Civil Society and the Health Policy Action Fund
For aid to be effective in the health sector, it is crucial that civil society organizations, networks and coalitions engage with health policy processes. IHP+ brings together different partners from government, development...
For aid to be effective in the health sector, it is crucial that civil society organizations, networks and coalitions engage with health policy processes. IHP+ brings together different partners from government, development agencies, the private sector and civil society to work together to plan and finance a national health strategy in more coherent ways. But for civil society organizations this can be a challenge. How do you establish working relationships with people who have perhaps previously not listened to you in formal spaces? If you are a small or new organization, how do you find the time, skills and capacity to engage with high-level policy makers and development agencies?
IHP+ has funded a small grants scheme since 2010, which has been managed by Oxfam under the name Health Policy Action Fund (HPAF). HPAF aims to support southern civil society organizations, networks and coalitions to engage more effectively in health policy processes. Managed by Oxfam, the fund is an opportunity for CSOs to receive small grants which support their work in this area. The guidelines on what HPAF will fund are not strict. The idea is to support work that aims to improve access to universal and equitable healthcare, and work that engages with national health policy makers or international development agencies.
In 2010, 13 CSOs in nine IHP+ countries received grants of up to US$30,000. Projects included efforts to track Global Fund money, advocacy on access to AIDS treatment and advocacy on sexual and reproductive health.
The Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) in Uganda has received funding from the Health Policy Action Fund since 2010. The grant has also allowed them to build their capacity as a CSO and staff received training on critical health policy and budget issues. It also allowed them to strengthen the capacity of other Ugandan CSOs and CBOs to effectively engage in health policy processes, providing training on budget analysis, policy formulation and implementation and advocacy. They formed a coalition of CSOs called ‘Voices for Health Rights’ and collectively engage policy makers, government officials and development partners at the country level.
AGHA was strongly involved in developing and signing the Uganda country compact. They were charged with identifying the responsibilities and writing the language for the role of CSOs. They now work to ensure that the Government and Development Partners fulfil their mandate within the country compact. AGHA carries out many activities to encourage transparency and accountability and to engage partners to adhere to the principles of the country compact and the Paris Declaration. They produce a shadow report annually on the performance of health sector and analyse the national health budget. They identify where there is poor allocation of resources that do not address the priorities in the national health strategy; these priorities are supposed to conform to the Millennium Development Goals.
They also look at the activities of Development Partners to see if they are aligning, harmonizing, conforming and supporting the national health strategies the government has created. AGHA in collaboration with other CSO partners now feels it has the authority to hold the Government and Development Partners to account for the commitments they agreed to in the country compact.
As a CSO, AGHA is much more coordinated than previously and works closely with other CSOs. They have a working group and collaborate to influence policy processes. Importantly, CSOs are now invited to meetings and committees on health policy. “We are now invited to participate. Every time there are meetings – at the Ministry of Health or technical working groups – AGHA is invited. It is now a working relationship which we have to manage” said Dennis Odwe, Policy Advocacy Officer of AGHA.
New grantees will receive funding in 2012 and a full list will be available soon.
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