Love Alliance Southern Africa Summit: Breaking Barriers Together

Love Alliance Southern Africa Summit
Last updated on: 05 March 2024

From 19-21 May, community partners from Southern Africa (Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe) gathered in Cape Town at the region’s very first Love Alliance Policy Summit. It was the first time many of the partners connected face-to-face to discuss country priorities, share policy opportunities and jointly strategise.

The meeting was all about sharing, learning and connecting around the Love Alliance’s “Advocacy Loop”, which links country-, regional- and global-level advocacy whereby communities’ needs are the basis for influencing policies and funding commitments at all levels. Participants stressed the unique contribution of the Love Alliance in funding community advocacy and providing them with the rare opportunity to address the persistent barriers key populations face in accessing quality healthcare, realise their human rights and broaden civic space to hold governments accountable.

Main Takeaways

Several of the main takeaways from the Summit are:

  • There are persistent gaps between policy and funding commitments (both national and global) and implementation. Participants identified the need to find innovative ways, entry points and stakeholders including at the provincial level that can help hold governments accountable on their commitments.
  • The need to be “comfortable with having uncomfortable discussions with donors” to challenge them on better aligning funding allocations to the communities’ actual needs and to what has proven to work.
  • Movement-building and intersectoral approaches are critical to confronting opposition and conservatism and it’s important to understand better how to work with religious groups.  More opportunities need to be created for communities to speak to people outside their bubble, particularly influencers who can help advance Love Alliance priorities.
  • Learning and best practices should be shared across Love Alliance countries and equal representation of all communities and voices, including at the regional level, within the Love Alliance, is critical.
  • Lack of awareness at the country level on global targets, including the 10-10-10 targets on societal enablers and the 30-80-60 targets on community leadership. It is critical to increasing awareness of these targets as governments have committed to achieving these targets and focused advocacy is required to ensure they are translated into investments in communities. Community-led monitoring is an important accountability tool for this. Some participants called community-led monitoring “the latest buzzword” but underlined the need to become more intentional about it with regards to its purposes and to improve coordination across the different monitoring mechanisms, including through combining data and ensuring community access to all the collected data.
  • Participants cautioned against “reinventing the wheel” and duplication in Love Alliance advocacy strategies and research, but rather make use as much as possible of the existing resources, research findings and data already developed and collected by community partners while ensuring that they are easily accessible to all Love Alliance partners, understood and used across the advocacy loop.
  • Love Alliance partners should also more effectively link advocacy efforts across countries and regions and use the advocacy loop including by setting realistic country-level advocacy targets translated from global commitments and strengthening the Love Alliance collective voice at the regional level.
  • Love Alliance evidence-based advocacy can be improved and strengthened by showcasing the best practices and human stories behind the political and technical goals, targets and commitments policymakers adopt.

Advocacy priorities

Participants discussed four key Love Alliance advocacy priority issues, answering a number of questions in relation to their current work on this issue, learning the needs and plans and actions to take forward:

  • Investment in community-led responses: develop a roadmap for Love Alliance partners and other national civil society and community networks to advocate for increased resourcing and scale-up of community-led responses and societal enabler programming to address gender inequality, discrimination and criminalisation, as well as for building and strengthening community-led accountability mechanisms to track progress on implementation of global targets.
  • Civic space: advocate for core funding support and structured funding to support community groups and undertake a mapping in Love Alliance countries on the opposition and conservative forces, groups and trends impacting our work and develop strategies on how to counter these forces, such as stronger intersectoral collaboration and movement building.
  • Human rights: increase understanding of the various human rights mechanisms and advocacy opportunities at the regional and global level, such as the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Model Law processes, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, CEDAW, the UN Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the UNAIDS Human Rights Reference Group.
  • Universal health coverage: the need for more training and capacity building of communities to do advocacy around UHC, including budget monitoring and advocacy as well as law and policy reform. Collecting more data, evidence and best practices on key populations’ access to public health services is also critical. The next UN High-Level Meeting on UHC in 2023 is an important advocacy opportunity that the Love Alliance will be working towards.

Communities in the driver’s seat!

During all the discussions, one message came across loud and clear: communities have to be in the driver’s seat. They have to be fully represented in key political and financial decision-making processes affecting their lives. Communities must receive the funding and resources needed to be equal partners in a country’s health response and to advocate for their needs with national and global decision-makers and donors alike. The Love Alliance is a welcome investment in community leadership, but so much more is needed.

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