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Policy and Advocacy
Posted by: Tonya Rawe at 4:18PM EST on September 22, 2010
As we enter the home stretch to achieve the MDGs, as my time in New York wraps up and as the MDG Summit nears its end, it’s helpful to remember the nuggets of inspiration that enable us to keep fighting for these last five years and toward these 8 goals.
Monday night, I attended a dinner that brought together the UN Development Program and UN Environment Program along with a host of international and local NGOs. The purpose of the dinner was to highlight the need to look holistically at development and the environment, the role of biodiversity in tackling poverty. People in extreme poverty are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, whether they’re farmers, forest-dependent communities, or fishermen. Women rely on the natural environment for food, fuel, and water for their families.
If we don’t begin to consider the environment in our efforts to tackle poverty – and if we don’t involve people in poverty in our efforts to protect the environment – we will not succeed.
Climate change makes this linkage practically flash in neon lights. And global hunger sounds like a trumpet touting the urgency of action. We cannot feed the world on degraded land. Neither a lack of water nor a deluge of water constitutes safe water. That’s a message CARE has carried in its advocacy on climate change and global hunger.
But what I really took away from the dinner was an ‘aha’ moment I’ve had before but welcome any time it recurs. Much of the program was the issuance of the Equator Prizes. The Equator Prize honors outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
It honors local efforts. Aha. This is why we do what we do every day. And this is what we must do to succeed: engage local communities and give them ownership over the solutions. Local communities are the linchpin of sustainable development. Increasingly, the international community has recognized the importance of country ownership and country-led approaches. What must be understood – what the US has laudably recognized in the Feed the Future initiative – is that country-led is not government-led.
Development policy and implementation must engage local communities and citizens, including marginalized populations and especially vulnerable groups, like women. Full and effective engagement of these groups means consultations throughout the process – from the design of policy and program to the implementation and through the monitoring and evaluation process.
As the boat captain in the wetlands of Louisiana and local communities throughout the world will demonstrate, they are on the front lines. They are best positioned to provide a picture of what is happening, to articulate their needs, and to identify viable, sustainable solutions.
So whether it’s improved health outcomes, increased agricultural productivity, empowerment of women, access to safe water, or sustainable development solutions, in the final five years of our efforts to achieve the MDGs, it’s imperative that we walk these last few miles together.
Posted by: Niki Clark at 2:50PM EST on September 22, 2010
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions about the MDGs to me (@nclarkCARE)! I asked my colleagues (and CARE experts) Tonya Rawe and Jodi Keyserling for their thoughts. Here is what they had to say:
@katypit asks: What steps does CARE think the UN should take that it’s not doing right now?
In our work around the MDGs, CARE has pushed the UN in the following ways:
While some of these issues have been mentioned in the Outcome Document from the MDG Summit, there is still much work to be done. At the same time, meeting the MDGs requires action beyond the UN. The ongoing partnership among UN member states, NGOs like CARE, and the private sector is critical to achieving the MDGs. These partnerships also enable us to ensure that commitments are linked, efforts aren't duplicative but complementary, and progress is robustly measured. As we all move forward over the next five years to meet the MDGs, we must focus our efforts on people in extreme poverty and the most vulnerable people and populations. We also know that promoting gender equality and women's empowerment is central to poverty reduction and the achievement of all MDGs. CARE stands ready to work with the international community to share proven approaches for reaching the ultra poor and ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable populations are reflected and met in strategies and interventions.
@KieraWiatrak asks: What’s Clinton’s 1000 days initiative, and why does it matter? The 1000 Days initiative that Secretary Hillary Clinton and Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin announced yesterday is a concerted effort to focus nutrition interventions on what CARE has called the "window of opportunity," the 1000 days that include pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life. These years are critical for a child's future: There is consensus that the damage to physical growth, brain development, and human capital formation that occurs during this period is extensive and largely irreversible. By focusing on tackling nutrition in this period, we can enhance a child's potential for the rest of his or her life. Coupled with the Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives, the 1000 Days initiative demonstrates the depth of the Administration's commitment to tackling global hunger and improving maternal and child health.
