Forging Partnerships to Help the UN Help the World

September 27, 2012|By Brooke Loughrin, U.S. Youth Observer

clinton_kristofNew York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, Malawian President Joyce Banda, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discuss the contributions of civil society to the fight to end global hunger.

Two of the major themes that have emerged from my past few days at the UN are the importance of civil society and public-private partnership in the work of the United Nations.

This morning, I attended an event honoring the contributions of civil society to the fight to end global hunger, featuring Malawian President Joyce Banda, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof.

President Banda is one of the most inspirational world leaders I have encountered over my week at the UN. In 1998, President Banda established the Hunger Project in Malawi, which supports sustainable livelihoods for rural households. She also founded the Joyce Banda Foundation, which provides rural development services to more than 250,000 resource-poor beneficiaries in areas including education, early childhood development, food and income security, safe motherhood, water and sanitation, and women’s leadership and economic empowerment. “As long as women are sidelined there is no way for my country to move forward,” said President Banda at the event.

After introducing President Banda, Secretary Clinton spoke about the contributions of civil society organizations to the fight against global hunger:   

"Today, I am pleased to announce a new commitment by civil society groups...InterAction, an alliance of 198 U.S.-based organizations, is pledging more than one billion dollars of private, non-government funds over the next three years to improve food security and improve nutrition worldwide. Of this one billion dollars, five U.S.-based organizations together have pledged to invest more than 900 million dollars in this effort. They are: World Vision, Heifer International, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and ChildFund International."

In my mind, this event highlighted the ever-increasing role of civil society in the work of the United Nations. Civil society organizations (CSOs) in donor and partner countries bring a wealth of ideas, energy, and resources to the fight against global food insecurity and undernutrition, and are critical to the success of Feed the Future. Here are just some of the ways CSOs are helping the UN establish a foundation for lasting progress against global hunger:

  1. CSOs implement programs funded by donor and partner country governments and their own private resources.
  2. CSOs innovate, developing novel food security and nutrition interventions tailored to specific sectors or parts of society.
  3. CSOs mediate between donors and local communities, bringing interventions to communities that would otherwise be hard to reach or doubtful about change.
  4. CSOs influence governments, the private sector, other CSOs, and the public, increasing awareness of food security and nutrition priorities and advocating for resources.
  5. CSOs help vulnerable populations become influential by encouraging them to advocate for their own interests.
  6. CSOs involve governments, the private sector, and other civil society organizations in unique partnerships to further initiatives against global hunger.

polio_sg_eventSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses participants of the event, “Commitment to the Next Generation: The Legacy of a Polio-Free World.” Next to him is Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria. (Photo Credit: UN Photo/Jennifer S Altman)

This afternoon, I also had the distinct honor of joining heads of state from around the world in one of the most important meetings on polio eradication in the past few decades. The event brought together UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Bill Gates and many others. The event, “Our Commitment to the Next Generation: The Legacy of a Polio-free World” was unprecedented in that it brought leaders of the remaining endemic countries, donor governments, development agencies and representatives of the media, to draw attention to the urgent need for focus and commitment to eradicate the remaining 1 percent of polio cases worldwide.

“This decisive moment is a matter of health and justice. Every child should have the right to start life with equal protection from this disease. That’s why I have made eradicating polio a top priority for my second term as Secretary-General,” said Ban.

brooke_gatesMe with Bill Gates!Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that is more than 99 percent eliminated from the world. Today, there are the fewest number of polio cases in the fewest districts in the fewest countries than at any time in history. In 1988, when the global fight against polio began, there were 125 countries where polio raged. Today, there are only three: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. India, long-regarded as the nation facing the greatest challenges to eradication, has been polio-free for more than 18 months, giving us hope that polio can be eradicated in the future in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On the heels of this event, Saturday will feature a global civil society festival, bringing together top artists with an audience of 60,000 to a concert in New York’s Central Park to catalyze further action to end polio and extreme poverty.

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