Month: September 2014
The face of child survival
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In many respects, for a person who has spent their entire life within the confines of the Western world, the Millennium Development Goals which are soon due to expire can best be measured in images.
The eight MDG are simple and easily defined, which is their best feature.
One of the problems with the MDG has been the need for education of what they actually are. Still today, if you walked down the main street of any capital city of any large Western economy, most people in the street wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you mentioned the MDG.
Too much time and money has been spent explaining and educating these MDG. Most of the publicity campaigns I have seen appeared to look something akin to massive, extravagant, community cake stalls. What outcome was really achieved by all of that?
Like it or not, systemic change requires some degree of education. This is the cost of a new idea.
But here I want to talk about child mortality, the reason behind the 10 City Bridge Run. We are focusing on child survival: the positive side of child mortality.
What does child survival look like? Healthy children. Rather than celebrate it, we take it for granted.
Child mortality largely goes unseen. My friends from Sierra Leone, all who I have met outside of their country in different parts of the world, all are well educated, eloquent, intelligent, and seemingly no different to you or I. There is not a tag around their neck that proclaims they are from the country with the highest rate of child mortality.
This has been one of the failures of the MDG. They have created an image of something created by large NGOs involved in helping to address these problems through a series of well selected photographs to tug at the heart strings and wallets of people in the West who might fund their causes. It becomes the tool for the charity muggers who provide the customer facing face of these organisations as their massive fundraising and messaging campaigns ramp up.
The stories told through these campaigns create a narrative of the issue. The statistics take on a life of their own. ‘What might that look like?’ we ask ourselves in our mind’s eye.
This post is not about trying to fight the system. Rather, it is about celebrating images of healthy children with healthy mothers. That is the work of the 10 City Bridge Run. There is enough misery to go around. Let’s celebrate life instead.
Post 2015 Development Framework
The United Nations General Assembly is meeting again this year, this week.
The agenda, as usual, is full and widely ranging.
Anyone who has ever worked for the United Nations can attest to a shared sense of frustration and optimism about what outcomes might be realised.
Success or failure? Dysfunction and broken beyond repair, or best available outcome with seeking consensus among such a disparate collection of global citizens? The answer to these questions will never be settled, but one thing is for sure is the massive convening power that the United Nations has brought since its inception many years ago on 24 October following the end of the Second World War.
The Millennium Development Goals are an aspirational list of eight objectives unanimously agreed upon by all member states in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of poverty by two-thirds before 2015. The deadline is next year, and the writing is already on the wall in terms of success that has been achieved.
The result is more than simply a pass/fail scorecard. The goals were always aspirational in nature, but within reach. One of those goals, Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality, is the key focus on the 10 City Bridge Run.
In many cases, there are great stories of progress and success, but the distribution of this is unequally experienced. The results in some countries remains troubling.
Papua New Guinea is one country which is unlikely to meet its stated objectives.
Other countries remain at high levels of poverty, despite being extremely rich in minerals. Sierra Leone has the highest rate of child mortality, but is the biggest producer of diamonds in the world. How can this be? It doesn’t seem to make sense.
My friend Edison, who was a journalist from Sierra Leone, and spent time in jail for his political views, has spent a little bit of time telling me about the background to conflict in the country, and helping me to try to understand why problems there should be so bad. What was the cause of so much ill-health and poverty, I wondered? Now, also with Ebola to contend with.
His answer surprised me. What one thing is the biggest problem?, I asked, expecting him to provide some answer like fresh water, or medicine. “Corruption” he said. “It is the biggest killer, the biggest problem. While corruption is still there, nothing will change.”
The same answer is true to for child mortality. If that is the case, then how to improve the delivery of child survival? This is a question we are hoping to contend with across the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, the United Nations are discussing the Post 2015 Development Framework.
This doesn’t change the fact that child mortality is a problem.
Why does it matter how things are measured beyond 2015? Why not just keep the old MDG and push a little harder?
“United Nations is preparing a new sustainable development framework with its member states as the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) will get end in 2015. Speakers also urged to adopt a strong, inclusive and legitimate Post 2015 framework to success the Millennium Development Goals.” But what does this actually mean, or is it just a room full of well-dressed bureaucrats word-smithing a strategic document?
It does matter, and it is not just a word game.
The outcome will need to be focused on rights, transparency, addressing corruption, and a framework that is grounded in sustainability. The question will be whether countries will use their diplomatic jockeying for other issues of a security nature to influence or block resolve and consensus for a strong and cohesive result. It might sound like a lot of hot air, but these will be a guiding strategic tool for the next couple of decades. The work in New York this week is important, make no mistake.
To give an insight into the complexity, here is the extract from a recent press release. You can see from reading this, that the simplicity of eight MDG was remarkable when now looking at the intricacies of competing ethical concerns. All are important, but if it has everything it risks being meaningless, and if it is reduced to a couple of bullet-points, it risks being toothless.
“The post 2015 framework must reinforce international human rights commitments, laws and standards, fight injustice and address how its goals will allow for a progressive realization of rights. It must embrace a rights-based approach to development based on equality, equity and non-discrimination, and ensure the rights of people to participate fully in society and in decision-making, Ahmed Swapan emphasized.
