Governance in the Spotlight: Youth “Crucial Actors” for Health Sector Accountability Post-2015

Sarah Lindsay

Senior Technical Officer

Achieving good governance WCY 2014. Photo: MSH StaffThis blog post is part of a series leading up to the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland from May 19 – 24, 2014. In conjunction with the WHA, the Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project will host a side session with global health leaders titled, “Governance for Health: Priorities for Post-2015 and Beyond.” This series will offer insight on how good governance in the health system can result in stronger health impact as we move beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

Good governance is like a large elephant, Ahmed Adamu, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council said. “One person can touch the trunk, one the stomach, and one the tail, and they have had very different experiences with the elephant. Around the world, everyone has different experiences and different perceptions of good governance.”

With this anecdote, Adamu, a speaker at the plenary, “Achieving Good Governance and Accountability” at the World Conference on Youth, captures the challenges of defining good governance often cited in more academic terms.

Though the concept of good governance is up for interpretation, there is consensus across countries, generations, and sectors that it is sorely needed. According to a consultation by Restless Development with young people in 12 countries , overall, governance is their most important issue that should be addressed in the post-2015 dialogue. And while good governance might be their most pressing concern, according to Subinay Nandy, Sri Lanka’s Resident Coordinator to the United Nations,  it is young people themselves who are the most important tool international agencies can use to guarantee  good governance.

“Youth should be crucial actors for ensuring the implementation of post-2015 goals,” said Nandy at a session titled “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Agenda.” He elaborated that young leaders should ‘police’ community, national and international leaders in ensuring services are delivered and goals are met.

Many young people have already started community initiatives to make sure governments are held accountable, particularly that health leaders are delivering services as promised. In Malawi, there is a national policy that community associations have a role to play and a right to monitor government service delivery. Unfortunately, many people were not informed of this national policy or of what services should be delivered. In order to address this knowledge gap, Plan International created a community score card to track education, health, and agricultural policies with young community leaders at the helm.  After all, “who knows better than young people if their teachers are absent, if they are being denied health services?”  Plan International’s Amanda Lundy asked.

Restless Development and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) are implementing similar initiatives with young leaders in order to hold governments accountable for sexual and reproductive policy implementation in many sub-Saharan African countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia.

While governments are putting the onus on young people to hold them accountable – and the initiatives above show young people are taking on the job – young leaders are not letting government leaders off the hook easily with an ambitious call to action. One resolution of the Colombo Action Plan, the outcome document for the World Conference on Youth, is expected to request national governments to alter their political party structures in order to enable young people guaranteed access to previously inaccessible political institutions.

Ahmed Adamu, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council