Day two of the MDG Summit saw Presidents, Ministers and Secretaries of State speaking out with passion on their signature issues.
A panel on scaling up Africa’s infrastructure kicked things off, with the President of Senegal, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General Jeffrey Sachs, and Bank Vice President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili agreeing that building roads and providing power are critical to the continent's economic and social development.
Sachs said he saw a moment of opportunity. “I feel that we are on the brink of a real breakthrough on Africa’s infrastructure, with all the key ingredients beginning to crystallize,” he said. “Policymakers are taking reform seriously, the private sector has demonstrated in the ICT arena what it can do when the policy framework is right.”
Vivien Foster, World Bank Lead Economist, Africa Region Sustainable Development, struck a similarly hopeful note in her blog post on the session: “Although Africa’s infrastructure needs may look daunting, countries like China have shown that it is possible to deliver on the requisite scale.”
A few blocks away at the InterContinental Hotel, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ireland Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin gave their full-throated support to a global movement to reduce child undernutrition, focusing on the “1,000 day window of opportunity” from the time a woman conceives to a child’s second birthday.
The campaign is being launched in support of the Scaling Up Nutrition Framework, a strategy endorsed by more than 100 global partners, including the Bank, to help the estimated 200 million children who suffer from chronic undernutrition.
Why 1,000 days? The Bank’s Meera Shekar. Lead Health and Nutrition Specialist, elaborated in her blog post. “If we miss that opportunity, we miss an entire generation because the damage that happens in the early months is irreversible,” she wrote. “Such damage affects not just the child’s ability to learn, but also his or her ability to become a fully capable and productive citizen.”
Saving Mothers’ Lives
Counterbalancing those who consider MDG 5—improve maternal health--the goal least likely to be met by 2015, Health Ministers and Ministerial-level representatives from Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia and Nepal presented resounding success stories for reducing maternal mortality at a well-attended evening event co-hosted by the Bank and four UN agencies.
Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, Bank Vice President, Human Development Network, joined the discussion, describing the Bank’s successes in using pay-for-performance models for improved maternal health in Rwanda and Afghanistan. “The results-based approach holds considerable promise… and is a powerful mechanism to accelerate progress for MDG 5,” she said.
The Bank just announced an additional $600 million investment in results-based health programs, to help 35 countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, reach the MDGs.
And last -- finishing off a long day, World Bank President Robert Zoellick participated in a (taped) BBC World TV debate titled, “MDGs: What's Holding Us Back?,” with fellow panelists Andrew Mitchell, UK Development Secretary, and Bingu Wu Mutharika, President of Malawi and Chairperson of the African Union, and others.
Which signature issues emerged from the give-and-take? No spoilers here. You’ll have to tune in to catch the discussion in full, this Saturday at 0930 GMT, 2230 GMT or Sunday at 0230 GMT, 1530 GMT.