Today at the Global Positive Forum, policymakers, civil society, corporations and figures of influence will gather in Paris to promote a new trajectory for sustainable global growth and positive change around the world. The past few years have brought a series of unpredictable events that have shaken the status quo, unveiling a level of fragility and ineffectiveness that seem unprecedented in the 21st century. Gaping gender inequality and poor maternal healthcare are symptomatic of the inadequate system of global governance that is failing the people it serves, and are two of the issues that will addressed at today’s Forum.
The past decade has been witness to a host of initiatives and commitments tackling these issues, and there has been some positive change. For example, maternal deaths have 44% fallen worldwide since 1990, and the percent of women giving birth with the support of a skilled birth attendant has risen by 12 percent in the same timeframe. Birth rate among adolescent girls has declined, and contraception usage in the developing world is higher now than ever before, with 64% of 15-49-year-old women – whether married or in some form of union – using contraception. Contraception avoids unwanted births, facilitates birth spacing and allows greater resources being dedicated to a child, providing them with better opportunities in life.
Elsewhere, more girls than ever are going to school, and 76% of girls and women worldwide are now literate. What’s more, opportunities have opened up in many countries, spanning Nigeria to Nepal, and the gender stereotype of a woman has to some extent evolved to incorporate greater financial independence and a wider range of social liberties previously restricted to women.
Yet, it would be naïve to consider this wholly a success story. Although the global average has undoubtedly improved, the gap between rich and poor has grown in the field of maternal and new-born care. This is a trend we see throughout most development indices: although global progress has been made, the world’s poorest continue to suffer, and alarmingly, the disparity between the developed and developing world is growing. A woman’s lifetime risk of dying during childbirth is now 100-times greater in developing countries, which account for 99% of all maternal deaths. Of these, around 63% occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
Maternal and neonatal deaths are easily preventable – for example, the presence of a skilled assistant reduces the risk of maternal death and stillbirths by 20%, and every year 1.5 million children die unnecessarily from vaccine-preventable illnesses. Yet the current global norm does not cater for the world’s poorest, and despite rapid advancements across all aspects of development, billions of people will never experience these benefits first-hand.
It is this that provides the motivation for affirmative global change. The Global Positive Forum is a chance for the international community to tackle pervasive issues, such as maternal health and gender inequality, via a different approach, offering solutions through an alternate lens. The current system is failing, and every unnecessary maternal death and illiterate girl is testament to these failings. It is for these people – the victims of the current global order – that we gather together in Paris to create a change to serve all. The Global Positive Forum presents an opportunity for leaders and policymakers to explore new models of development that are inclusive and sustainable, providing tangible solutions to gender inequality, maternal mortality, and beyond.