A strong message has been sent to G8 leaders this month: it's time to stand and deliver for the world's women and children. And the host country Canada is listening. This year's G8 Summit will focus on the needs of the most impoverished women and children, and it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.
The recent Women Deliver conference had over 3,000 attendees from 146 countries and produced 295 pieces of media. Melinda Gates announced at the conference that The Gates Foundation is committing $1.5 billion to child and maternal health, and the US government has committed to increasing resources for the world's women and children as well.
For far too long, women have been left off the global agenda. So although it seems like this is a time for celebration, caution should be the watch word of the day. Sadly, as the world advances its pledge to women's and children's health care, resources are often taken from other accounts to pay for it. In the US we are already seeing a flat-lining of critical AIDS funding through our PEPFAR account that, in addition to providing life-saving AIDS treatment and HIV prevention services to people throughout the developing world, also supports millions of orphans and vulnerable children worldwide.
What is clear is that the outcomes for maternal and child health are inextricably linked to other social indicators such as the mother's level of education, the fight against HIV/AIDS, gender equity and the rest of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As the G8 and G20 deliberate over what commitments will be made to the world's poor, undoubtedly they will be wrapped in this time-bound package of goals.
In September we will have just 5 years left to achieve the MDGs, If we are to achieve these goals, the global community, led by the United States, will need to financially commit to ensuring that all boats rise together. We can't sacrifice AIDS or education funding for an increase in child and maternal health without understanding that we may see a momentary victory only to be followed by still more devastating poverty and death.
Although incredibly well intentioned, it is not enough to vaccinate children against the leading killers of the day like pneumonia, diarrhea and measles only to lose them to AIDS because we failed to provide the social vaccine of a quality education -- one of those key prevention tools we have to halt the spread of the epidemic.
The true power of the MDGs is not in their individuality, but in their wholeness -- if we fail in just one area, we could fail in all. But these goals are not some utopian dream, they are real and they are achievable.
We have everything we need -- the technology, the know-how, and yes, the resources. What we lack is the political will to hold our leaders accountable. And although the G8 and G20 leaders are the ones who will make the promises, it is the political will of the people that will ensure their success. In the words of a true children's champion, former UNICEF Executive Director James Grant, once said, "Each of the great social achievements of recent decades has come about not because of government proclamations, but because people organized, made demands, and made it good politics for governments to respond. It is the political will of the people that makes and sustains the political will of governments."
So as the G8 and G20 proclamations begin to flow, let us call on these great leaders to boldly increase funding to ensure vulnerable mothers and children receive the support they need, while holding them accountable for past promises made to achieve the full breadth of the MDGs by 2015.
And for ourselves, let us all remember that changing the course of history will take more than proclamations and promises. It is going to take all of us, from all countries around the world, to stand up and make it "good politics for governments to respond."
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