Towards SDG Target 16.7

SDG Target 16.7Early this morning, I woke up suddenly thinking about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specifically of SDG Target 16.7: “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”. Maybe I’m weird to think of this before sunrise. Perhaps I’m suffering from severe repetitive jargon syndrome provoked by an overdose of hearing the SDGs’ mantra “Leave no one behind”. It constantly reverberates down from those at the top of the UN and its Agencies such as the WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and a dozen other organizations.

It seems that they have overlooked Target 16.7 of the SDGs. It appears that most of these UN Agencies do not allow the participation of the millions of some of the most ‘left behind’ — poor folks living with life-threatening or life changing diseases or disabilities, nor support the development of systems for accountable representation to assure that they are included in decisions that concern them.

Maybe those at the top just don’t understand the meaning of “… inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”. Or perhaps they can not see the value of having the most affected communities having a ‘seat at the table’ with other stakeholders. Have they not read the SDG declarations that they agreed? Have they forgotten that they have signed the Common Understanding between the UN Agencies in 2003, and committed to advancing the meaningful participation of those concerned by their policy decisions and processes?

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All Aboard

All Aboard!What’s ‘All Aboard’? 

Founded and driven by poor people living with life-threatening diseases and disabilities from around the world with a shared experience of having to struggle for their right to health, the IMAXI Cooperative is a small international NGO established in 2010. We’ve come together, in common cause, to help our peers to empower themselves and their communities so that others might not also be denied their rights.

Drawing on decades of our collective experience as community and global health activists, we design and develop collaborative tools and projects, while advocating for the greater participation of those most affected in the policy-making process and implementation of programmes. Our members have seen first-hand how a ‘seat at the table’ of decision-makers can bring substantial improvements to the health and well being of their communities. We have also seen the deaths and suffering that comes with not having any voice in how public health services are designed and implemented.

As a ’volunteer-only’ non-profit organisation, working from our kitchen tables or cyber-cafes and funded only by our own donations, we have focused on forging tools that do not require substantial funding to utilise. With a network of other un-paid yet very engaged activists in diverse communities that help out with different initiatives, we have been able to advance an independent ‘human rights-based approach’ to health and development even with our very limited finances. However, we are now beginning an important global health governance initiative that will require more resources than we have ourselves. In ‘UN-Sloganese’, we aim to dynamically fuse the top-down “Leave No One Behind” with the bottom-up “Nothing About Us Without Us”,  wherever policies that impact the health and well being of marginalised communities are made.

‘All Aboard’ is a two step research and development project that will first assess the state of community participation in decision-making bodies within key institutions in global health, including the United Nations agencies (WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women) and two major foundations, the Global Fund and Gates, and secondly, to apply this knowledge to the programmatic advance of meaningful participation and accountable representation. First the scientific research, then the evidence-based development.

We have gathered together a brilliant group of almost twenty activists, academics and public health officials and have begun to conduct a methodological, scientifically robust study. The findings of this collaborative research will be published in the autumn of 2017 in Global Health Governance, the “Scholarly Journal for the New Health Security Paradigm”. The Abstract, which has been accepted, can be seen here.

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