@WOCANinAction asks: How is the process to reach the MDG's incorporating women across sectors, across goals?
When the Girl Effect swept the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009, it was clear that the value of women's empowerment and gender equality was taking hold. We know that engaging women and girls and putting them at the center of development efforts is critical to poverty reduction and the achievement of the MDGs. In the international climate change negotiations, we've seen nations recognize that women are central to adaptation - that they are disproportionately vulnerable but also key to the sustainability of solutions. Increasingly, women's pivotal role in food security is acknowledged: they produce half the world's food but own less than one percent of the land and when food is short, they're often the last to eat. We saw leaders of the global community prioritize maternal, newborn and child health, which remain the MDGs (4 and 5) lagging most behind, over this year through the Muskoka Initiative at the G8 in June and the launch of the UN Secretary General Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health today.
These efforts have brought together governments, NGOs, the private industry and other key stakeholders to make financial, programmatic and policy commitments to improving the health of women and children and are increasingly recognizing that interventions must be implemented at both the health facility and community levels and must include efforts to address gender inequity and women's empowerment. However, we still have far to go to really make women a central part of global efforts to meet the MDGs.
CARE’s experience indicates that empowering women and girls requires a holistic approach that addresses all barriers to women’s and girls’ rights at various points in their lives. Such an approach includes, but must go beyond, efforts to provide women and girls with skills, information and resources. It must also involve efforts aimed at altering the relationships and institutions that surround women and girls and shape their choices and ability to make decisions as well as efforts to address discriminatory practices that impede the education, health and welfare of women and girls and limit the opportunities and resources available to them.
On a similar note, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon took a positive step in the effort to incorporate women across sectors last week with the announcement of former Chilean President (the country’s first female in that role) as the head of the new UN Agency on Gender Equality. Check out the New York Times article here.
Jeff via Facebook asks: How do the MDGs affect U.S. foreign policy?
The MDGs provide a focus for the U.S. development efforts and a framework within important global development issues can be address. The entire international community is committed to these goals, and together, we can capitalize on investments from all corners of the world. The U.S. commitment to help meet the MDGs is also a demonstration of our leadership globally and of our belief in the importance of eradicating extreme poverty and ensuring that all people can live in security and dignity.
When world leaders gather, the MDGs provide benchmarks against which we can measure our progress in fighting poverty and give the world a target by which we can work towards. The U.S. can't address these massive development issues on our own. We must work close with governments and communities around the world to mobilize successful and lasting change.
@annaGannaG asks: What happens if the #MDG targets are not met?
As the question suggests, the world does not stop moving forward in 2015 and neither should our efforts around the goal of eradicating poverty and improving the lives of people around the world. The MDGs and the 2015 deadline provide a target for the world community to mobilize around and can spur global action. But, action must continue and our plans must look to 2015 and beyond.
Posted by: Niki Clark at 12:34PM EST on September 22, 2010
I’ve always considered myself lucky. Not just lucky in the sense that I’ve been on more than one all-expenses-paid-vacation-type lucky, but privileged lucky. I have an incredible, supporting family that has provided me with a wealth of opportunities to determine how I wanted my life to look, the option to pursue an education and the power to realize my own potential.
Yesterday, I met Tanvi Girotra, a 19-year-old girl who traveled from her native India to attend the Clinton Global Initiative. She spoke on the panel “Preparing Girls for the World,” alongside CARE CEO’s Helene Gayle. The first thing Tanvi told me was that she was lucky. Lucky because her parents valued her as a woman; lucky because she had an opportunity to be educated. Because in New Delhi, the alternative to “lucky” is forced prostitution.
