Country Ownership is a Three-Legged Stool

Hon. Janet Museveni, First Lady of Uganda, discussing with Mr. John Mark Winfield, Deputy US Mission to Uganda, during the Regional Meeting of the Southern and East African Parliamentary Alliance of Commitees of Health. Photo: IPPF/MSH Staff

By Elly Mugumya, Director of the IPPF/LMG Partnership for the International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Regional Office for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is currently working in partnership with the Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project, funded by USAID, in several African countries on a number of initiatives that are designed to strengthen the technical and leadership skills of African women health leaders and IPPF Sexual and Reproductive Health Member Associations. This process ensures greater self-determination for the LMG Project’s stakeholders as well as their ownership of health programs and services. By strengthening the leadership capacity of individuals and teams, IPPF and LMG are making sure that their voices are heard and their health needs are met.

Country ownership can be defined in many different ways depending on who you ask. I see country ownership as twofold:

  1. Country ownership is premised on quality leadership, good governance capacities, political will, and ability to tap into potentials of all concerned – technically referred to as stakeholders – to deliver for a development agenda. It entails capacity to appropriately and broadly articulate the needs of a country’s population. These needs should be enlisted through team-led leadership to assure voices and concerns of all, irrespective of gender and social status, are heard and included in the national agendas, and at all times remain accountable to stakeholders (development partners, delivery systems, and consumers).
  2. The core elements of country ownership are the government, including its civil and public structures, policies, programmes, and systems; its citizens; and its development partners who come in to support the delivery of the national agenda or a project. In essence country ownership is like a three-legged stool, and without one leg, the stool cannot stand.
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LMG and IPPF are contributing to country ownership in sub-Sahara Africa in four main ways.

Strengthening systems that enhance quality leadership, management, and governance: IPPF and LMG are contributing to the capacity building of 43 IPPF Sexual and Reproductive Health Member Associations in sub-Saharan Africa; one in each country. The Member Associations are civil institutions that represent the interests and voices of grassroots populations that are often marginalized and underserved. By investing in building the capacities of these civil institutions, they will be well governed and able to serve their respective societies, financially healthy, accountable to stakeholders, visible, and able to continue to amplify the voices of the population.

Empowering local responsibility:  LMG’s conceptual thinking is a blended desire and set of approaches to address inequality in access to health care through partnerships with governments, civil society organizations (CSOs), individuals, and communities to understand and address needs and leverage available resources. To this end, through the IPPF partnership, LMG is supporting the capacity building of four IPPF learning centres to better serve as repositories for and technical support hubs of leadership, management and governance tools and resources  for  member associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), CSOs, and community-based organizations (CBOs). The resulting effect is empowered country- based organizations, communities, and individuals.

Championing through national and continental advocacy: Through advocacy support around the value of leadership, management, and governance practices, as well as the value added by women leaders, and by documenting and sharing stories, LMG and IPPF are working to elevate the idea of not just health sector jobs, but “careers of impact” for health leaders at all levels. This is in addition to furthering broad-based multi-disciplinary community platforms which create spaces for women and young people to voice their concerns with service providers, community leaders, and local members of parliament. Within the context of country ownership, the mobilization and engagement of women in decision-making processes for health can yield the required political support for improved health outcomes.

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Enhancing accountability: The LMG project is involved in building IPPF Member Associations’ financial management capacities to enhance accountability to stakeholders. This work also aspires to attract sustained donor confidence and continued funding, giving the Member Associations greater power over their own aid effectiveness, a core element of country ownership.

More Reading on Country Ownership: Perspectives from Around the World

The Importance of Country Ownership: An Introduction

Participation of Civil Society is Essential to Country Ownership

Featured Organization: African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST), Kampala, Uganda

What is Country Ownership? A Perspective from Vietnam

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