Pictures, people, promises and passion

London is greyer and wetter than NY-but the coffee is better, and much needed after finally leaving JFK at 130 am. Sleeping sitting up is an art I have perfected, but by then I could have slept standing up-so my apologies if last night’s comments were not particularly insightful or detailed.
So now a few reflections on the last few days-firstly some of the personal pictures I will be keeping in my mental photo album :
The first sight, every morning, of the UN, the world’s flags fluttering in the sunlight of a clear NY morning-a real reminder that while it may not be perfect, and often gets it wrong, it’s the best hope we have to a shared collective vision of a better world-and we need to make it work.
Watching a whispered, quick conversation between Nafis Sadik and Thoraya Obaid in the dimmed light of the ECOSOC room yesterday as the panellists changed-two very different women, with very different styles, from different cultures, who shared a vision and have led UNFPA on the real issues of our time, issues of choice and aspiration that are at the heart of the daily life of people across the globe. I hope the selection process next week will find us someone who can follow them in engaging world leaders and civil society at every level in spite of politics and pressures of every kind.
– UNAIDs  Michel Sidibe’s indefatigable  energy and passion for what he believes the world can do to win the fight against HIV.
– The perplexed expression on the face of Asa Regner, Secretary General of RFSU, one of the oldest Member Associations of IPPF and respected universally for tireless, powerful work on rights (‘Sex is politics’), as she discussed the results of the Swedish election
– Graca Machel, tall and colourful, putting aside her speech to speak from the heart, reminding us that the words at the UN are important-but it is the translation of them into action at the local level of every village and community that matters.
– The clearly articulated vision and determination of so many young leaders, some already in positions of influence, like the Danish all party parliamentarian group,  many with impressive experience, qualifications and huge commitment that I would not have dreamed of at their age-but they can and will create a resilient more sustainable world.
Conversations: should the GFATM be enlarged to include maternal and reproductive health, what is feminism today, how to get more meaningful engagement of civil society at every level. They deliver half the health services in many countries, yet 24 speakers across 6 round tables, each speaking for 3 minutes, and in some cases reduced to 1 minute because of lack of time, together with some 25 observers passes a day do not create a space for mutually respectful dialogue and engagement-though some states and UN staff would welcome this, others may not-but this needs to change urgently at every level,  as we move towards 2015.
And from IPPFs perspective many things: A renewed sense of how important and unique our Federation is, the breadth of its mission, its willingness to work across such a breadth of issues, its volunteer base and structure of autonomous Member Associations, community based NGOs, united by common principles and vision, they can show what country-owned, sustainable development can be, with their dual roles of programmes and advocacy at every level.
With this in mind we have made significant additional commitments in the Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, well beyond those in the published summary, both as IPPF, and as a member of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition. (That topic of supplies is another whole series of blogs I’m afraid!). We were able to make clear recommendations to Member States for the next 5 years, through the Roundtables, and to raise issues of the loss of life and well being related to unsafe illegal abortion and sexual rights and the need to address these, in order to achieve human rights, justice, equity and development.
We will now need to analyse the promises made by ourselves, others NGOs and states in this and the outcome document, after it is adopted today. We will need to consider how we can deliver our new model of comprehensive sexuality education, integrate HIV, human rights, gender equity and health and sexuality; how we can contribute through our Declaration of Sexual Rights and advocacy, while monitoring our own and others’ achievements. In the meantime, we succeeded in raising the issues of gender, women and girls and young people through statements and side events and calling attention to the urgent need to invest in young people, and the importance of partnership at every level. In Minister Carlssons word we, and our issues, were very evident-despite the challenges!
So now the work begins.
There is much more that I will return to another time, for us in IPPF, and more widely-some powerful lines to quote-and genuinely considered commitments, plus I have a bag full of new reports and publications to share!
But, in the meantime as I go, back to the office now, a moment to think about what will it mean for the world. The cynics will say ‘very little’, those who oppose multilateralism will be far fiercer in their condemnation, but for the rest of us-we must think about how we can help to take it forward, because we now have that chance. 
Certainly it wasn’t Cairo or Beijing-but then it’s the General Assembly, not a conference, and the world is in a very different place. Progress has been made. Today we are at a point where there are new promises to be implemented-and they must be- as time is too short for too many for this not to happen. We need to contribute-individually and collectively to make this happen. 

