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Posts Tagged ‘CGI’

Of all the pressing issues confronting the developing world, cancer gets comparatively short shrift. And yet, a majority of new cancer diagnoses come from developing countries.

The fact that these countries are significantly less capable to care for the afflicted than, say, the United States, where cancer has been a leading health priority for many decades, means that cancer is “a time bomb waiting to explode,” says Princess Dina Mired of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation. At last month’s Clinton Global Initiative, Mired said that addressing cancer depends on a sophisticated medical infrastructure above and beyond traditional health care. Much of the world is ill-equipped to tackle the disease, and increasing numbers are dying because they can’t reach or afford adequate treatment. As such, it’s disturbing that cancer is not a part of any global health agenda, Mired asserted.

A special session on the topic at CGI offered a rare spotlight on this global issue, which has striking parallels to HIV/AIDS in the level of ignorance and stigma surrounding it. For example, widespread concern that the disease is contagious leads victims to refrain from publicly disclosing their status. In turn, a lack of visible cancer survivors leads people to think it’s always a deadly disease, or less common than it really is. And then there’s the omnipresent issue of gender discrimination and the need for funding to specifically advance women and girls, a major theme at CGI this year as it was last. When it comes to cancer, for example, some women in the developing world who get a diagnosis of breast cancer forego a mastectomy for fear of losing their husbands, according to Felicia Knaul of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative.

Paul Farmer of Partners In Health and the Harvard Medical School called for the creation of a Global Fund for Cancer, one focused on all areas of need, from prevention to diagnosis to care. But, a recent study from the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine, as reported by VaccineNewsDaily, found that single disease campaigns in developing countries “interfered significantly with routine health care delivery.”

So, while cancer demands greater global attention and care, this work should be approached in such a way as to strengthen the general health infrastructure in developing countries, rather than compete with it for needed funds.

—Jane Wales

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“Liberia is not a poor country. It is a country that has been managed poorly,” according Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s president and Africa’s first female head of state.

Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of violent conflict, which decimates economies, destroys infrastructure, and undermines a state’s capacity to meet basic needs. Yet Sierra Leone and Rwanda have each demonstrated that with the right policies and the right partners, countries can emerge from conflict and achieve positive economic results for their publics. Liberia can be a third example—and wealthy countries, far-sighted investors, and strategic philanthropists alike are betting on the policies of its reform-minded leader.

Undaunted by the problems inherited from 14 years of civil war, Sirleaf’s government undertook a highly inclusive public process to develop its Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). It encompasses policies aimed at integrating former combatants, promoting reconciliation, combating corruption, welcoming investment, and encouraging the growth of civil society. It is a blueprint that has persuaded wealthy countries to provide much-needed debt relief and both private philanthropists and investors to work in close coordination with one another—and with a government they feel they can trust.

I write from Liberia, where I am traveling with 19 philanthropists committed to Liberia’s success. The origins of this trip lie in a 2008 Clinton Global Initiative “commitment” undertaken by Pam Omidyar’s Humanity United, the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF), the Open Society Institute, the Daphne Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the McCall-MacBain Foundation, TrustAfrica, and the government of Liberia.

As part of the commitment, the grant-making foundations stepped forward to finance the establishment of a Philanthropy Secretariat within President Sirleaf’s offices, with the mandate to coordinate their investments so as to best support Liberia’s reform agenda. For our part, at the GPF, we agreed to expand the number of “new philanthropists” alert to Liberia’s potential and to test and refine this extraordinary model of partnership between a post-crisis government and a consortium of private donors and investors.

Ultimately, our hope is to be able to demonstrate—to our satisfaction and to other donors seeking to engage—that this model of highly disciplined and collaborative philanthropic engagement can be adapted and made portable to other post-crisis situations. Many of the GPF members who joined the trip are also leaders of The Philanthropy Workshop West or members of the Aspen Institute Society of Fellows. They are strategic philanthropists, discerning, intent on impact—and deeply respectful of local voices.

They recognize that many of the prescriptions contained in Liberia’s poverty reduction strategy would apply to most post-crisis states. At the same time, they are cognizant that Liberia’s history is unique.  Founded by freed American slaves in 1847, it became the first independent republic in Africa. It established a constitution that met the needs of those settlers, but excluded indigenous peoples. The inequities inherent in that formula helped lead to political instability and ultimately a brutal civil war, during which the GDP of the country dropped 90%, poverty rates rose 64%, the physical infrastructure was decimated, the management class was dispersed, 270,000 died, and many hundreds of thousands were displaced. Its young population, 75% of whom are under age 25, has spent more time in battle than in school.

