Highlights from the CSO Summit: Elevating Civil Society and Community Voices in Global Health

By Eliana Monteforte, GHC Director for Special Projects, and Alexa Wilder, GHC Intern

On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, Global Health Council (GHC), in partnership with the Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (CSEM) of UHC2030, launched a two-day Civil Society Organization (CSO) Summit: Elevating Civil Society and Community Voices in Global Health. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, CSOs have played a critical role in addressing and advocating for the needs of minority and marginalized populations, yet continue to be left out of crucial policy-making discussions surrounding the response. This event sought to shed light on the impacts of COVID-19 on populations most left behind and discuss recommendations, by CSOs on behalf of their communities, for governments and other stakeholders to forge a more equitable path forward. Below, we have highlighted some of the key themes emerging from the discussion: 

Health equity means respect, dignity & justice. The day one plenary session began with a focus on “health equity.” GHC streamed its newest video compilation of health workers around the world sharing what this term means to them. While the exact definition did not look the same to everyone, the central themes of respect, dignity, and justice were echoed throughout the video.

The disproportionate impact of COVID. The convening was an opportunity to launch GHC’s new publication, The Health Impacts of COVID-19 on Those Most Left Behind. The report highlights the inequities brought into stark relief by COVID-19 and captures the impact of the pandemic on those most left behind. It culminates in calls to action for governments to reach the last mile and protect the unprotected. The recommendations are inclusive, grounded, and directly informed by groups most impacted by this pandemic. 

Keynote speaker, Dumi Gatsha underscored the report’s messages, delivering a powerful speech about the dangerous consequences caused by disruptions to the continuum of care resulting from the pandemic, and the importance of inclusion in both health policy and advocacy. 

Challenges & opportunities for vaccine access. Following these messages, a multi-stakeholder panel of speakers representing government, International Non-Governmental Implementing Organizations (INGOs), the Global Fund, and CSOs, discussed their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. With yet another COVID variant circulating — and the possibility of others on the horizon —, vaccination was a large topic of discussion. In Vietnam, strong government commitment, high vaccination saturation, and compliance has led to reduced morbidity and mortality despite an increase in cases. In areas where vaccination rates remain low, vaccine equity and barriers to vaccination were discussed. The panelists called for the removal of ill-conceived policies, such as universal ID requirements, which further isolate the most marginalized from the healthcare system. 

In preparation for a workshop on day two of the convening, the panelists encouraged civil society leaders to leverage their community’s capacity, embed accountability into their activism, and create data-informed advocacy.

“(CSOs should) Reclaim the right to make decisions.” – Javier Bellocq, CSE

Advocacy in Motion (AIM) Grants
Using the messages and inspiration from day one as a catalyst, CSOs utilized the CSEM’s Health for All Advocacy Toolkit in small group workshops designed to help organizations understand the steps needed to turn their advocacy into action. Organizations that participated in the workshop became eligible to submit a proposal for an AIM Grant. In the coming weeks, we will be announcing the results of the AIM grant selection process. Stay tuned to learn about our AIM grant awardees!

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