Wrapping Up UN Week, But Not Shutting Up

September 24th, 2010 by Anjana Padmanabhan Leave a reply

Photo Credit: Wayan Vota

Its been an interesting week here in New York during UN Week. While the pace and spread of information has been frenzied, we cant deny that the use of social media has opened up the conversation about international development, global health, and philanthropy to a much larger audience of caring, concerned citizens all across the globe.  The words social good have certainly entered into my rhetoric after this week. (follow @socialgood on Twitter).

Sitting in the UN Week Digital Media Lounge all week, Ive seen this incredible dissemination of information firsthand. Passionate  digital do-gooders came to 92Y each day to make sense of all the activities happening during  UN Week and package it into 140 characters with a #UNWeekDML hashtag.  (Sidenote: Ive learned that Re-Tweeting is the best form of flattery and a direct message is a sign of an blossoming networking opportunity).

Many commitments were made this week both at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit and at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Its hard to deny that the energy is contagious; everyone is excited about the many pledges made at CGI, Bi Ki-Moons Every Woman, Every Child $40 billion announcement and virtually every countrys promise to be more transparent and mutually accountable. There are other reasons to be excited as well:

  • China in particular has stepped up in the global arena to invest in infrastructure and industry in Africa and could make tremendous strides in the fight against HIV/AIDs there and also staying on track to achieving the MDGs. Other countries with tremendous growth and emerging markets like India will soon follow suit.
  • Technology is everywhere.  Rural farmers in Africa and India are connected to mobile technology and broadband Internet. This gives the aid community a tremendous opportunity to use the power of technology for development.
  • Businesses are seeing the opportunity of investing in global health and development. Public-Private partnerships as weve seen in NTD control efforts are an effective strategy for sustainable development efforts.

However, despite all the excitement of this week, I worry about results. What will happen when the excitement dies down? Will governments keep their financial promises? Will gender-responsive budgeting really make a difference in empowering women? Is Oxfam right when they said that the MDG summit was a mirage? Its hard to judge what was really achieved this week, since it seems that much of what was announced was already in the works. 

We all know one thing. The road to achieving the MDGs will be a difficult one. We are really only on track to achieving MDG 1: Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger. With only 5 years left, its hard not to be cynical about what can be reasonably achieved.

So what can someone like me, working in communications and advocacy for a nonprofit do? I need to keep the conversation going beyond UN Week. As bloggers in the global health/development digital space its our responsibility to keep our audiences engaged on the issue once the tidal wave of excitement has died down, and all we have left is a mild hangover from too much chardonnay at the various events weve attended this week.

I came across an interesting report today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report surveyed Americans to gauge their perception of US Foreign Aid. The survey found that,

 When it comes to U.S. foreign aid in general, six in 10 Americans (61%) say the U.S. spends too much, and four in 10 incorrectly think that foreign aid is one of the two biggest areas of spending in the federal budget. In comparison, when asked about “improving health in developing countries,” 28 percent say the U.S. spends too much, while nearly two thirds say such spending is too little (23%) or about right (42%).

While many Americans still have negative views on US Foreign Aid, it is welcoming news that they are more supportive of specific efforts in improving global health. We need to continue to shift perception so that the public continues to recognize the importance of achieving the MDGs so that they too can be active advocates for change.

My time here in New York has come to an end, but you can expect me to continue blogging, tweeting, and sharing my opinions on global health and development initiatives that work. I wont be shutting up anytime soon.



  1. Divyesh Kumar says:

    nice article

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    • The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is a major advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)--a group of disabling, disfiguring, and deadly diseases affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide living on less than $1.25 a day.
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