Regards, Gill

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A veritable whirlwind

Sitting in a  traffic jam in New York, wiith the city gridlocked. Because President Obama and State Secretary  Hilary Clinton are in town  seems a good place to try to write a blog! At least a better thing to do than worry about whether or not I’lll make the plane.!

A few quick hiighlights from yesterday – a day of meetings, and side events, and conversations – some great  MPs – from Denmark and Belgium – what commitment the Danes have to ODA, srhr and young people – and how valuable that has been.

Meetings too with possible new donors, and several side events which deserve a proper discussion. At one on PMTCT, hosted by UNICEF and UNAIDS, a member of South Africa’s Mothers for Mothers spoke so clearly and simply of her shock and fear when first diagnosed, -‘I was afraid of living, and afraid of dying’. Today she is a mentor for others experiencing the same fear.

At UNICEF there was a robust discussion by 4 INGOs of issues raised in a new UNICEF report, including the issues of local ownership, and equity, and the importance of reaching the hardest to reach, as we work so hard to do in IPPF. According to UNICEFs new. research, this is not only the right thing to do, in terms of equity, but is also cost effective- an important point to counter those who would suggest we should focus on  reaching the most accessible.

I also had a stimulating meeting with Cecile and senior people at PPFA, hearing about how they have worked to build a more collaborative shared culture across affiliates, including developments like their new  website, with information for young people and clients, and an on line learning platform- the number of visits is remarkable, and there is much that we can learn from all this  which they’re generously willing to share, and I’m looking forward to finding out more. 

They are also a Member Association which has an extraordinary history, and a commitment that has never wavered – a real example of ‘brave and angry’ or perhaps it’s more like intelligent rage as they continue to counter the challenges that continue to confront them.

This morning’s side event, with UNFPA  on young people driving development went well,  over 120 people, which was impressive,  given that it was a relatively early start, and so much else was on. Another great young chair – Maria Antonieta from our WHR office who kept us all firmly within time!

The panel was a good intergenerational mix of young, (Samuel from Ghana,) and not so young, (Thoraya Obaid, Michael Cashman European MP and me)!  a range of topics which included, the need for policies and programmes that recognise realities of young people’s lives, youth advocacy and leadership, the recent Mexico world youth conference, the role of church and state, and there was also time to acknowledge Thoraya’s commitment to engagement with civil society and young people. We can only hope her successor will have the same.

There was time too  for a few questions – and a strong contribution from the First Lady of Georgia, who is very knowledgeable and active on SRH issues.-what a difference that kind of leadership can make.

 (I’ll interrupt this here just to say that I’ve made it to the airport, where we are experiencing a major storm – thunder, rain and lightning – worthy  of ‘King Lear’ – and all flights are delayed – it’s beginning to seem like one of those nights when the all things conspire against me!!)

But back to today – if you’re still hanging on in there….

I was forunate to be invited to the UK Mission to a meeting of UK based  NGOs with Deputy PM Nick Clegg, and Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell. Both seemed to take on board the variety of issues that we raised with remarkable speed, (water, women, nutrition, health, MDG5B, disability, innovative financing, education, civil society engagement…) and responded thoughtfully, and with genuine interest.

Responding in this way – and making time  to do meet are positive signs of a willingness to engage with civil society – hopefully they will encourage this with other partner governments – and the UN!

From there I joined the line for the launch of the Secretary General’s global health strategy for women and girls’ Every Woman Every Child. During the wait in line (anyone from the UK read queue!)  I met a Canadian FIGO member from Canada, who is keen to explore a relationship between their new hospital, and our MA, met a friend who had just been to NZ to contribute to a midwifery conference, caught up with a couple of donors, and exchanged notes on books about assessing impact.

