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World Leaders Address Country Ownership, Accountability, Women At MDG Summit

At the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on Tuesday African leaders said “they could do more to meet U.N. goals to slash extreme poverty and urged stronger leadership among developing countries to tackle hunger and disease and attract investment,” Reuters reports in an article that examines the leaders’ call for African nations to take greater ownership over their development.

At the summit, Rwandan President Paul Kagame called upon leaders in Africa to look closely at areas where countries are behind on the MDGs. “We in the developing world could do more. We have to reflect deeply on how we have driven this agenda so far and why we are lagging behind on these targets … we must assume effective leadership,” he added.  Kagame said of donor nations, “Despite their good intentions, their perspective is often predicated on paternalism not on partnership, on charity not on self-reliance, and on promises unfulfilled rather than real change on the ground.”

The theme of country-ownership was also echoed during an address by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who said, “There is no doubt in my mind that we in the developing world have to do more and better to take charge of our destiny, to design programs and strategies appropriate to our circumstances and mobilize our own resources as the primary means of achieving the MDGs.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed her views that “support for good governance is as important as aid itself.”

The article also includes quotes by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, “Africa’s first female head of state,” who called for greater investments in women. “As we renew our resolve in the year 2010 we must recognize the need for inclusive economic growth … rapid, sustained growth that creates jobs especially for youth and that help the poor and in sectors that help women,” she said (Wroughton/Ryan, 9/22).

Meanwhile, “Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the leaders Tuesday that the lack of security in his home country has made it harder to achieve the anti-poverty goals,” the Associated Press reports (Lederer, 9/22).

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, emphasized the need for efficiency, according to the Postmedia News/Vancouver Sun. “At this summit, our discussions should be less about new agreements than accountability for existing ones,” he said. “Less about lofty promises than real results. Less about narrow self-interest in sovereignty’s name, than an expanded view of mutual interest in which there is room for all to grow and prosper,” Harper added (Edwards, 9/21).

Harper also announced that “Canada will donate $540-million to the [Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] between 2011 and 2013, which represents a 20 percent jump on its commitment of $450-million over the past three years,” the Globe and Mail reports  (Slater, 9/21). In addition Harper discussed women’s and children’s health in the final push to achieve the MDGs by 2015, CTV reports. “Harper hailed the adoption of the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health at [the] G8 Summit north of Toronto” in June, which aims to “generate $10 billion over five years from world leaders, private foundations and other donors,” the news service writes (9/21).

“As long ago as 1970, the world’s richest countries have agreed to give 7/10ths of 1 percent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Right now, only five countries have met or exceeded that goal – Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands,” NPR writes in an article that examines the efforts by the U.N. this week to “revitalize its effort to solve some of mankind’s most fundamental problems” through the MDGs.

“Although the United States is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid money, it still gives only slightly more than 3/10ths of 1 percent of its income in foreign aid. And nearly a third of all U.S. foreign aid is spent on military assistance to countries such as Israel and Egypt,” NPR writes. “The U.N. task force set up to address the gap in meeting the goals estimates that if every donor country gave 7/10ths of a percent of its income, the world could raise more than $300 billion per year for development.”

NPR also notes that USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah “said the Obama administration is committed to raising the U.S. foreign-aid budget from around $25 billion now to $52 billion by 2015. … In return, Shah said the United States will press the U.N. to adopt policies that support economic growth, accountability and fighting corruption,” as well as greater use of scientific and technological advances to promote development (Flintoff, 9/21).

Obama To Outline Foreign Aid Approach; U.K. To Increase Malaria Aid  

Obama will head to the U.N. on Wednesday afternoon to “offer his vision of U.S. aid to impoverished parts of the world,” the AP reports (Feller, 9/22).

According to the Washington Post, under Obama’s foreign aid policy, the White House will get a bigger “role in coordinating U.S. assistance programs,” while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will maintain “key decision-making powers. The new approach portrays aid as a central part of U.S. national-security and economic strategies, which could help convince Americans who have suffered through a severe recession that it’s still worthwhile to provide billions to poor nations.” The newspaper reports that “officials say they are also seeking to bring a new coherence to overseas development … Their goal is to make a major push to propel the economies of promising countries.”