Realizing that her country, comprised of people of diverse backgrounds, also had diverse problems, Tanvi set out to do something about it. So in March of this year, she founded the Becoming I Foundation, a youth-led organization which aims to create a platform for young people to be the change they want to see in the world. Working on issues of women’s empowerment, education, conflict resolution, substance abuse and life skills development, Tanvi hopes to start a movement that will create a mindset-shift of the perceived value of women, not only in India, but around the world. When the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect Program heard her story, they immediately reached out to her to represent them at CGI.
While Becoming I works across the gamut of issues to empower women, Tanvi seems particularly passionate about Project Fiza, which focuses on commercial sex trade in Najafgarh, a small village on the outskirts of Delhi where sex trafficking is rampant. By utilizing theatre, performance and the arts, Project Fiza helps girls build life skills. And through outreach to the media, Project Fiza provides alternate sources of employment to sex trafficking, while pushing girls towards education. With four out of ten women entering the sex trade while they are children, girls are particularly vulnerable.
A passionate young woman, Tanvi radiates a confidence rarely found in women of her age. She brings a unique perspective to a conference packed with Heads of State, UN officials, NGO leaders, global health advocates: a personal story.
“If I could say something to every one that was here, I’d tell them to come home with me. Walk with me in my village. You use words like ‘investments’ and ‘commitments,’ but really what we are talking about are people.”
When I visited the Foundation’s Facebook page, Tanvi’s description of her purpose resonated with me: “I am. Not I was. Not I want to be. Not I can. Not I could. Not even I should. Just. I am.”
At just 19, Tanvi wants to change the world. And something inside tells me she just may do it.
Posted by: Tonya Rawe at 10:12PM EST on September 21, 2010
I ended my last blog talking about how nutrition, food security, climate change, and health are all linked. Yet running through each of those themes is water….And in that realm, there’s more good news!
Yesterday, the Senate passed the Water for the World Act. This act paves the way for robust implementation of the Water for the Poor Act passed in 2005, including the development of a strategy for delivering water and sanitation services for poor people. MDG 7 includes a target to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. While we’ve made great progress on this goal, some geographic areas still remain far behind.
What’s more, lack of access to safe water and sanitation is the second leading cause of mortality for children under 5, killing almost 1.9 million children a year. So while we’re embarking on an effort to address undernutrition during the “window of opportunity,” the “doorway of risk” looms larger and longer. It isn’t enough to address issues one by one. We have to look holistically at the challenges people in poverty face. This is why the Senate’s passage of the Water for the World Act comes at a great time.
By ensuring increased capacity within the US Agency for International Development and the State Department, the Water for the World Act will enable the US to make the greatest and most strategic contribution possible to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation among people in poverty. Increased capacity will enable the US to establish a strategy with goals, benchmarks, timetables and an estimate of the resources required to accomplish those goals.
The legislation also calls for an assessment of the impact of changes in water supply over the next 10, 25, and 50 years. This will ensure that as climate change impacts water availability – whether there’s too much water as flooding increases, or not enough as rainfall patterns shift and droughts drag on – we can plan accordingly and support local communities’ efforts to adapt.
Success is not achieved overnight – this we know. However, with each new initiative, each piece of legislation, and each comprehensive strategy, especially when these efforts are linked, we chip away at the scourge of poverty.
Posted by: Tonya Rawe at 10:00PM EST on September 21, 2010
Sometimes, we have to take a step back from the craziness of blackberries and marathon conference calls to reconnect with our sources of hope and to remember the reason we keep up the fight against poverty. Some good news came out yesterday and this morning that gives me hope, and last night I attended an event that not only gave me hope but reconnected me to the reason we all have to keep up the fight.
Reason #1 for hope: This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin announced a new initiative: “1000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future.” The nutrition initiative is designed to target what CARE has called the “Window of Opportunity”: the crucial first 1000-day period that includes pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. This “window of opportunity” is a critical time to address malnutrition head on – to enable a child to have the greatest opportunity for the rest of his or her life.
Hunger and malnutrition kill more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. And yet, as I wrote yesterday, our efforts to tackle hunger face great challenges. It can seem daunting – but I’m encouraged. Coupled with the Administration’s Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives, this new effort shows the depth of President Obama’s commitment to tackling hunger and improving maternal and child health, while recognizing the need to address the climate crisis if our efforts are to succeed.