The temporary ECOSOC room was packed, and checked out by security dogs (golden retrievers -an unusual choice?) The moderator was Zeinab Badawi – a well know UK tv broadcaster who interviewed  Dr Mahmoud Fathallah, on BBC, when he received his award from IPPF last November, and recently covered some of our issues at the AU summit – wearing a beautiful white jacket with double rows of buttons she looked a little like a ringmaster as she paced in front of the podium, endeavouring ‘with respect’ to keep heads of state within their 3 minute time limit-not an easy task!

On the first of the four panels, the Secretary General, spoke of the strategy as a ‘clear road map’ and a broad partnership’ and talked of investing in women’s and children’s health as having a multiplier effect, of wome’s empowerment and women leading the way. He introduced Micelle Bachelet, (red jacket),  the new head of UN women who received enthusiastic applause. The Nowegian PM was unequivocal – the present situation for women and girls is unacceptable’. Talking of more money for health and more health for the money, he pledged to allocate increased finds, remarking that what makes the Strategy different is that it has gained commitments from governments and civil society.

I think I’d add that it has also encouraged specific country commitments rather than a general and  collective commitment by all member states-some of which have seen little concrete implementation.. Nigeria for example pledged to reach the Abuja target, and Tanzania made a number of very specific commitments, including some related to family planning.

Hilary Clinton (red jacket too) announced a joint initiative between the Aid agencies of UK,US, Australia and Gates, to increase access to family planning, reduce maternal newborn and child mortality, Nick Clegg, outlined the commitments already made , remarking that donors are finding ‘money is tight but time is getting tighter’.

Melinda Gates spoke of commitments to fp, and the need for low cost high impact interventions, while Kevin Rudd ( now Australias foreign affairs minister) said it would go down ‘as a good day for women’ and challenged  donors to multi year commitments of funding.

World Vision represented BRAC, CARE, SAVE ie those who gave financial commitments, and those. Who made other commitments and endorsements spoke of the role of civil society and their commitment of 1.5 billion over 5 years. (Unfortunately our 2 commitments were compressed to gether under one short para, and we will need to follow up how they will appear in future.

On later panels Graca Machel thanked the DG for ‘finally’ placing the issue high on the agenda, ther role women will need to play, the importance of health systems that deliver near to where women are.

So a few points I hope that give a flavour-and now to catch a plane I hope, and reflect on the value of the week.

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Global Strategy commitments

An estimated US$40 billion has been pledged to advance the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy on women’s and children’s health. The financial commitments to the Global Strategy  will help ensure progress is made on women and children’s health by the MDG deadline of 2015. The pledges have come from over 40 countries and a number of CSOs, foundations and the private sector.

How much of the financial pledges constitutes new money remains a little unclear, but whatever, it is still a sizeable investment. Let’s hope that the funding combined with the political will has the impact in intend and makes a real difference to achieving MDGs 4 and 5.

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Go Denmark!

The Prime Minister of Denmark has just highlighted the importance of SRHR for achieving the MDGs at the launch of the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy.

“Women are agents of development, there’s no chance whatsoever of achieving MDGs without strengthened focus on empowerment of women. Women must be able to decide freely if and when they want to have children and must have access to health services when giving birth. Denmark supports developing countries in the realization of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights”

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CSOs under the table

The statements made by Civil Society Organizations  (CSOs) at the 6 MDG Summit Roundtables have been put up on line. But not so the speeches made by Member States.

The Roundtables were more or less the only forum by which civil society could participate at the Summit. However, even then CSOs were not always able to participate in any meaningful way. This was especially the case in Roundtable 1 where only 1 NGO out of the 4 was given the opportunity to speak. And on other Roundtables, some CSOs that did manage to speak were asked to cut their speeches from 3 minutes to just 1 – because Member States had not been able to keep to the 5 minute rule.