According to the newspaper, the “new U.S. strategy reflects a growing consensus in the international community that aid has to go beyond providing health and education, to encourage government policies that promote economic stability and growth.” The new policy will work in a similar fashion to the administration’s Feed the Future initiative, which focuses on a “small group of countries that have come up with detailed plans for their agricultural sectors.” It also “builds on two programs from the George W. Bush administration: the massive HIV-AIDS initiative and the Millennium Challenge Corp.”

The article includes quotes from two former USAID officials, two unnamed sources and current USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, who said, “This administration is making a strong statement that we need a coherent and excellent development agency” (Sheridan, 9/22).

Meanwhile, Deputy British Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to announce that the U.K. will increase its funding to combat malaria from 150 million pounds a year, or about $235 million, to 500 million pounds or approximately $783 million by 2014, the Guardian reports. “‘In Africa, a child dies from this disease – this easily preventable disease – every 45 seconds,’ Clegg will tell the summit. ‘So we will make more money available, and ensure that we get more for our money, with the aim of halving malaria deaths in 10 of the worst affected countries,’” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 9/22).

Ban Will Announce Campaign To Save 16 Million Mothers, Children Over Five Years

At the summit on Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to announce “[a] global campaign that aims to save the lives of 16 million mothers and children over the next five years … with as much as $40 billion in commitments from world governments and private aid groups,” the Associated Press reports (Snow, 9/22). “Cutting the unnecessary deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth and stopping the premature deaths of children under five are the two most slow[ly] moving goals of the eight key development targets set a decade ago,” Agence France-Presse reports (Witcher, 9/22).

“A U.N. statement [(.pdf) released ahead of Ban's announcement] said more than $40 billion had been pledged by governments, foundations, businesses and non-governmental organizations,” Reuters reports. “Of that, U.N. officials said, nearly $27 billion was new money being announced by governments – indicating the rest had already been committed since plans for a ‘global strategy for women’s and children’s health’ were first disclosed in April. … $8.6 billion was coming from low-income countries, they said” (Worsnip, 9/22).

“United Nations officials said they hoped that the bulk of the $40 billion would go to the poorest 49 countries, those least able to afford money from their own budgets. But those countries alone need a projected $88 billion over the next five years to meet the goals,” the New York Times reports. “Ban’s announcement is also expected to include an ambitious commitment by the poorest countries to add nearly $26 billion to their health budgets,” according to the newspaper.

The New York Times notes skepticism among advocates as to how “the traditional donors among Western nations will really increase their giving at a time when they are slashing budgets,” the newspaper continues. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice “said that no new American money would be committed beyond the $63 billion the United States set aside for global health aid through 2014, the bulk of it to combat AIDS” (MacFarquhar, 9/21).

“In addition to saving lives, the global strategy would seek to prevent some 33 million unwanted pregnancies by 2015, the year in which the MDGs are set to be completed, it said,” Reuters adds (9/22). Also, “[a]s part of the implementation, up to 3.5 million health care professionals would be trained and 85,000 medical facilities would be opened. … Elements of the strategy include support for country-led health plans, integrated delivery of services, and innovative technology including mobile phones to link women and children in remote areas of poor nations to health care professionals,” Bloomberg adds (Varner, 9/20).

Sec. Of State Clinton, Ban Participate In Forum To Highlight Importance Of Nutrition For Boosting Maternal, Child Health

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined other world leaders at a forum on the sidelines at the summit, where she “helped launch a program to address chronic malnutrition blamed for 3.5 million maternal and child deaths a year,” the AP/Washington Post reports. “The program is co-sponsored by the Irish government and focuses on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, during which nutrition is critical to mental and physical development,” the newspaper writes (9/21).

