SUPPORT-SYSTEMS (36) WHO: Voice, agency, empowerment

19 May, 2022

WHO recently produced guidance 'for policy-makers to navigate the challenges of convening hard-to-reach population groups, of brokering dialogue when views are polarized'. The focus on policymakers is notable. Is there a complementary publication for CSOs? Could guidance be synethesised for both?

'Voice, agency, empowerment: Handbook on social participation for universal health coverage' was published in 2021 and can be downloaded here:

The guidance is structured as follows:

1. Participation: a core instrument for voice, agency, and empowerment

2. An enabling environment for participation

3. Representation in participation

4. Capacities for meaningful government engagement with the population, communities, and civil society

5. From population engagement to decision-making

6. Legal frameworks for participation

7. Sustaining participatory engagement over time

The questions that guide our current HIFA discussion are looking mainly from the perspective of civil society, but it is important also to consider the needs of policymakers.

We look forward in particular to hear from those who have worked in ministries of health in low- and middle-income countries, whether at national, subnational, local or facility levels. What has been your experience of interacting with civil society organisations? Would you like to comment perhaps on how CSOs use evidence (peer-reviewed literature; reports; lived experience)? In what ways could CSO engagement be improved so that they bring maximum benefit to policymaking?

Tarry and Uzo have raised the active example of the Nigeria National Health Act 2014, and how CSO coalitions have helped drive things forward (although with much frustration and continuing barriers). Similarly Action for Global Health brings together global health NGOs in the UK. A benefit of such coalitions is that they have the potential to provide a more efficient mechanism for CSO input into government policy, and yet there are doubtless disadvantages.

We look forward to your continued contributions on this subject.

Best wishes, Neil


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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is global coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in official relations with WHO. HIFA brings stakeholders together to accelerate progress towards universal access to reliable healthcare information.

Twitter: @hifa_org