Those working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals remind me of long-distance runners. We’re prepared for an extended effort, we know there will be many obstacles placed in our path, and we hold strong to our vision of crossing the finish line. When we reach the end, we will not only have helped achieve a better world, but we’ll have provided the evidence to make a case for even more ambitious targets in the years ahead. With only 440 days left to get to the finish line, now is the time to commit to the final sprint.
Our race to the MDG finish line has been thrown a major challenge in the Ebola crisis. It is devastating lives, communities, health systems and economies of several West African countries, and will undoubtedly have a serious impact on health progress throughout the region. With health systems breaking down, people are failing to, or are unable to, receive assistance for treatable conditions, and deaths far beyond those from Ebola are already resulting.
We must learn from what we are seeing in this crisis and develop plans to do things differently, and soon. Community health workers are getting much needed – and much overdo – attention in this crisis, and we must commit to planning and funding a “CHW backbone” across Africa. In addition, we must come out of the Ebola crisis with firm resolve to invest in a true global health emergency response system that can prevent the next Ebola-like situation from happening in the first place.
While these are significant obstacles, I was heartened last month at the UN General Assembly to engage with so many committed people who are focused on strategies and innovations that will undoubtedly drive MDG progress. There is important momentum in several key areas.
- Funding: The biggest news for women and children’s survival at this year’s UNGA was the announcement of commitments to create a $4 billion Global Funding Facility for Every Woman and Every Child. Led by the World Bank and the Governments of Norway, Canada and the United States, we expect this facility to provide strategic short-term financing for MDG acceleration in targeted areas, along with longer-term financing that will support countries in their efforts to mobilize additional domestic and international resources required to scale up and sustain essential health services for women, children and adolescents. The Fund also signals a sustained commitment to global health: our work has not been a “trend,” but a proven, wise investment in human and economic growth that will not only continue, but accelerate, into the post-2015 period.
- Innovation: Innovation was front and center at this year’s UNGA, nowhere more than at the Private Sector lunch gathering for Every Woman Every Child (EWEC). We know that governments and multi-laterals can’t get their job done without the essential innovation engine that the private sector provides. With more than 300 commitments already made to support EWEC, it was fantastic to hear, in one day, of eight new commitments totaling nearly $70 million in value, alongside technology innovations that will make delivering health services cheaper, smarter, faster and safer. Also in the spotlight at UNGA was the announcement – by USAID and DFID, in partnership with the Governments of Australia and Sweden and the Omidyar Network — of a $200 million Global Innovation Fund that will provide grants and risk capital to social enterprises, for-profit firms, non-profit organizations, researchers, and government agencies working on breakthrough solutions to global development challenges. This is exactly the kind of vision we need today if we are to gain maximum ground in our MDG final sprint.
- Leadership: Every great effort requires great leaders. The MDGs and EWEC would simply not be possible without the inspired and steadfast leadership of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has ensured that the UN and its lead agencies are always provided a platform for MDG messaging and strategy refinement. The Secretary-General has also empowered a group of MDG Advocates to use their platforms to highlight essential work being done to meet the MDGs. I was so pleased to stand alongside MDG Advocates including Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Her Highness Sheikha Moza of Qatar, Earth Institute Founder and MDG Visionary Jeffrey Sachs, Former First Lady of South Africa Graca Machel, and so many other distinguished champions of our ambitious goals. I look forward to these MDG Advocates and other new voices keeping us on track in the year ahead.
With new funding, breakthrough innovations and strong leadership all on our side, there is absolutely no reason to believe we cannot accelerate MDG progress in the home stretch. We just need to keep moving fast and strong. As World Bank President Jim Kim said about the new funding announced at UNGA, “We have $4 billion … let’s spend it on behalf of women and children.” I look forward to crossing the finish line with so many MDG champions running by my side. Only then can we consider starting a new race.