As we come to the end of a tumultuous 2016 there can’t be many people who fail to recognise the historic nature of democratic decisions taken this year. From Brexit to Trump’s election, the rise of populism will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future. For those of us fighting inequality and injustice and who have asked the question over the years ‘just how much inequality can a society take before people fight back?’ we have our answer. People have fought back through the ballot boxes, swayed by inaccurate information and false promises. Their votes will have far reaching implications.
Here at Oshun we had another terrifically busy year. Issues around education, water and sanitation, conflict, youth and early childhood learning dominated our year. We had some brilliant successes, our partner charity Out of the Box Partnerships built a wonderful adventure playground in Addis Ababa (see below). Our work on the Global Investment Fund for Water continues to gather momentum. And, we worked on numerous political events at the World Humanitarian Summit, Women Deliver, UNGA, Global Partnerships for Effective Development in Nairobi and many more.
Here are the highlights:
Early years matter…
Finally the development community has woken up to the critical importance of a child’s early years if a child is to reach her potential. Children need the right nutrition, to feed their fast growing bodies and brains. A malnourished child will be cognitively impaired, this is irreversible by the age of around 4 years. Young minds thrive when they are stimulated and their bodies cared for. Trauma in early years can have dramatic long-term impacts on mental health. The greatest challenge is bringing all these factors together. Our contribution to this fascinating work has been on education. Children learn in many ways, but play is an essential component, enabling a child to develop fine and gross motor skills, build relationships and learn to take risks.
Oshun has partnered with Out of the Box Partnerships from the outset and are delighted to have supported the first adventure playground in Addis Ababa (outside of the Sherton Hotel grounds!). Sally Duncan’s work delivering this project has been an inspiration. The faces of the children in Balderas Condominium say it all. We are now working on plans for an early years centre on the site and two more playgrounds will be constructed in 2017. Please do get in touch if you would like more information about ways to support this fun and exciting project.
Educated girls, healthy women…
The triennial Women Deliver Summit in Copenhagen in May was an impressive event, bringing together over 169 countries. The focus was on women’s health, however, education is the key to achieving better health outcomes, especially for girls. An educated girl is more likely to marry later and have fewer, healthier children. A literate mother is more able to support her children’s learning journey. Better education is essential to the achievement of better health outcomes. Working for the Global Partnership for Education and their Board Chair, Julia Gillard, we organised a series of side events linking education and health including in emergency environments and in for children with disabilities. With our production partner, Vivace, we also organised a fantastic exhibition stand, which quickly turned into a film location for everyone from the cast of Glee to Sesame Street!
Children in emergencies need education too…
Hot on the heels of Women Deliver, we were at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The first UN Summit of its kind brought leaders from across the globe to discuss the challenges of delivering support to the world’s most vulnerable citizens. Never has there been a greater need for diplomatic efforts to come together with development and humanitarian assistance. Fragmentation is inefficient and resources are insufficient. We need to work together more effectively. It is not clear that WHS succeeded in creating greater coherence, though public pronouncements rarely do justice to the decisions taken in the margins.
However, there was one headline did jump out. Children living in emergency situations have a right to education too. The launch of Education Cannot Wait was a culmination of a 4-year strategic endeavor (a lifetime for many of course) to get education on the humanitarian agenda. Education is not water, food or shelter, but a child denied an education, living a childhood in a war zone, will surely struggle to reach their potential. Education offers a natural bridge between the development and humanitarian communities. The average time a person is a refugee is 17 years – an entire childhood. These years cannot be replayed later in life so finding a way to educate children living in the most challenging environments is critical.
Alongside the launch of ECW, we hosted a public meeting to discuss the challenges children in Africa face. Attended by the Presidents of Somalia and Mali, former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Gordon Brown, and a former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique, Graça Machel, who authored the seminal report on the impact of armed conflict on children in 1996 this was a lively and engaging debate.
For those of us who have seen man-made tragedy on epic scales, sometimes it is the magnitude of loss and atrocity that stays with us. Sometimes it is simply an individual face that is imprinted on our minds forever. I cannot gloss over 2016 without pausing to reflect on the senseless murder of Jo Cox. The development community is small and close knit. I worked with Jo on the launch of Every Woman, Every Child in 2010, and with Brendan, her husband on numerous campaigns. Many great words have been written about her tenacity, humility and great humour. I’ll be supporting the Great Get Together this June, in honour of her memory. The Jo Cox Foundation is already delivering terrific projects too, I urge you to support it and remember, ‘We Are Far More United Than The Things That Divide Us’.
As we turned in to summer, the Girls’ Education Forum took over our lives. Working with DFID we created a dynamic and engaging event. Nyradzayi Gumbodzvanda, rallied the audience and we were left in no doubt that gender equality is the key to unlocking development.
Water, water everywhere…
This year saw our second outing to World Water Week in Stockholm. Great ideas often take a while to come to fruition and WWW is where they get tested. We have been working on the Global Investment Fund for Water concept over the last year. This year we gained the support of the Rockefeller Foundation to undertake technical analysis on the viability of a micro-levy on bottled water sales globally. With 376 billion litres of bottled water sold globally every year, and a growing market, a levy of 1 cent/ litre could yield an income stream of $3bn! Even a fraction of this could make an incredible difference to the lives of those lacking access to clean water and sanitation.
With the technical analytics in place we are now engaged in a process generating support from the industry and other key stakeholders. The signs are looking good that 2017 will see an important step forward in innovative finance for WASH.
UN Sustainable Development Goals… year 1
UNGA 71 felt very much like the sleeves were rolled up and it was down to business. The honeymoon following the agreement the SDGs last year is over. Now it’s time for delivery. This was my 10th UNGA in a row (with a few more besides). The form has certainly changed over the years. It is now all about the margins events.
We organised a meeting on Partnerships with the UNSG’s Office attended by Aung San Su Kyi, State Councilor and de facto President of Myanmar, and President Bachlet of Chile. Bringing together partners working on education, WASH, health, nutrition seems so natural, yet the work breaking down these sector silos is really in its infancy.
I attended the Concordia Summit for the first time. It’s very US focused and has a completely different feel to the UN meetings. Had attendees known the outcome of the impending Presidential elections I think the tone would have been a very different one. Looking forward to going again next year. 2016 saw the last Clinton Global Initiative meeting, a shame in many ways as it has offered an accessible platform for business. I hope something will fill that void, business is such a critical partner for the SDG agenda.
Partnerships… a fitting end to the year…
The 2nd High Level Meeting on Development Effectiveness convened in Nairobi in November. This group has been tasked by the UN to work on the development effectiveness agenda, taking forward the Paris Agreement.
It was a natural fit for GPE’s partnership with the UNSG’s Office, SUN Alliance, SWA Partnership and Every Woman, Every Child to come together again. We launched the Partnership Playbook, a commitment to a set of principles around cooperation.
I hope we see more of these collaborative efforts moving forwards. This has been a divisive year, where political beliefs have created rifts globally, within countries, within families. Let’s hope that we see a resurgence in partnership and collaboration in 2017.