Feature story

Broad coalition discuss philanthropy and global public health at UN

24 February 2009

New York
United Nations Economic and Social Council Special Event on Philanthropy and the Global Public Health Agenda, 23 February 2009.
Credit: UNAIDS

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for “truly powerful global partnership for global health.” He was addressing over 400 executives and philanthropy leaders, representatives of UN Member States and other partners at the opening yesterday of a special event on Philanthropy at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“Just as I am striving to ensure that the United Nations delivers as one, so do I want all partners to come together to deliver as one in the field of global health,” he said.

The Special Event of the UN Economic and Social Council on Philanthropy and the Global Health Agenda was co-convened by UNAIDS and a wide range of partners and was a discussion of the ways to strengthen partnerships towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in areas where progress has been slow, for example maternal and child health, and which can benefit from stronger multi-stakeholder participation. Participants noted that the AIDS response is a useful exemplary model because it mobilizes a variety of partners, including governments, communities and the private sector around a common cause.

Just as I am striving to ensure that the United Nations delivers as one, so do I want all partners to come together to deliver as one in the field of global health

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Improving health outcomes of women and girls

Dr Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA and former Director of Policy, Evidence and Partnerships at UNAIDS noted the importance of family planning, skilled care during childbirth and emergency obstetric care to protect maternal health. She also emphasized the importance of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Dr Mane stressed the importance of investing in MDG 4—to reduce infant mortality, and 5—to improve maternal health, while keeping up advocacy efforts on the other development goals.

There was consensus among panel members and participants on the need to strengthen the link between HIV and reproductive health in delivering care for women and girls. Progress in non-health areas for women and girls was seen as equally important including promotion of gender equality and access to education.

Gary Cohen, Executive Vice-President, Becton Dickinson (BD) described the role of corporate philanthropy in global health. He spoke of the “privilege” it is when a company offers its employees the opportunity to help others. During the past five years the company, which specializes in medical technologies, has also provided diagnostic tools and technologies for HIV. Through philanthropy outreach and community relations programmes, BD also supports immunization campaigns, promotes healthcare worker safety and raises awareness of pandemic diseases.

Neglected tropical diseases

Panel members and participants also agreed on the need to focus greater attention on neglected tropical diseases including a group of thirteen parasitic and bacterial infections that affect more than one billion people and kill 500,000 people annually.

Former US President Bill Clinton delivered the closing keynote address. President Clinton noted the timeliness of the special event during the current global economic crisis and the extraordinary need to focus on the effectiveness of public health interventions. He also highlighted the enormous contribution made by the AIDS response to AIDS in building networks for health and concluded that it is impossible to address global health without the active involvement of three key actors: governments, civil society and the private sector.