Social participation and citizen’s voice are core principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it needs multi-sectoral collaboration and involvement. The SDGs thus recognize the fundamental importance of input and co-ownership from and by people, communities, and civil society for achievement of SDG goals, including goal 3.8 Universal Health Coverage.
Effective mechanisms for social participation, when designed and executed well, can empower a diverse range of population groups, including the vulnerable and marginalized, to contribute to policy-making. Such mechanisms can help to ensure more responsive and co-owned health policies and plans, greatly facilitating implementation. Government’s political will for social participation must therefore be a core principle in UHC reform processes, especially given that they are the primary duty bearer for the human right to health.
Several countries have established mechanisms for regular and systematic population engagement, such as the National Health Assembly in Thailand, the Etats Généraux de la Santé in France, and the Societal Dialogue for Health in Tunisia, but they remain the exception as a general perception persists that these mechanisms are too cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to sustain. Meaningful engagement of populations, communities and civil society in health sector decision-making in most countries thus ends up being a one-off or one-way process, failing to harness population voice sustainably and effectively in long-term policy reform processes.
The objectives of this session are to advocate the importance of political will in securing space for meaningful social participation in health governance processes for UHC and to emphasize the role of population, community and civil society in achieving UHC goals.
In this session, we aim to discuss how more systematic population, community, and civil society engagement mechanisms for health can be put in place and institutionalized. Furthermore, sustaining participatory engagement over time is another challenge to overcome. In order to do so, what skills of government as well as of population, community, and civil society are required for health governance processes? This discussion points will be brought up from a Handbook on Social Participation which was guided by the Social Participation Technical Network, convened by WHO.