July 2, 2014

Partnership and Accountability: Not Just Buzz Words for Young People

Written by Samuel Kissi

I joined close to a hundred young people from around the globe and hundreds more in Johannesburg at what was, by every measure, an important milestone in the drive towards improved maternal, newborn and child health. If there are two words I heard the most over the course of the forum they were “partnership and accountability” and it is easy to see why this was the case.

Given the current state of maternal, newborn and child health, it is quite clear that the primacy of partnership cannot be overemphasized. In order to make real progress, we need to bring all hands on deck to harness all our resources and commitment. This means that governments who bear the lion’s share of the responsibility must move beyond words and promises to action. It also means that civil society, including young people and the private sector, need to step up and do even more than they are currently doing. Without true and effective partnership, none of the goals we have set for ourselves will be met.

As we get ready to start the 500-day countdown to the end of the MDGs, the issue of accountability becomes even more important. I often get asked what we as young people are doing to hold various stakeholders accountable and my answer has always been very simple. We know as young people that we cannot continue to stand aside and look. We know that we cannot afford to be trapped by the notion that we are the leaders of tomorrow when we face real and unprecedented challenges today. We need to hold our leaders to accountable to the promises they made just as we hold ourselves accountable.

Whilst commitments like the Millennium Development Goals are important, they only get real if and when we act at country level. We need to push so that the development discourse at country level does not prioritize the economy over our education, the military over our health, or sports over our wellbeing. We need to continue to build our capacity as young people to understand the mechanisms at country level through which the key decisions get taken. Mechanisms like the country development planning and budget process must not be left to political leaders and economists. These impact our lives directly as young people and they serve as a test of how truly our leaders mean the promises they make to us.

In Ghana, for example, some young people from the youth-led organization, Curious Minds, took an interest in understanding how the development planning process works. Through partnership with other members of civil society who do continuous budget analysis, these young people are able to make inputs on key issues related to education and health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, into the country development plan. They also conduct a thorough, apolitical analysis of the national budget and help to shine the spotlight on key youth issues that would otherwise go unnoticed.

We need to expand the scope of our participation. We are often very active in the development stages of resolutions and global commitments but do not seem as involved during the implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages. This is the accountability. We need to understand that our work as young people and advocates does not end when resolutions and other outcome documents are agreed upon. By failing to monitor continuously and actively, we fail in our duty to hold the leaders to their words.

Young people must join the partnership towards improving maternal, newborn and child health and it is our duty to ourselves and generations to come, as well our privilege as members of this process, to ensure accountability in this regard. Let us each begin now wherever we are and with whatever we have.