The NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening was developed in the winter of 2007. Drafters convened a committee of concerned organizations, including Health Alliance International (the convening organization), ActionAid, African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), Equinet, Health GAP, Partners In Health, Physicians for Human Rights, Oxfam GB, and People’s Health Movement. Conference calls began in the spring of 2007 and continued through October 2007 to draft the original document.
The first consultation meeting on the code was held at the American Public Health Association conference in Washington DC in November 2007. In attendance were Partners in Health, ActionAid, Physicians for Human Rights, Save the Children, Church World Services, Maryknoll, National Association of Social Workers, American Public Health Association and Health Alliance International.
A subsequent consultation was held in Kampala, Uganda on March 6, 2008 during the first global forum on human resources for health, sponsored by the Global Health Workforce Alliance. In attendance were representatives of Equinet, the Peoples’ Health Movement, a Ministry of Health official from Liberia, GHETS (Global Health Through Education Training Service), AMREF in Uganda, CDC Tanzania, an Indian physician working on health in “tribal areas,” Wemos, the Capacity Project, the African Mental Health Association, Equinet, Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (and International Council of Nurses), PATH, Western Cape School of Public Health, WHO, World Bank, and local health practitioners. Separate conversations have been held with Ministry of Health officials from other nations.
The Code was updated in 2013 and a renewed focus to getting the Code on donors’ agendas was established. As we have learned, donor expectations drive NGO behavior; donor support for a Code of Conduct is vital. Donors could leverage their influence by funding projects that focus on public system support and insisting that NGO grantees follow the best practices outlined in the Code. The consortium that drafted the NGO Code of Conduct is now rolling out a campaign to enlist donors as well as ministries of health to use the Code as a key tool to hold NGOs accountable.