The Feed the Future initiative acknowledges the importance of addressing food security comprehensively: meeting emergency food security needs, ensuring that people have access to safety nets, prioritizing nutrition as a benchmark for success, and recognizing the integral link between environmental sustainability and agricultural development. All while putting women at the center.
It’s what CARE has been calling for – and in a way that recognizes the linkages among so many issues. If we are truly to tackle hunger and if we are truly to tackle poverty, we can’t look at problems – or solutions – in a vacuum. Hunger is not only short term and it isn’t only long term. It’s about more than the unavailability of food. Ensuring the availability of, access to, and utilization of nutritious food is critical if we’re going to improve maternal and child health. In order to ensure productive agriculture and sustained good health outcomes, we need to tackle climate change and ensure that communities and vulnerable populations – like women and children – can adapt to the impacts. As the Administration crafts its approach to development, it’s clear that the importance of linkages has not been lost. And for that, I am encouraged.
Posted by: Tonya Rawe at 2:54PM EST on September 20, 2010
From the Big Easy to the Big Apple: Local to Global Impacts of Climate Change
I just arrived in New York City for the Millennium Development Goals Summit – a chance for the nations of the world to recommit to meeting eight global development goals by 2015. This trip comes right on the heels of my trip last week to New Orleans for a climate change strategy retreat. As part of that meeting, we toured the wetlands and volunteered in the Lower 9th Ward, where the impacts of Hurricane Katrina are still very much evident.
The captain of our boat tour – also a local fisherman – shared at length the impacts he and his family have seen on the wetlands and the result of those impacts on their livelihoods as fishermen. He recounted how, as the wetlands have shrunk and the area of open water has increased, their coastal communities become more vulnerable to storm surge: the wetlands act as a speed bump for the rushing water. In the Lower 9th, we saw what was once a neighborhood with rows of houses that now features a scattering of dwellings and countless overgrown lots, some with porch stairs still leading to the house that was swept away.
The story of New Orleans is not unlike stories you might hear on the coasts of Mozambique, in the highlands of Peru, on the floodplains of Bangladesh, or in the farm fields of northern Ghana. Locally and globally, climate change is affecting people: their lives and their livelihoods. In developing countries, climate change disproportionately impacts people living in extreme poverty, particularly girls and women. These individuals are the least responsible for causing climate change but are the first – and worst – to be hit.
As world leaders gather this week in New York, the climate crisis looms overhead like a dark storm cloud. The impacts of climate change threaten to reverse decades of development progress and severely impair our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Part of MDG 1 is a target to halve the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015.
Global hunger remains a challenge without climate change. Just last week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program released the latest numbers of hungry and malnourished people: 925 million people. While the numbers represent a decrease over 2009, when numbers topped one billion, the numbers are still higher than before the food price and economic crises of 2007-2009 and higher than the number of hungry people in 1990-1992. The proportion of hungry people has decreased from 20% to 16%, but that is still a long way from the 10% that is the MDG goal. And let’s face it, 925 million hungry people is 925 million too many.
Climate change makes our job harder. It’s expected that climate change will reduce agricultural productivity in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa by as much as 50%, shorten the growing season, and contribute to decreased fisheries resources. The melting glaciers in the Andes will alter water availability, negatively impacting agricultural production. Extreme weather events, like the flooding in Pakistan, are expected to become more frequent, severe, and intense. As in those floods, natural hazards can adversely impact food security for longer than the immediate aftermath as a family’s assets are sold off, destroyed, or washed away.
Yet there’s no need to throw up our hands and give up. There are solutions to the climate crisis and to extreme poverty. These solutions require political will and a mobilized citizenry to call for and to take bold action: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately and aggressively, to provide substantial assistance to help local communities adapt to climate impacts, and to improve the way we address short-term and long-term global hunger. The MDG Summit is just the time for that bold action.