As a group, we will explore whether and how private actors can contribute to the public goals that are designed not only to reverse the damage done, but to build a new Liberia that can be a model for others emerging from crisis.

In particular, we will report to you—and gain your views—on four hurdles ahead: improving security, promoting public health, rehabilitating infrastructure, and strengthening government capacity.

As we report out to you on the status of each of these areas, we will be eager to hear your views on the role that private actors can play and how they can best work in partnership with each other and with Liberia’s government. Barack Obama has often said that government alone cannot solve all of our country’s problems. If this is true for us, it can be no less true for Liberia, where philanthropy and investment have a significant role to play.

– Jane Wales

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“I fear my own conscience on Africa. I fear the judgment of future generations,” former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is quoted as saying.  “I fear their asking how can wealthy people, so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away?”

While in office, that sentiment led Blair to commit British troops to quelling Sierra Leone’s civil war and to later establish the Commission on Africa to advance the continent’s growth and development. Now, as former Prime Minister, it has inspired him to create the African Governance Initiative (AGI), a non-profit foundation that offers African reformers Blair’s personal help and that of teams of up to 15 UK or US-trained technocrats who are embedded in their ministries. Neither Blair nor these teams comes with policy prescriptions, but rather their task is to help far-sighted leaders achieve their own goals—goals that have been vetted by the process of democratic elections.

Arguing that good governance “is not simply the absence of corruption, but the presence of capacity,” Blair and his AGI have worked with President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on matters as mundane as how to manage the president’s schedule to the harder political question of how to manage public expectations at a time of transition. Each country has made great strides in rebuilding its society and economy. While they are not without problems, they are both expanding their economies and broadening participation in the gains. Blair argues that as a result the citizens have a growing stake in their country’s future and an increasing reason to believe that hard work and merit—rather than political connections and favors—will provide the ticket to a better life.

Blair has now taken his model of philanthropy to Liberia, which its president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, says “is not a poor country” with its rich natural resources, “but is a country that has been managed poorly.” Fourteen years of civil war have decimated its infrastructure and impoverished its young population, 75% of whom are under age 25 and all of whom have spent more time in battle than in school.

But, soon after the country chose peace it also chose a remarkable leader in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. A former Assistant Minister of Finance (in the William Tolbert government), Sirleaf now leads a government committed to transparency and an ambitious Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Blair is not the first to invest in the capacity of Sirleaf’s reform government. Soon after Sirleaf’s election, philanthropist Ed Scott created the Scott Fellowship program, which places young professionals in Liberia’s ministries for one-year stints to work along side mid-level officials in carrying out the day to day tasks of governance.  While Scott fellows were initially Americans without familial ties to Liberia, they are now predominately Liberian-Americans returning to the country from which they, their parents or their grandparents came. Many are hoping to stay.

Philanthropist George Soros has similarly helped to strengthen governmental capacity. And, Pam Omidyar’s Humanity United joined forces with the Open Society Institute, the NoVo Foundation, the Daphne Foundation, TrustAfrica and McCall-MacBain Foundation in creating the Philanthropy Secretariat within the office of President Sirleaf. They did so as part of a 2008 Clinton Global Initiative “commitment” of which the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF) was also a part.

The grant-makers agreed to finance the creation of the Secretariat. The GPF agreed to expand the number of new philanthropists alert to Liberia’s cause. As part of that effort, I am now traveling with 19 GPF members, many of whom are also alumni and leaders of our close collaborators, The Philanthropy Workshop-West. We will be learning what we can and reporting to you along the way.

We’ll be cognizant that Liberia has a special history—having been settled by former American slaves—which may give us a special responsibility. But beyond that sentiment lies the practical recognition that if Sirleaf—a tough leader with integrity, vision and smart policies—does not succeed, that failure may stand as a discouraging lesson to all states struggling to emerge from crisis. Some might argue that it will tell them whether the outside world will be there for them, or whether we, despite being “so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away.”

