Saving a Generation, Within a Generation

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) addresses the high-level event of Every Woman Every Child titled “Saving Lives, Protecting Futures” on Mar. 10, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) addresses the high-level event of Every Woman Every Child titled “Saving Lives, Protecting Futures” on Mar. 10, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Valentina Ieri

Leaders from over 30 countries have come together for a two-day retreat May 14 and 15 at U.N. headquarters to reinforce their commitments to improve the health of women, children and adolescents around the world.

Government delegates, CEOs, civil society leaders, private sector partners, global advocates and U.N. agencies are meeting to respond to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for action for the U.N. Every Woman Every Child global movement, ahead of the U.N. Summit to Adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda held in September.

Opening the retreat, Ban said, “These new commitments need to demonstrate how the global health community, countries and multi-stakeholder partners can align, be fit for purpose, and forge new partnerships to deliver results. Now is the time to renew our pledge to every woman, every child, everywhere.”

The group’s goal is to come up with new strategies and mobilise action to support women, children and adolescent health, including them in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.

It is also an occasion to discuss the political support of world leaders for the updated version of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, the new roadmap which will be launched at the U.N. General Assembly in September, with a draft five-year implementation plan, in order to end all preventable deaths of women, children, and adolescents by 2030 and improving their overall health and well-being.

“Women, children and adolescents are the most powerful drivers of transformative and sustainable change,” commented Ban, adding that “Within a generation we have the historical opportunity to create a world where women, children and adolescents not only survive preventable causes, but thrive to their fullest potential.”

The Every Woman Every Child movement put into action the original Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health roadmap on how to enhance financing, strengthen policy and services for vulnerable women and children.

In March 2015, the movement published a Progress Report on the lessosn learnt from promoting a Global Strategy, and highlighting the key principles for the next version of the Global Strategy for the 2016-2030 SDGs.

Since its creation in 2010, Every Woman Every Child has been the fastest growing international movement in the history of public health, with 400 commitments to improve health of women and children around the world made by 300 partners, underlined Ban.

According to the movement, some 34 billion dollars in resources has been disbursed, translating into concrete action on the ground such as prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, access to oral rehydration therapy, improved maternal, prenatal postnatal care and vaccinations.

Overall, remarked Ban, “Maternal and child death rates have fallen in all of the 49 countries targeted by the movement.”

However, he said, “Some 800 women still die each day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. (Young people) are more vulnerable to HIV infection, sexual violence and harmful practices. […] Too many newborns do not survive even their first 24 hours of life.”

The renewed Global Strategy movement will place new attention on young people’s needs and inequalities, improving health systems and services worldwide, and on new effective ways to respond to humanitarian crises, said Ban.

“By investing in the potential of women, children and adolescents today, and over the next 15 years, we can save a generation within a generation – and benefit generations to come. But the opportunity and responsibility to act belongs to our generation, now,” Ban concluded.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Opinion: Clean Energy Access, a Major Sustainable Development Goal

Magdy Martinez-Soliman is Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UN Development Programme.

By Magdy Martinez-Soliman

The Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Forum will take place next week in New York. Success in achieving sustainable development and tackling climate change challenges requires investment in clean energy solutions.

Magdy Martinez-Soliman

Magdy Martinez-Soliman

The Millennium Development Goals were all contingent on having access to energy services. If you want to get more children into school, you need energy. To guarantee food security and manage water, you need energy. To combat HIV/AIDS and reduce maternal mortality, you need energy. The list goes on.

Poverty can be lived and measured, also, as energy poverty. The poor don’t have access, or very bad supply. In fact, about 1.3 billion people globally do not have access to electricity, and nearly three billion use harmful, polluting and unsustainable methods, such as burning wood and charcoal at home for cooking.

Not only are these methods bad for health and the environment, but they eat into time that could be spent in school or at work, limiting people’s potential – especially women’s. Expanding access to energy services therefore goes hand-in-hand with poverty eradication, gender equality and sustainable development.Many countries and cities are already moving towards low carbon, clean energy transformations. Germany, for instance, is undertaking the ‘Energiewende’, an economic watershed that aims to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

Recognising this fact, sustainable energy is already included in the current draft of the Sustainable Development Goals through Goal 7: “Ensure(s) access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.

Harnessing clean, renewable, and more efficient energy solutions will contribute not only to tackling a country’s or community’s energy challenges but also to the target of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. As it is, a significant amount of GHG emissions are generated from energy production, thus tying sustainable energy directly to the climate change negotiations.

Many countries and cities are already moving towards low carbon, clean energy transformations. Germany, for instance, is undertaking the ‘Energiewende’, an economic watershed that aims to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050; and Vancouver, in Canada, recently announced that it would shift to 100 percent renewable energy.

In both cases these are ambitious but forward-looking plans that weave together sustainable development, economic prosperity, and climate change mitigation.

What this means for the developing world

Are such transformations viable in poorer countries and cities? Energy access, efficiency and sustainability includes actions ranging from technology transfer and skills enhancements, to legal and policy changes that remove barriers and attract investments.

Over the last 20 years UNDP has developed a portfolio of more than 120 sustainable energy projects, amounting to more than 400 million dollars invested and almost one billion in co-financing. We have learned that sustainable energy is a key component in sustainable human development.

In Uruguay, UNDP, together with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), worked with the Government from 2008-2012 to remove regulatory, financial, and technical barriers to the energy market. This addressed issues that had impeded private sector investment and set off a boom in clean energy development.

Working with the National Administration of Power Plants and Energy Transmission (UTE), which manages electricity in the country, UNDP helped to refocus development on wind and renewable energy, and helped to open up a ‘space’ for private sector investors to get involved.

This included a series of ‘energy auctions’ that brought private sector partners into the energy sector, as well as technology transfers, skills training and support to identify areas with high wind-generating capacity. The end result was a strong series of public-private partnerships on renewable energy, with the Government and UTE taking the lead.

The economic case for such shifts is also clear: the 30 million dollars initially invested by the Government and partners has since triggered over two billion dollars in private sector investment. This has resulted in the establishment of 32 wind farms, of which 17 are currently in operation, and an installed capacity of 530 MW.

Once the remaining 15 farms that are under construction become operational, capacity will reach over 1500 MW, supplying over 30 percent of the country’s total electricity demand. Beyond the green-energy shift, this has also created jobs, diversified energy sources (critical when reliant on fossil fuel imports), and helped Uruguay mitigate its carbon emissions.

Supporting innovation and de-risking clean energy investments are critical to success. The SE4ALL Forum next week is a chance for the global community to not only reaffirm the need for sustainable energy (and cement its inclusion in the SDGs) but also a chance to bring together partners around the idea of “leaving no one behind” without energy.

Edited by Kitty Stapp