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Encouraging new MDG commitments at Davos

Along with a number of partners, my main objective at Davos last week was to help ensure the global challenges of extreme poverty and the Millennium Development Goals received as much practical attention as possible.
There were a number of highlights. One was Bill and Melinda Gates' extraordinary Friday announcement of $10 billion to support vaccine research and implementation over the next 10 years. This comes on the 10th anniversary of the launch of GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations), which has produced remarkable breakthroughs in child health and international aid mechanism design since its launch at Davos a decade ago. The new announcement came on the heels of a terrific MDG plenary session with Helen Clark, Bill Gates, Jeff Sachs, Morgan Tsvangirai, Helen Clark and others. The plenary provided an insightful distillation of where the world stands with respect to the Goals and how they can best be used to motivate forthcoming efforts.

Another highlight was the launch by the Young Global Leaders' community of an initiative that includes more than sixty results-based commitments to “A People's Plan of Action for the Millennium Development Goals.” [http://redesignourworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/mdgpressrelease.pdf] These pledges will reach more than 60 million people around the world, and aim to contribute to global momentum in the lead-up to the UN's September 2010 MDG Summit in New York. As its point of departure, the People's Plan of Action draws from new forms of social entrepreneurship alongside highly successful existing programs. The aim is to broaden the range of constituencies contributing to the Goals — recognizing that government actions remain crucial, but much more is required if the MDGs are to be achieved. (Johann Olav Koss and I have a related piece this week on Huffington Post too.)

A third important announcement came from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who stated that maternal health (MDG 5) and child survival (MDG 4) will be a major focus at this year's G8/G20 summit, which Canada is chairing in June. The MDG for maternal health is broadly recognized as the goal lagging furthest behind, and there is a major movement afoot to tackle child and maternal health through an integrated systems approach. This could be the year that MDG 5 finally gets the global policy and financial commitments it requires.

Finally, there were many positive moments during variety of side events. Some of these are captured in posts from other bloggers and journalists — see, for example, Matthew Bishop on David Cameron's ongoing support to the 0.7% ODA target at Philanthrocapitalism.net.

During a time of ongoing concern regarding global systems and the global economy, it is encouraging to see so many different types of people continue to step up in the effort against extreme poverty. The common theme is a focus on identifying success and scaling it up. Let's hope this theme continues to gain in the crucial months ahead.

Dr. John McArthur is the CEO and Executive Director of Millennium Promise. He is based in New York. Follow John on Twitter @mcarthur

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