– Jane Wales

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Several Council staff are back in the office today after a long weeked in Austin Texas where they took part in the Clinton Global Initiative University conference.  While mainly involved in the Poverty Alleviation track, Council staff also got to participate in the plenary sessions with President Clinton, and in several of the breakouts in the four other tracks: education, global health, climate change, and peace and human rights.  They are still brimming with the excitement and energy carried over from the conference, and are looking forward to seeing the new student commitments that will come out of this conference.  We’ll have more personal updates later, but for now – check out some of the session simulcasts here on the CGI U website.

And check back to our September 08 archives for posts from the CGI Annual Meeting in New York.

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Across all panels in the past two days, and especially this morning, we have seen that technological innovation now arms us with unprecedented opportunities for alleviating poverty. In our final panel for the poverty alleviation track, we heard about the nexus between information and poverty from moderator Sonal Shah, Head of Global Development Initiative at Google.org, Holly Ladd, President & Director of AED-SATELLIFE, Brian Richardson, Founder & Managing Director of WIZZIT Bank in South Africa, and Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President & CEO of Women’s World Banking. Each panelist highlighted the great opportunity presented by mobile technology in expanding and accelerating access to financial services, and explored other ways to leverage information technology to strengthen the service delivery of existing health and microfinance initiatives. Sonal asked each to discuss how technology can best collect and share information about poor communities and individuals, such as demographics, health statistics, credit history, etc.

Holly emphasized that our challenge is to alleviate the burden of disease, so that we can move to alleviate the burden of poverty; creating wealth by creating health. She argued for the use of new technology to capture data more effectively – and more importantly, to make every effort to make this information widely available. Brian seeks to provide affordability, accessibility, and availability in financial services for the poor, and believes that mobile technology is the best way to achieve this. Banking via mobile phones enables up-and-coming entrepreneurs to save valuable amounts of time and productivity. While there remains a lot to be done on regulation and building trust in the security of mobile banking, he is working to prove scalability and commercial viability to take his model global. Mary Ellen pointed out that despite the attention the microfinance movement has received, only 133 million people in the world have access to its services. Banks need information on customers, but we must work out the sensitivities of who owns the information. Sorting this will be fundamental to enabling microfinance to have the impact that it can and should.

At the close of working group sessions, we all moved to the ballroom for the final plenary with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Clinton. We learned of the range and depth of commitments made this year in our 3 days together, and heard from past commitment makers who have made extraordinary progress. Prime Minister Brown spoke of the financial crisis, and argued that there is no future for isolationism, just as there is no future for protectionism. The essential thing to do is to begin to restore confidence in markets, and to do so globally – for this global problem requires a global solution. President Clinton reflected that instead of pouring money into the narrow housing market, we should have invested in our poor neighborhoods, in a clean, independent energy future – in solar power or wind power or bio-diesel or electric cars – into making an energy partnership with Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and our other neighbors in the Caribbean. It would have been a different world out there, and a lot fewer people would have taken improvident risk. He urged us not to forget that as it turns out, doing the right thing is the best economics, and that over the long run, it’s the best politics too.

Now that CGI has concluded for another year and production staff is busy pulling down the lights and microphones, we must pause, reflect, and take with us what we’ve learned. The poor are worthy of our efforts and it is time for us to make good on our promises. It requires a real commitment and true audacity from each of us. I have been moved by each of the members of CGI – experts, activists, philanthropists – and I look forward to advancing their work and the work of others in the year ahead.

Jane Wales
President & CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California
Working Group Chair, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative

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This morning, we were swept onto the campaign trail as Senators Obama and McCain shared their plans for US policy in each of CGI’s four focus areas: education, poverty alleviation, climate change, and global health. Each addressed the current financial crisis, and the international cooperation that we need going forward to overcome it. Both also discussed the imperative of addressing malaria, diversifying our energy use, and improving education. Senator Obama emphasized the role we each have to play – “the scale of our challenges may be great; the pace of change may be swift, but we know that it need not be feared. The landscape of the 21st century is still ours to shape.”

Each candidate touched on the rise of food prices globally. Over the past 24 months, grain prices have doubled, prices of fertilizers and fuels have tripled, and 30 countries across the world have seen food riots. Today in areas as distinct as Haiti, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia, millions of people face starvation. Devastation wrought by drought, misguided corn ethanol subsidies, and protectionist agricultural policies have skyrocketed world grain prices, spiraling many of the worlds poor further into poverty.

