Civil rights groups and communities have expressed concern about the failure of South Africa's Department of Health to release the National Aids Vaccine Strategic Plan (NAVSP) for 2013-2017. In 2012, the Department of Health requested the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) to develop the NAVSP in collaboration with researchers all over the world and communities and Community Advisory Groups in South Africa. However, since its development the document has been embargoed for public scrutiny without any reason given. At a recent community roundtable on Aids Vaccine Research and Development indicated their dissatisfaction with the embargo on the document as they believe it contains clear objectives on community involvement in AIDS vaccine research that is happening in the country. Researchers from various organisation, including the Perinatal HIV Research Unit, the Aurum Institute for Health Research and the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation agreed that the embargo creates suspicion about the department’s activities to reduce HIV infections through vaccines and ARVs prevention research.
Governance and participation in health
The International Day of No Violence Against Women Campaign does not only concern those sections of civil society dealing feminist issues. Not true. Instead the campaign illustrates the need for all sections of civil society to unite around fundamental issues of human rights, democracy and good governance.
CSOs at national and grassroots level, are involved in mutual support, building citizen capacities, advocating public interests and rights, meeting social needs, providing services and advocating accountability within private and public health services. What is the impact of this input on health gains and informed health action within poor communities and on equity in health? This review of the literature explores whether civil society contributes to improved provision, coverage of and access to health services in low-income communities. The paper further examines whether civil society promotes improved responsiveness of health services, or enhances advocacy for and development of policies that are pro-poor and that enhance health equity.
On 8 April 2011 over 400 civil society activists gathered in New York for a one-day hearing with United Nations (UN) Member States on progress toward reaching Universal Access to HIV treatment, prevention, care, and support. This Civil Society Hearing took place as Member States began drafting a new Outcome Document on HIV, to be adopted at a UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS on 8 June 2011. Advocates are calling for a renewed and urgent commitment from member States to reach Universal Access goals by 2015. During the Hearing, civil society advocates stressed that in pursuing Universal Access goals the international community must prioritise public health over politics. They urged Member States to make available to their citizens the full complement of evidence-based HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support technologies and tools as a commitment to the human right to health. They called for the Outcome Document that will emerge from the UN High Level Meeting on HIV AND AIDS to acknowledge global failures to reach Universal Access by 2010, recommit to upholding and implementing priorities in the global AIDS response articulated by key existing global frameworks on HIV, including the UNAIDS 2011-2015 Outcome Strategy, and commit to bold, new targets.
In this interview, CIVICUS Secretary General, Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah argues that civil society has the potential to find solutions to our greatest global challenges based on equity, participation and sustainability. Civil society participation is now of greater significance as the development paradigm is changing faster than the key players realise. Official aid flows are becoming less important, new actors such as China and India are blurring the boundaries between development and business, and Big Business has moved in to take advantage of potential profits to be made from the 'aid industry'. He identifies two key mechanisms for responding to these changes and to ensuring progress on the development agenda: global commitments that involve all key actors and set real targets, and local action that finds new ways of involving citizens in shaping the development process. He also criticises current multilateral processes where the negotiating positions taken by diplomats do not reflect the wishes of their citizens. At these meetings, principles of human rights, democracy and environmental sustainability disappear from the agenda and narrow interests emerge that do not arise out of any popular mandate. He calls for new ways of holding governments to account for the positions they take on the international stage.
Non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations in Ghana are being called upon to contribute to the drafting of the country’s new local governance policy, which is intended at deepening local governance through appropriate social accountability. The new policy will consider the views of ordinary Ghanaians to clarify the status, roles and relationships between levels of government and the different actors and strengthen their participation and contribution to local governance. The Institute of Local Government Studies has received funding from the European Union to implement an action on “A Social Accountability Platform for Local Governance Performance in Ghana” with the objective to provide a harmonised approach to promoting comprehensive and coherent social accountability at the sub-national level.
This report covers the Civicus Participatory Governance Programme: How can we build political for participatory governance, 17-18 June 2008. Although participatory governance offers important concrete benefits for citizens and state actors alike, there is often initial resistance from political actors and government offiicals who are unfamiliar with such approaches. This small working group session involved three case studies which describe and analyse Civil Society Organisation approaches to building political will for participatory governance.
Civil society organisations accused government Monday of misleading President Bingu wa Mutharika and the nation in its dealings on a prospective multi-billion kwacha uranium mining project at Kayelekera in Karonga for the impact it will will have on people’s lives. Civil society questions the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for its lack of independence, participation, inclusiveness, cultural sensitivity and equity.
Zambian civil society organisations, especially those devoted to women’s rights, have welcomed Zambia’s new Constitution, which contains progressive provisions on gender equality and the promotion of women’s rights. The public is expected to vote on the Constitution in a national Referendum in 2013. Women’s rights organisations are reported to be preparing for educational campaigns amongst women to vote in favour of the new Constitution in the proposed Referendum in 2013. The parties to the Women’s Declaration on Engendering the Republican Constitution include the labour movement, the private sector, traditional leaders and groups under the umbrella of the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC). The draft version will enshrine gender equity in the Constitution in terms of economic empowerment. Activists have further demanded for the recognition of education as an important tool for the empowerment of women and women’s political empowerment through proportional representation in all decision making structures.
Amid discussion of how global health governance should and could be strengthened, the potential role of civil society organisations has been frequently raised. In this paper, the author considers the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in four health governance instruments under the auspices of the World Health Organisation – the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, International Health Regulations and Codex Alimentarius. She draws several conclusions about CSO engagement for strengthening global health governance (GHG). First, CSOs have played the biggest roles in initiating, formulating and implementing formal rules in GHG. Second, CSOs cannot perform certain functions, which should be fulfilled by the state to ensure GHG instruments are effective, such as formal mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement by government institutions, with punitive measures for non-compliance embodied in national legislation. Third, GHG remains far from pluralist in a true sense. The case studies suggest that, like global governance as a whole, GHG is being characterised by greater, rather than lesser, concentration of power in fewer hands. CSOs can bring much-needed diversity to the GHG landscape.