“When I talk about nutrition, people are often surprised to learn that undernutrition is a major problem for which we have basic, affordable solutions, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, fortified foods, and nutrition education,” Clinton said, according to a transcript from the event. “We also know enough about the science of nutrition to know these interventions have the biggest impact when they occur during the first 1,000 days of a child’s existence. That begins with pregnancy and continues through a child’s second birthday. Interventions after that second birthday make a difference, but often cannot undo the damage that was done because of the undernutrition during the first 1,000 days. So we can be very targeted with our investments to save and improve the greatest number of lives,” she added (9/21).

Ban voiced his support of the Thousand Day Movement as well as the SUN Road Map for Scaling Up Nutrition initiative during the meeting, noting that both were cost-effective, U.N. News Centre writes.

“‘If overall development policies are sensitive to the importance of the thousand day window, we can make a big difference to under-nutrition,’ he declared, noting that the SUN Framework has been endorsed by more than 100 key stakeholders,” the news service writes. “Let us work to expand the pool of donors, and increase the resources that are available,” Ban said (9/21). Meanwhile, Politico includes reaction to yesterday’s forum and the summit overall from Marc Van Amerigen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), as described in a post on Laura Rozen’s blog.

“Van Amerigen said the roadmap provides ‘clear focus for all the key players,’ but argued that the solution to malnutrition lies beyond government solutions, emphasizing the importance of public-private partnerships,” according to the post (Cheney, 9/21).

PMTCT Of HIV, Increasing Vaccine Coverage Important For Improve Maternal, Child Outcomes

BMJ News reports that “[f]or the first time the elimination of transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies is considered a realistic goal, according to a presentation” that took place on the sidelines of the U.N. summit. The article examines how experts believe revised guidelines on HIV and breastfeeding, issued by the WHO in June, combined with new recommendations on “treatment, involving lifelong antiretrovirals for HIV positive women in need of treatment; and prophylaxis, involving short term provision of antiretrovirals to prevent transmission from mother to child” will help to drive down the rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (Moszynski, 9/21).

Meanwhile, WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan and UNICEF head Anthony Lake joined global health advocates on the sidelines of the U.N. summit on Monday “in a call for more cash for GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation,” the Guardian reports. “Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective public health interventions and one of the best buys you can get for your bucks,” Chan said. “If you are not investing in that, what are you investing in?” (Boseley, 9/21).

A GAVI press release notes that Amie Batson, deputy assistant administrator of USAID, also participated in the UNICEF event, where, according to the release, she “spoke about the need for smart spending.”

“Through the Global Health Initiative, the United States is committed to targeting increased resources in a more effective and efficient way,” Batson said. “We need creative new approaches to reach the millions of children who are not immunized because, at the end of the day, we will be judged by the lives we save, not the money we spend.”

The release notes that since its creation in 2000, GAVI has immunized “more than 250 million children” and is credited with saving the lives of “over five million” (9/21).

TEDxChange Event Focuses On MDGs

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other global health leaders spoke at TEDxChange on Monday in New York, which focused on the MDGs, RTTNews reports (9/20). The National reports that the discussion, hosted by the Gates Foundation, was webcast live in more than 80 locations globally. Gates spoke about the need to promote sanitation and eradicate polio, “a task that is 99 percent complete,” according to the newspaper.

“We need to focus on the positive and how far we have come,” Gates said. “We are so close and this victory is so possible.”

“Targets and goals are important but they are not enough,” Graca Machel, the former minister of education in Mozambique said. “More important is commitment and engaging all forces in society. It would be intolerable for us to get to 2015 and say that Africa could not reach those goals” (Seaman, 9/20).

Gates also discussed what government agencies and non-profits could learn from the Coca-Cola Company, seattlepi.com’s “The Big Blog” reports. In addition to its data analysis and work with “local entrepreneurs,” Gates said that Coca-Cola’s marketing focuses on the culture of its customers. “It associates that product with the kind of life they want to live,” said Gates (Rolph, 9/20). Mechai Viravaidya, a former Thai politician active in family planning efforts, and Hans Rosling, a development researcher, also spoke, RTTNews reports (9/20).

According to CNET News, the Gates Foundation “is trying a number of new tactics to make people more aware of the” MDGs (Fried, 9/20).