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Investment in Women’s Progress Key Focus of UN’s MDG Summit and Clinton Global Initiative

By Susan Carey Dempsey on September 20, 20103 Comments
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24:  Singer Bono appears ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The definite hint of fall in the New York air this morning is a reminder of fresh starts, with sidewalks bustling with people walking a bit faster as summer’s heavy air slips away. Against the background of  the United Nations opening and Clinton Global Initiative convening for the sixth time, the UN is convening a Summit to assess progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were set 10 years ago. Bono captured the flavor of the city’s intensity this week in his NY Times Op-Ed yesterday, where he discussed the realities of achieving the MDGs, particularly those involving women and children:

The M.D.G.’s are possibly the most visionary deal that most people have never heard of. In the run-up to the 21st century, a grand global bargain was negotiated at a series of summit meetings and then signed in 2000…signatories agreed to specific goals on a specific timeline: cutting hunger and poverty in half, giving all girls and boys a basic education, reducing infant and maternal mortality by two-thirds and three-quarters respectively, and reversing the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. All by 2015. Give it an A for Ambition.

A crucial factor in this process, unlike many other well-intentioned development efforts, is the monitoring and measurement of achievements against what was committed. As the Summit gets under way, no opportunity is being spared to proclaim progress – or to seek a deeper commitment from a wide swath of players.  The UN Foundation, for example, today announced the commitment of $400 million toward women and children’s health programs. Strengthening partnerships around immunizations, reproductive health, malaria prevention and mobile technology for better healthcare access are to receive intensified focus from UN agencies and philanthropic partners.

Beginning tomorrow, the Clinton Global Initiative will have as one of its central themes the empowerment of girls and women. While it was an area of focus in CGI 2009, it has been raised to its own action area this year, reflecting the impact that has frequently been associated with this intervention:

In some countries greater investments in female education could raise GDP growth by 0.2 percent per year.

Among the discussion topics will be Women and Entrepreneurship; Access to Education for Adolescent Girls; Maternal Health; Women-led Approaches to Climate Change Advocacy and Adaptation; Addressing Violence Against Girls and Women; Empowering Women Along Corporate Supply Chains; Trafficking and Slavery of Women and Girls.

It may seem a bit surprising that empowering women has only recently received such strong focus, given the strong economic and development implications. Let’s hope that the growing emphasis on measuring results will strengthen the case for investing in well-designed programs in these areas. Like the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as head of a new entity called UN Women that will pull together 4 agencies, it’s a promising sign but one that needs to show substance, as Evelyn Leopold pointed out in the Huffington Post last week:

The initial budget is supposed to be $500 million but it is based on voluntary contributions, which could be a financing problem in the future…

But Bachelet is no shrinking violet on women’s rights. The question is whether she will get enough money and whether enough governments will want to work with her. Women in the developing world make up the face of poverty, are victims of HIV-AIDS and die in childbirth because of lack of health care and birth control.

onPhilanthropy will be reporting further on the UN MDG Summit, as well as developments at the Clinton Global Initiative, as the week goes on.

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