The vision of the Global Strategy cannot be realized without the central role of local communities as agents of change, demanding and delivering the quality services to which they are entitled.
The Global Strategy calls for strong community engagement to “[harness] the power of partnerships and [strengthen] advocacy through coalitions at all levels.” Stakeholders include communities, the private sector, women’s groups, human rights defenders, trade unions, adolescent networks, faith-based organizations and national and international civil society organisations, among others.
Governments and partners can work together to strengthen community engagement and align around a common effort with a diverse but mutually reinforcing set of messages, processes, tools and tactics. Civil society groups and community members themselves can lead community engagement, participation and advocacy efforts. Media, including participatory citizen’s media, can complement this. Although often overlooked, adolescents and youth constitute a key group that can actively engage as agents of social change to contribute to more effective policies and programmes to promote their own health and well-being. The private sector can also contribute to advocacy efforts, for example to strengthen supply chains, while explicitly stating their interests and avoiding any conflicts therein.
The Global Strategy also calls for community participation in service delivery, where communities are active providers of services and not mere recipients. Communities can deliver quality services with great impact, but these services need to be integrated into national plans and systems.
3.1 A supportive environment for community engagement, participation and social accountability
With a multi-stakeholder country platform, governments and civil society organizations can work together to identify and support agents of change in communities. Engagement and participation efforts can also provide communities themselves with opportunities for decision-making, planning, budgeting and contributing to accountability mechanisms. Examples include:
- identifying local individuals working on or supportive of RMNCAH issues
- providing resources necessary to support community engagement and participation, including capacity building and ensuring those most affected are able to engage (youth and women’s groups should be prioritized for support)
- supporting existing social movements within countries to share information and monitor and demand access to affordable, acceptable and good quality health and social services without discrimination
- integrating civil society participation and social accountability into national accountability frameworks, allowing citizen-generated information to be part of the processes for monitoring, review and remedial action
- publicly funding the tools and costs of civil society engagement, with dedicated budget lines for this in national budgets
- building mechanisms for public participation, including taking advantage of technological platforms (e.g. mobile phones and social media) to facilitate community advancement of problem identification, prioritization and solutions
- recognizing community groups, particularly those most affected and those often excluded, with an equal platform to other traditional stakeholders such as professional associations
- institutionalising the monitoring and evaluation of community engagement with specific indicators.