Partnerships towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Taking stock, Moving forward

Published: 27 November 2006

I am honoured to join you today on behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and to offer our perspective and to reiterate our commitment, as the largest humanitarian network in the world, to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

It is our firm view that delivering on these Goals is essential, both in the name of reason and equity.

I think it is only fair, here today, to remind ourselves that we as humanitarian leaders in government, civil society, academic circles, and the public and private sectors may very well be judged one day by our contributions to these Goals.

On this day of commemoration for the first true champion of the MDGs, Mr. Secretary General Kofi Annan, we are reminded of the considerable progress made since 2000, and of the long road that we must continue to fervently pave ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen, while we meet here to look at longer-term development goals, I would also like to draw your attention to 5 risk areas which have an immediate impact on our achievement of development gains:
1) Climate change and its consequences;
2) The HIV/AIDS epidemic and other global health crises;
3) Increased food insecurity;
4) Economic instability and the intolerance and social tension it brings; and
5) Insufficient disaster preparedness and capacity to locally and rapidly respond to disasters

While there are no short term solutions to eliminate these interconnected risks, we will continue to address them on a short-term basis.

We firmly believe that achieving the MDGs could very well be the best life insurance for the most vulnerable populations, and that this holistic global platform is needed to orchestrate true sustainable change in the long-term.

While many continue to see Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as humanitarian and hence relief-minded organizations, we have an equally strong commitment to long-term development, and to the achievement of the MDGs, realising that these two are inextricably linked.

Indeed, we are keenly aware of the complex causes and effects of widespread poverty and despair around the world. In order to strengthen our input to the MDGs, last year we established our own Global Agenda.

We all know that the battle for the MDGs will ultimately be won at the community level, village by village, household by household.

We count among us over 90 million volunteers around the world, most of them living in the developing world, who often face the same challenges as the communities we strive to serve.

Red Cross and Red Crescent trained volunteers stand ready in organized community networks, to provide community health and care – whether it be promoting good hygiene, supporting immunization campaigns, or treating the sick in their homes.

For this reason, we are well suited to work in partnership with Governments, the UN system, non-governmental organizations and others, to scale up service delivery, and to ensure that it reaches the ‘last mile’.

The IFRC firmly believes that no single agency can achieve the MDGs alone, and that we must bring our respective organizational strengths together, to deliver results for the most vulnerable.

In the last five years, we participated in a number of global partnerships to this end.

To support global disease control, which is central to the MDGs, we have partnered with many leading institutions, including the WHO, UNICEF, the Centres for Disease Control, the Roll Back Malaria, the Measles Partnership for Africa, and the HIV/AIDS Alliance.

In this context, I proudly note that our capacity to deliver community services was recognised by the WHO which considers the Measles Partnership for Africa, led by the Red Cross, as one of the most successful public health interventions in Africa ever.

Our work has also broken new ground and offered a model for the future. Our participation in a partnership to fight malaria through the nationwide distribution of free bed nets to all households with children under age five, has today ensured that Togo is one of the first countries to reach the Abuja MDG goals for Malaria control in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished panel guests, Let me again stress our commitment to helping achieve the MDGs, and our continued efforts to build on our past successes and to prove our worth as a uniquely ‘global’ community-based organization and as a flexible, reliable, and nimble partner in the field of development.

We are aware of our strengths and limitations, and value the fact that partnerships ensure a value-added product. This product however does still not reach enough people: equitable access to services at the community level continues to be a hard-fought battle.

There are many critics who rush to note that we are behind in many countries and with many of the goals on the road to 2015.

Let me therefore end in offering some suggestions from the Red Cross Red Crescent point of view

Firstly, we must focus more resources at the community level. Far too few resources trickle down to the beneficiary. Technical strategies and national policy frameworks are essential in guaranteeing developmental gains.

However, the realisation of these plans depends greatly on the way we empower individuals, such as female heads of households, to build skill sets, change attitudes and practices, or to decide on household expenditures!

I am therefore proud to announce that the IFRC recently began partnering with Professor Sachs and the UN Millennium Project to look for innovative ways to work together to address the appalling health worker gap in Africa, by focussing on the village level health service delivery system.

This partnership represents a great synthesis between academia, years of development expertise on the ground through the Millennium Villages, and our own experience in delivering services to African communities for decades.

Secondly, donor harmonization remains a real challenge. While we have been reasonably disciplined in formulating and carrying the MDGs forward with concrete performance indicators, we do need to improve our overall coordination with donors.

While the Paris Declaration and other initiatives promise more coordination and effectiveness, the clock is ticking and lives continue to be on the line. I therefore strongly encourage institutional donors to meet more regularly with all partners in this room. In many ways scaling up begins at home and we must do our homework too!

Lastly, let me reconfirm that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies sees no alternative to aggressively moving forward in delivering on the MDGs.

Yes, the year 2015 seems far for many and just around the corner for others, but it is ultimately not about the date, it is about our compassion and understanding that there is no alternative to doing what needs to be done, now!

Let’s take our responsibilities and commitments seriously and let us be true champions for the beneficiaries of our work. One champion, the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan is, at least in an institutional function, passing the torch on.

He is passing it to us. Let us together pick up this important torch, and ensure that it continues to burn for those desperately in need and for all of us.