A busy day which started with my first pre-Summit event in Westminster, London organized by a network of British development NGOs called BOND. The event which attracted about 300 people was called ‘Fighting Global Poverty and Inequality: UK Priorities to meet the Millennium Development Goals’ and had good government representation. Highlights included Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg outlining his belief that international development needed to remain a global priority. He even hinted that there would be new commitments and new resources to tackle maternal health.
However, for me, the most interesting speaker was the Secretary of State. It was very interesting to listen to him again. He really does seem to be very strong on the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights for development. I last heard him speak at the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) of the ECOSOC in July where again he was in impressive form. At the AMR he stressed the importance of putting women’s health and rights at the centre of development efforts and included specific reference to the need for access to safe abortion services. This time Mitchell continued where he left off at the AMR. He highlighted the fact that women and children have to remain “at the front and centre” of all development efforts if any progress was to be made in reaching any of the MDGs; that annually over 350,000 women die giving birth every year; and that UK development aid educates more than 5 million children overseas every single year.
In regard to next week’s Summit, Mitchell said that the UK wants to underline four key areas: These are going to be:
- A commitment to doubling the number of women and children’s lives saved using UK ODA. Mitchell re-emphasized a point made earlier in the week by DPM Clegg (and reported in the Guardian newspaper) that “as a result of the new strategy … at least 50,000 more women and 250,000 babies will survive and 10 million more couples will get access to family planning”. To highlight the importance of this point he stated that 73 per cent of women in Sub Saharan Africa have no access to contraception whatsoever
- UK leadership on international development – and he wants to encourage other governments to prioritise development as well
- The importance of transparency and openness – in other words he wants, as we all do, for governments to be held accountable for fulfilling the promises and commitments they make – this is of course an area where civil society can play a key watchdog role, and
- That now was the time to deliver on the MDGs – highlighting that there should be an annual meeting to review progress on achieving each of the goals (I assume the AMR would be the most likely forum where this would happen)
Mitchell also mentioned that there was going to be an emphasis on tackling malaria, that a new fund would be created to focus on targeting nutrition in the 8 most high burden countries, and that the UK would work with Gates to focus on conflict and reconciliation – though details on this were sketchy due to the lack of time.
Other highlights included Mariella Fostrup – from off the telly. She made a very good and impassioned speech about the need to make progress on Gender Equality and MDG3. The equally impressive Head of Governance from WaterAid Nigeria, Juanita During, highlighted not just water and sanitation issues but also mentioned the need to make progress on MDGs 3 and 5.
I guess we won’t have many more details until the Summit itself, but if the UK does deliver on what it says it will, then it will certainly have played a major part in making the Summit a success. Now for the other 191 Member States …