MDG Summit: And the winner is…
Friday 24 September 2010
Heading home at last from New York. As I wait for BA188 to Heathrow (seat 34H, in case you were wondering) here are my top ten heroes from a week of excitement, nervous tension and cautious (OK, very cautious) celebration at the outcome of the UN Summit. Cue the music. Here goes…
At Number 10: Luca de Fraia. Luca is my friend who runs Action Aid in Italy and a stalwart of the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns. Luca told me he was in a meeting with various government representatives and other campaign leaders at the UN when the government minister sitting next to him (whose identity and nationality will have to remain undisclosed) turned on him and said “you are a disgrace.
You have no credibility here whatsover.” Evidently this minister thought our Luca was working for Silvio Berlucsconi’s government, best known around here for its miserable record of broken promises on aid to the poorest countries. Hats off to poor Luca, who certainly took one for the team (and it wasn’t even his team). And an honorary mention to that unnamed minister whose intentions, at least, were good.
At Number 9: Ian Wright. No, not the cheeky-chappie footballer-turned-TV-pundit — Ian Wright the New-York based artist. Ian is the genius who created our installation that was on display in Grand Central station and was visited by Claire Danes and countless other big-hearted New Yorkers on Monday.
The artwork was made up of thumbprints from some of the three million people who have taken action worldwide as part of our EVERY ONE campaign. I must admit to being slightly taken aback when I met Ian. I had in my mind a particular idea of what a New York based artist would be like, and Ian certainly looked the part. But when he opened his mouth to speak I realised that he in fact comes from London, and if I closed my eyes I could have been talking to — well, the cheeky-chappie footballer-turned-TV-pundit, I guess…
At Number 8: Dr Abhay Bang. Dr Bang’s story of achieving a dramatic reduction in the deaths of children and mothers in his home district of Gadchiroli in rural India captivated audiences here all week. It all comes down to trained and equipped health workers in every village. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense, and if we can do it there, we must do it everywhere. Thank you Dr B — Save the Children was proud to bring you to New York and proud to be associated with you and your brilliant work.
At number 7, its a joint effort: First up, Michael Klosson, the former US ambassador and now Save the Children’s policy chief in Washington DC. Late on Wednesday afternoon, the team were in the office trying to agree on the thing that we could do the following day that would capture a bit of interest on the last day of the summit and help us get our message across.
We knew what we wanted to say — that the progress so far towards the Millennium Development Goals was too slow and that they needed to pick up the pace in the months ahead if they are to have a chance of reaching the goals and saving millions of women’s and children’s lives. What could we give to the leaders, and to the media and others, that would help get this point across?
For a while we were stuck on sweatbands — but they were too expensive, and just didn’t feel right. Too Flashdance. Then we thought about bottles of water or Powerade or something — but realised that trying to get large quantities of liquids past UN security might just set off the odd alarm.
And just as our enthusiasm began to wane, Michael — who had hitherto been apparently totally immersed in his laptop and some in-depth briefing on US government nutrition policy, looked up over his spectacles and said only two words: “Energy bars.” Genius. The team swung into action and within a few hours, 500 Hersheys bars had been suitably re-designed and were being placed in the hands of the British Deputy Prime Minister and influential figures across the United Nations complex. Hooray for the policy guy — and for policy guys everywhere. We love you all.
And joining him at number 7 – as a surprise entry really: the mysterious masked man who raced across New York City as dawn broke on Thursday. Helping Save the Children get across that message that world leaders need to give themselves a burst of political energy, and armed only with the strange substance that is American chocolate, our tall, black-clad hero sprinted (OK, sort of shuffled quickly, with a slightly wobbly gait) past the city’s famous landmarks and delivered our specially-adapted high-energy bar right to the very heart of power.
It looked like something out of a movie. So, we made one. Sir, whoever you were, wherever you are now, we salute you. And special thanks to the brilliant Liz “Orson Wells” Scarff, who made the film.
Right. I need to hurry up a bit. At Number 6: Peter Singer. The author of The Life You Can Save spoke on a Save the Children platform on Wednesday and moved hearts and minds with his passionate call for each of us to do what we can. If you ever needed help getting over the doubts that get in the way of generosity to the world’s most vulnerable kids, watch his amazing video at www.thelifeyoucansave.com. It made me cry – and it doesn’t even have any pictures in it.
Into the top 5, and at 5 – it’s @mummytips, aka my video blog partner Sian To. Sian and the British mummybloggers went to Bangladesh a couple of weeks ago and then she came here to tell her story. Well done Sian for getting in front of just about everyone who mattered — and for making our videoblogging so much fun. It wasn’t quite the One Show, more the No Show… but it was fun. Thanks Sian for joining our team. And while I’m on it: the Save the Children team from many countries who made this week happen are all complete heroes, too often unsung. So thank you (deep breath) Fiona, Margaret, Patrick, David, Hadiza, Francesco, Anna, Ben, Cicely, Tanya, Andrew, Wendy, Liz, Steve, Ceri, Sue, Tul, Tricia, Tara, Candace, Michael, Desmond, Gorel, and especially Rachel who did the late shifts back in London and missed all the chocolate.
At Number 4, a surprise entry – it’s Justin Bieber. The pre-teen heart-throb pop star has been with me all week — although I left him in my hotel room most of the time. It all began when I passed a street stall selling life-size autographed celebrity pictures on the first evening. My nine-year-old daughter had told me that if I saw Justin Bieber I should get his autograph. I didn’t think twice — and I am now sitting in Departures at Newark airport with Justin, too large to fit in my case, staring plaintively across the terminal. And yes, people are definitely staring back.
Getting serious now: Number 3 is Nthabiseng Tshabalala. 12-year-old Nthabiseng is a schoolgirl from Soweto and an ambassador for the 1GOAL Education for All campaign. I met her when I was there during the World Cup. She flew from South Africa to tell world leaders they have to do a lot more to give every child the chance to go to school like her. She is brave, clever and funny and every time she spoke here, the room would get to its feet. Nthabiseng, you’re a star.
At Number 2, credit where credit’s due: it’s UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He didn’t have to do this. He decided there should be a special UN session on the Millennium Development Goals and personally led a specific initiative on women’s and children’s health. The result of that was a Global Strategy mapping out a direction for the next five years.
It isn’t perfect — some governments were pretty shocking in their failure to contribute - and the test of it is in how much actually gets delivered — but it is a whole lot better than nothing (which is what we would have got, if Mr Ban hadn’t been bothered).
And finally, at Number 1: there can only be one winner. Well, actually, there are three million winners. Yes, it’s YOU – and all the rest of the 3,029,659 who’ve taken action in more than 50 countries for the EVERY ONE campaign to save children’s lives. People have marched, run, knitted, donated, petitioned, thumbprinted, shouted, danced, all to help the campaign achieve it’s goal — to get the world on track to achieving its promise to save 15 million lives by 2015.
Together we told leaders we wanted them to focus on that challenge at this summit and agree a strategy for meeting it. They have come, focused, and produced a strategy. Now there can be no excuse for failure. We KNOW this goal is achievable — but we also know the hard work starts here. Each one of those leaders who came here this week must now hear our voices loud and clear, and many more too.
Let’s make saving the lives of children and their mothers the world’s great shared mission of the next few years — bringing together governments, international institutions, organisations like Save the Children (we’ve made our own commitments to save many more lives, so hold us to that), faith groups, business, health professionals, celebrities, schools and individual citizens around the world. We had a tough job in New York this week, but we just about made it. And you know what they say in New York: if we can make it there… It’s up to you…