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Reflections from the UN DCF Special Policy Dialogue

Posted By WINGS, Thursday, May 2, 2013

Millennium Development Goals:
Taking stock, scaling up, reaching out

By Christopher de la Torre


A Special Policy Dialogue hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on 23 April brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in the sector to brainstorm new ideas for advancing global development beyond the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2015 target date. WINGS co-organised the event with ECOSOC, UNDP, UNDESA, and the OECD Global Network of Foundations Working for Development (net-FWD).

MDGs form a blueprint to mobilise efforts to improve the lives of the world's economic poor, and range from halving extreme poverty rates and containing the spread of HIV/AIDS to providing universal primary education.

The goals are ambitious but necessary, and success dictates an increase in transparency and collaboration across sectors. It was clear during the one-day meeting how much work is left to do to achieve these goals, yet a general sense of optimism characterised the exchange—this in the face of limited resources and a seemingly unsurmountable store of global data. Salient themes included partnerships, scaling up, accountability, measurements, and innovation.

The first session, moderated by Matthew Bishop of The Economist, looked at what has and hasn't worked thus far. Bishop rebranded coalition as posse—an ad hoc group that forms around a specific issue—underscoring how success in the field hinges on key partnerships and collaborative efforts.

Sigrid Kaag (UNDP) believes that "partnership is about having a shared vision and agreeing on a way forward," and to Dr. Gannet El Samalouty (Sawiris Foundation for Social Development), addressing global development challenges is a shared responsibility that demands a more complex architecture of cooperation. Sundaa Bridgett-Jones (Rockefeller Foundation) described a "forward-looking posture" regarding support for innovations, and emphasised the need to think differently about how development is done, citing The Bellagio Initiative as one example of how innovation value chains can both unlock the potential of private capital and influence policy.

Everyone wants to be catalytic but we must ask, 'who wants to be the substrate?' Tatiana Filgueiras, Ayrton Senna Foundation

The second session, moderated by WINGS Board Member Barbara Ibrahim, focused on innovation and scaling up. Ibrahim described innovation as coming about in one of two ways: during thoughtful reflection following failure, or when it is forced upon us, as with the Arab Spring. Field hospitals that sprung up overnight at Tahrir Square in Cairo were good examples of how crowdsourcing can be beneficial. In this case, activists used text messages to mobilise critical supplies, demonstrating the value of harnessing human capital during a crisis. (The method worked so well, Egypt has since formalised it.)

As the discussion continued, crowdsourcing turned to data, and human capital to innovation. David Lynn (Wellcome Trust) discussed medical tech innovations in India, including a new tablet being trialed and software apps for online storage, decision support and reporting. Jeffrey Falkenstein (The Foundation Center) explained that a lack of global standards has alienated philanthropy from the Big Data space, suggesting that organisations learn how to give data as well as receive it, further emphasising the role of transparency in building partnerships that work. Tatiana Filgueiras (Ayrton Senna Foundation) added, "Everyone wants to be catalytic but we must ask, 'who wants to be the substrate?'"

Interim discussions were lively. Neelam Makhijani (The Resource Alliance) felt that philanthropy should not be seen as separate from development, but instead as a development index. Edmund J. Cain (Conrad Hilton Foundation), Nick Deychakiwsky (Charles Stewart Mott Foundation) and others weighed in. Speakers also included Graham Macmillan (Citi Foundation) and Navid Hanif (UNDESA). UN ECOSOC President H.E. Néstor Osorio opened the meeting with Thomas Stelzer (UNDESA) and Sigrid Kaag (UNDP).

Adding to the overall success of the day, WINGS joined a live tweeting event, using #phil2015 to share real-time comments and resources from the panel, and exchange questions with others on Twitter. I came away from the event with a deeper appreciation of the scope of the Millennium Development Goals, and of global philanthropy in general. Navid Hanif (UNDESA) closed with a reminder that the United Nations is fully committed to fostering a shared understanding across sectors. This gives me big hope for the future.

Our Knowledge Generation & Dissemination programme is committed to promoting data and information as powerful tools for the development of philanthropy worldwide. Christopher de la Torre is the Managing Editor for WINGS.

Tags:  Bellagio Initiative  Foundation Center  Resource Alliance  staff notes  UN 

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