In light of this relationship between food security and poverty, the Poverty Alleviation Track started the day with a panel on this topic. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright argued that we must frame the food crisis as an issue of national security if we are to overcome our ‘crisis fatigue’ and drive our leaders to take action. There is the danger of a ‘billiard ball effect’, of domestic policies that worsen the situation in neighboring countries, leading to heightened tensions and the risk of conflict. Amos Namanga Ngongi of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) explained the need to focus on small-holder farmers, for they constitute the vast majority of farmers in Africa. He emphasized taking a comprehensive approach to smallholder agricultural development, improving seeds, soil, production, and transportation to market. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, believes commodity exchanges bring necessary order, integrity, efficiency and transparency to all market actors – and thereby reduce risk. She has set up electronic price boards throughout Ethiopia to instantaneously provide crucial price information to farmers, consumers and traders. Ken Lee, co-founder of Lotus Foods, described the labor intensity required to educate US consumers about the value of traditional agriculture sourced from developing countries, pointing out that customers are willing to pay a premium for these products. At table discussions, CGI members identified the importance of increasing small farmers’ access to finance, leveraging information technology to strengthen the entire value chain, and instituting legal protection for land ownership.

Nick Kristof of the New York Times built on these early themes with our post-conflict panel, where speakers emphasized the risk of falling back in to conflict, and the need for post-conflict leaders to provide immediate results in improving livelihoods and opportunities, giving former combatants a stake in the new order. One in two countries that has emerged from conflict will return to violent conflict within five years, and thus immediate and sustained action is crucial. Peter Buffett of the NoVo Foundation, Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank, and Mayu Brizuela of HSBC El Salvador, all underscored that women must be central at all stages — from ending conflict, to restoring trust and to securing longer term stability and development. Peter warned against ‘philanthropic colonialism’, or assuming that we know best – instead we must see, experience, and listen to the people we are trying to help, because they know best.

We concluded the day with a joint panel with the Climate track to explore the interplay between the climate crisis and poverty. We learned that while climate change will have the most devastating effect on the poor, addressing this crisis poses an opportunity for lifting the poor from poverty through millions of new green jobs. The panel urged outside-the-box thinking when it comes to addressing these challenges simultaneously. Dr. Pachauri, Director General of TERI – The Energy Resources Institute– provided the example of his “Lighting a Billion Lives” initiative whereby women entrepreneurs rent out solar powered flashlights to communities in India that are not currently electrified, enabling school children to study at night and villagers to eke out a better living. President Calderón of Mexico called for the creation of a Green Fund that all countries could contribute to and take from to respond to consequences of climate change. And Oakland’s Van Jones and Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation put forward the need to bring new partners to a “Green Growth Alliance” to realize the economic potential for creating millions of new green jobs.

All in all, a whirlwind day – brimming with ideas and opportunities in the face of crisis.

Jane Wales
President & CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California
Working Group Chair, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative

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We stand at a critical crossroads on the global stage. Our most pressing issues — from economic competitiveness to climate change, from global health to stemming the proliferation of advanced weapons — will require unprecedented levels of collaboration and engagement by all sectors of US society, including the private and citizen sectors. Government alone cannot solve all of our critical problems.

In this context, the World Affairs Council of Northern California has a unique role to play.

The World Affairs Council and its Global Philanthropy Forum create a space where diverse audiences engage in dialogue that can inform their actions. Policy makers, business executives, philanthropists, academics, students, civic leaders and an attentive public join in the Council’s programs to listen, learn discuss and debate – deepening understanding and finding solutions.

Here in this blog, my colleagues and I at the Council will share with you some of the stories and insights that we are privileged to experience through our position at the nexus of policy and philanthropy. We will be reporting from the Global Philanthropy Forum, the Aspen Institute, the Clinton Global Initiative, and from events here at the Council, in the news, and elsewhere. I hope that this will be an effective way to continue the engaged debate for which the Council was created, and that the stories shared, issues discussed, and challenges posed in this forum will inspire you to approach our global challenges with your open mind and enterprising spirit, for those are the characteristics that define our remarkable community.


Jane Wales

President & CEO, World Affairs Council
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum
Vice President, Philanthropy & Society, The Aspen Institute
Working Group Chair, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative

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