The 6 Round Tables focussed on the following themes:

Roundtable 1: Addressing the challenge of poverty, hunger and gender equality
Roundtable 2: Meeting the goals of health and education
Roundtable 3: Promoting sustainable development
Roundtable 4: Addressing emerging issues and evolving approaches
Roundtable 5: Addressing the special needs of the most vulnerable
Roundtable 6: Widening and strengthening partnerships

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Panel Event success

Earlier today we held our panel event with UNFPA at the Helmsley Hotel. To say it was a success would be a major understatement. We seemed to be cramming more and more people into an already packed room that was already heaving with high level dignitaries, including Ministers from Namibia, Nigeria and elsewhere, the First Lady of Georgia, MPs and senior civil servants from a wide range of countries. Even the Holy See came along to check out the speeches, all of which were great.

Fortunately, the hotel asked us yesterday if we wouldn’t mind moving to a larger room – and thank goodness they did. We were truly packed out and had around 140 people squeeze into a room meant for 100. It was cosy.

Oh yes, the hotel wanted our room as they were expecting Hilary Clinton along with the Presidents of Honduras and El Salvador to speak later that morning. And yes, I did sneak in for a while and listen to her speak. Who wouldn’t?

As for the speakers at our event Michael Cashman MEP gave a truly impassioned speech about the hypocrisies that cause people to live in fear. He directed his ire at the ‘men in frocks’ who have so much influence yet so little knowledge when it comes to reproductive health and who perpetuate the supply of false information such as ‘condoms don’t protect’ that directly leads to the deaths of so many. It was Thoraya Obaid however who spoke first and she addressed the assembled guests with the usual authority and insight that you would expect. Samuel Kissi of the Curious Minds NGO in Ghana spoke next and focused our attention on the need to ensure youth were engaged in PRSP processes. Gill Greer spoke with passion and insight on the theme of Universal access to reproductive health of adolescent girls and young women while Priscilla Vera Hernandez gave a brief analysis of the Youth Summit in Mexico. Naturally, the event was excellently moderated by our dear colleague Maria Antonieta Alcalde of IPPF WHR

This was a very successful event and much of it is due to our dear colleagues at both IPPF/WHR including Mirellise and Emily, and Prateek at UNFPA, with whom it was a real pleasure to organize this event

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The end is nigh …

Wednesday sees the culmination of the 2010 MDG Summit. As such this is the time when the remaining big hitters will be around.

President Obama is due to speak on Wednesday and the Secretary General of the United Nations will launch the much hyped Global Strategy on women and children’s health We already know what the US think of the MDGs thanks to the release of the “CELEBRATE, INNOVATE & SUSTAIN Toward 2015 and Beyond: The United States’ Strategy for Meeting the Millennium Development Goals”. As for the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy, well there seems to have been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to drum up support and pledges for this initiative. As such we have heard of a few countries that have said they will support it with large sums of money. The UN Foundation too has promised it will support the Global Strategy with a pledge of US$400 million. NGOs too have made a number of commitments to the Global Strategy and IPPF commitments can be found here.

By this time tomorrow we will know exactly what has been pledged and keeping track of what has been promised will be an important part of any post-Summit accountability exercise.

Tomorrow also sees Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg deliver the UK’s statement to the Summit. Prior to that, IPPF as part of a BOND delegation will visit the DPM to get across our final thoughts and comments about how the Summit has gone and the line that the DPM should take, maybe not just here in New York, but afterwards too.

However, it would appear that there is little real opportunity to influence the UK’s Summit statement as part of it looks to have been leaked to the Guardian newspaper already. And if what it says is true, and what we hear from sources very close to the horses mouth is confirmed, then I don’t think there will be too many people in the reproductive health community that will complain, well not too loudly anyway.  

In other news, and apart from having countless meetings with some extremely interesting civil servants, politicians and UN agencies today I continue to keep on bumping into an eclectic mix of famous faces. This time Bob Geldof walking by on the street, and then Madeline Albright hugging people in a hotel bar. It can only be New York.

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