Businesses and U.N. policymakers working together

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I gave a short talk today at Thomson Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf about what businesses are doing to help contribute to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was part of a session organized by a group called Business in the Community titled “CSR in Asia and how business is making positive development impacts in the region”.

I was asked to speak to the group because I had covered the MDG summit in the fall. I thought the group would find the outlined strategy and the combination of philanthropy and business interesting.

The keynote speaker was Richard Welford, chairman of CSR Asia. David Boyd-Thomas, head of  corporate responsibility for Asia Pacific UBS spoke about approaches, strategies and projects having an impact on CSR Asia.

At the end of my talk I showed them a video of the interview with Nando’s South Africa director Charles Sherwin, and passed around the United Against Malaria bracelet Nando’s used for fundraising — I still had the package it came in so I was able to show them that too.

Here is the talk:

Last autumn, I was sent on assignment to the United Nations in New York, to cover the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit as a social-media journalist for AlertNet, the Thomson Reuters Foundation news website, which covers wars, conflict, natural disasters, food and health emergencies.

The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, are 8 goals established by the U.N. in 2000 to be achieved by 2015 intended to improve the standard of living for the world’s poor.

Numbered 1 to 8, they include aspirations to end poverty and hunger; provide universal education, achieve gender equality; improve child health; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; achieve environmental sustainability; and create a global partnership, which means improving trading and financial systems for and with developing countries.

During the three-day meeting I attended many events. One thing I observed was U.N. policymakers and business people working together in various ways towards achieving the MDGs.

One side-event I attended that provides a good example of this type of collaboration was a meeting of business people at the Harvard Club in Manhattan,  who had contributed to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — or MDG 6.

I interviewed David Hayward Evans, head of private-sector partnerships at the Global Fund, which is a financing body. It’s an independent organization, governed by an international board made up of representatives from donor and recipient governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and affected communities.

Since 2002, the Global Fund has become the main financier of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with approved funding of $21.7 billion for more than 600 programs in 150 countries, according to its website.

The Global Fund provides an opportunity for businesses to help try and meet MDG 6, to help try and wipe out diseases which are ravaging the developing world at huge human and economic cost. About 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of 5, according to Evans. And AIDS is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Global Fund takes the view that health is an important part of setting the stage for development, allowing people to build wealthy and prosperous societies.

Evans was also promoting Gift From Africa, one of many ventures operating under the umbrella of the Global Fund to encourage the African private sector to contribute money to the Fund and help implement its programs.

Evans said that donor governments want to see private sector involvement in the countries to which they are contributing money because it demonstrates a wide commitment to tackling these diseases and promotes efficiency and effectiveness. Donor governments also want to hear voices from the countries where grants are implemented.

In other words, the private sector puts money down to show it thinks health programs are important. In this case it was $3 million.

I interviewed representatives from Nigeria’s Access Bank, which donated $1 million, and from Ghana’s Cirrus Energy, which donated  $100,000 to Gift From Africa.

I also interviewed Sherwin Charles, director of Nando’s South Africa, who was there representing United Against Malaria, a campaign that also channelled its earnings into the Global Fund. His firm came up with a creative approach to raising money through selling beaded bracelets.

I thought you might want to watch this three minute video:

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