which a cross country effort can already be structured. Civil Society recommend that an effort to capacity build around budget advocacy can be undertaken simultaneously with specific country identification of specific capacity building needs. Capacity strengthening on budget advocacy needs to include some focus on the identification of the partners in countries that can undertake budget analyses and those that can lead on the advocacy, this being based on their comparative advantages - thereby enabling rapid implementation of activities.
Documenting and communicating best practices. Civil Society also call for the development of a system of exchange between countries that nurtures peer to peer learning and more focus on documenting best practices and communication including the setup of functioning websites and improved use of social media.
RESOURCING CIVIL SOCIETY
Second to the need for increased technical capacity building, society identified financial resources as a key gap. While CS action plans have been developed in a number of countries, their implementation has stalled because of a lack of resources. In many instances, coalitions have not even been able to meet regularly and develop action plans because of insufficient funding. In countries that have seen movement, civil society organizations have used existing resources from partners that have had funding to support GFF related activities (such as Action for Global Health, E4A, JHPIEGO, PAI, PATH, OSF, RESULTS, Wemos) to coordinate and inform partners on the GFF and have established voluntary contribution mechanisms to implement activities, but even in these instances there is no guarantee of sustainability as implementation is dependent on partner programme funding for the GFF remaining unchanged.
This year, the GFF small grant mechanism and the Civil Society GFF resource hub have started to make limited financing available to CS in countries. The Small Grants Mechanism has recently issued nearly US$600,000 in grants to Civil Society in nine countries and the GFF Resource Hub has approved ten grants in seven countries valued at USD$242,431. However current resources are insufficient to cover the need of CS in 36 countries. Moreover the limited funding and bidding systems for these mechanisms means that countries are not guaranteed sustained financing over a number of years and that grants are not systematically issued to organizations leading the GFF coalition work. Research indicates that NGOs’ ability to resource mobilize depends on having the adequate institutional capacity to undertake this work – as such the financing mechanisms for the GFF CS need to structure themselves to support multiyear funding for coalition building that factors institutional capacity development for sustainability. In this constrained financing landscape achieving this would benefit from an alignment of various funding mechanisms for CS engagement in health. Successfully supporting CS engagement through coalition or network building would also then need to consider questions of independence and of functionality and representativeness of umbrella bodies.
INCREASING THE SPACE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT
There are countries where the space for meaningful Civil Society engagement is shrinking. This is a result of the stand that Civil Society takes on issues such as calling out government on corruption, demanding equity in service provision including representing populations or issues that go against social and traditional norms and being viewed as opponents of the sitting government because of criticisms on current policies or practice. While civil society has been viewed as having the legitimacy to call for accountability, there have been instances where its own accountability has been questioned because of collusion with those in the administration to the detriment of the country. In some countries, it has been government focal points attempt to work civil society that are aligned with their perspectives, thereby interfering with the coordination of civil society. We recommended that civil society be given enough space to self-coordinate in country. Civil Society in GFF countries call on global partners to continue their advocacy in favor of increased social participation in health planning and to support capacity building efforts on strategic advocacy aimed at overcoming these barriers.
Much has been achieved but much remains to be done. We look forward to continuing the journey towards strengthening CS engagement in the GFF process and in health planning and implementation writ large.
Pauline Irungu, Advocacy and Policy Country Lead, Kenya, PATH and Civil Society Representative to the GFF Investor’s Group
Mathews Mhuru, Country Coordinator, CSO SUN Alliance
Kadi Toure, Technical Officer, PMNCH and Coordinator, GFF Civil Society Coordinating Group