Ahmed Swapan also said that developed countries must comply with their commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) and the unfinished business and they should align and harmonize their activities to avoid competitions and to be refraining from service overlapping. There should also be more transparency and accountability in delivering services to the communities for whom development is meant.
Pratima Paul Majumder said that United Nations must emphasize women rights in the Post 2015 development framework. She also demanded that government should include gender equality and women rights as priority area in new framework. The post 2015 framework must recognize the global resource constraints and aim at a more equitable distribution of resources, including how it meets the rights and needs of future and present generations.
She urged to ensure decent work environment and living wages for the women labour. She questioned the present mode of corporate based development which is unfavorable for realization of women rights. This model has particularly worsen life and livelihood of rural, indigenous and migrant women.
The Post-2015 framework must be underpinned by the strongest, most robust and comprehensive accountability framework possible, incorporating the commitment to monitor and report on progress and share learning and knowledge.
Alison Subrata Baroi focused on reducing inequality within and among countries which is essential for transformation while he proposed for ensuring progressive taxation and tax governance as a way out of challenges mobilizing own resources for financing development in post 2015. Alison also said that the Post-2015 framework cannot afford an approach that promotes growth at all costs without considering human rights and environmental implications. The framework must demonstrate coherence and integration across the environmental, economic and social dimensions of different goals and targets. He also emphasized access to justice and governance that should be enshrined in Post 2015 framework.”
Celebrations of Independence
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Papua New Guinea celebrated its 39th year of independence on Tuesday. This is all but a historical footnote in the minds of many Australians, as many of us have forgotten the close association between both countries that began 100 years ago this month when Australia seized the German territory at the commencement of the First World War.
The grand vision of Sir Michael Somare of the opportunity to run their own country has yet to be fully realised with the last two decades chequered with constitutional crisis and at times significant civil unrest.
Extractive industries have become a significant feature of foreign interests in Papua New Guinea since 1975, and corruption has sadly often impacted on the distribution of income.
The country has dropped considerably down in the country ratings of UN Human Development since 1975, and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed earlier this year how she was troubled that PNG was not likely to meet one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals before they are due at the end of 2015.
It could be easy to look at PNG and focus only on a grim picture.
What I saw when I was beginning the 10 City Bridge Run in Port Moresby painted a different picture. There were many expressions of national pride, concurrent with alignment with which one of the 32 provinces people originally came from. It is a country with over 840 different language groups, and with just over 7 million people, national unity is an amazing achievement.
Indications is that the country is looking towards good leadership and a bright future. Let’s hope so, because the region needs leadership from Papua New Guinea now.
Show me some lap love!
I want some lap love. Will you give it to me?
Please support me with some lap love from as little as $1, and help us together to improve the delivery of child survival.
Can we make 21 supporters before 11.30 am today?
Please visit the link below: www.igg.me/at/10citybridgerun.
The second lap of the 10 Sydney Bridge Run kicks off in Sydney in about an hour, running 21 laps of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
This distance takes me just over the 24 km.
Each lap is 1,149m. Running end of the steel girder support to the other end of the girder support, which is about twice the distance, if not more than pylon to pylon.
Thank you to all of the generous supporters of this initiative. If you are not already a supporter, would you show me some lap love and make a contribution of the link below? Come on, humour me for as little as $1 while I am out running these laps.
Can we make 21 supporters before 11 am? Please share, so we can all feel a little lap love.
Thanks for your support!
The journey begins
After considerable delay and a number of false starts, the 10 City Bridge Run is underway.
There have been many problems, mostly associated with injury, lack of resources, and self-doubt, but that is all behind us now.
What hasn’t been lacking is the goodwill and encouragement from a community of supporters, most of who I know, and many I don’t. Thank you. You are the people that made this happen!
The first leg was run in Port Moresby on 16 September 2014, coinciding with Papua New Guinea Independence Day. It was a great day for a run. See for yourself in the video below.
Please share this blog. It is not too late to support the initiative. You and your friends can do that here: www.igg.me/at/10citybridgerun.
Thanks for your support!
Vale James Waites
The friend of many, James Waites died having lived a full and colourful life earlier this year.
Jimmy was a friend of mine, too, introduced through Virginia Gordon at one of her many salon style luncheons.
I enjoyed meeting James on a number of occasions for coffee where I would come to learn more about his idiosyncratic love for life, his humour, and his passion for hearing and sharing stories.
I also came to know the caring and considerate side of James at the many lunches I was able to share at Virginia’s gatherings.
He was reverent and cheeky at once, perhaps best typified by the time he leant across and whispered secretly to me after an engaged conversation with a beautiful blond who was at the table: “I asked for her number, Matt, pretending to need it for something else, just in case you wanted to call her”, he earnestly confided in me as he slid her number towards my direction across the tablecloth in something more fitting of espionage. He was too polite to ask what happened next, and I never did call her, but I always smile when I remember James’ good humour by creating that situation.
James was a sponsor of the 10 City Bridge Run, which was an extremely generous act for him as I came to know later as I learnt more about his life.
I know James would have been very excited to follow my journey especially across Papua New Guinea, the country where he was born and raised. The stories he told me of Papua New Guinea were golden. I’ll be carrying your memory back there when I run in Port Moresby, Jim, as I set about opening a conversation to ask: “how can we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
Thanks for the inspiration.