Civil Society is Key in Strengthening Accountability for FP2020 Commitments

By Mande Limbu, FP2020 Advocacy and Civil Engagement Manager

Accountability is still an elusive term. Family planning advocates have used it for nearly a decade, but it’s still unclear what it means: Who is accountable to whom? What is needed to foster accountability at a country level? Once a government makes a commitment, what role do civil society partners play in delivering and tracking the commitments?

If family planning is going to be prioritized on a global scale, civil society organizations (CSOs) play a vital role in supporting countries and holding commitment-makers accountable. CSOs must be fully engaged to ensure transparency, information sharing, and action. Previous civil society-led accountability efforts have resulted in policy and budgetary changes in support of governments’ FP2020 commitments, but challenges remain: There hasn’t been a collective move by the global family planning community to focus on accountability, efforts have been ad hoc (and driven by projects or donors), there’s limited technical capacity to implement effective accountability efforts, and limited funding for accountability work.

Despite the challenges, CSOs have led the way with several promising approaches. The Motion Tracker, a country-driven tool to monitor FP2020 commitments, has been used to spark local action to hold governments accountable. The women’s leadership and accountability initiative is another innovative approach that strengthens local capacity, fosters dialogue, and uncovers gaps and opportunities to rally country stakeholders to address bottlenecks that limit a country’s progress toward meeting their FP2020 commitments. Social accountability approaches like the community score card have also been successful in improving access to quality family planning services and ensuring government policies, spending, and services are responsive to citizen needs.

Judith Kitinga, Accountability Advocate with Restless Development, has tracked Tanzania’s progress toward their FP2020 commitments by using youth-led, data-driven accountability tools. “In my day-to-day work, I visit local communities… to better understand young peoples’ experiences in accessing family planning services and identify solutions with them.”

Advocates like Judith have paved the way. But to strengthen CSO-led accountability efforts, the global family planning community needs to:

  • Demystify the accountability process to promote joint and collaborative accountability approaches (instead of “grading and shaming” governments).
  • Promote the scaling up of promising approaches and support local civil society groups — including youth — to implement effective family planning accountability efforts.
  • Better articulate how accountability efforts help countries achieve their family planning goals by recording evidence and promoting success stories.
  • Ensure recent and reliable country-specific family planning data are accessible to local advocates and support them to use data to effectively foster accountability.
  • Mobilize resources to support accountability efforts.

The way forward is clear: CSOs are critical advocates in ensuring progress toward fulfilling FP2020 commitments.