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The Business of Giving

Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business, from the Gates Foundation to your donation. A fresh look at the economy of good intentions.

June 30, 2010 at 12:27 PM

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Local organizations weigh in on global summit failures

Posted by Kristi Heim

Next Tuesday Global Washington will release its recommendations for revamping U.S. foreign assistance from a panel of 45 local experts.

It's a good time to talk about strategies for improving aid after last weekend's meeting of G8 leaders, which many non-profit groups say failed to adequately fund basic programs to prevent the deaths of mothers and their newborns.



KIER GILMOUR/MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

Protesters demonstrate on stilts while wearing masks portraying G8 leaders in Ontario, Canada, as the summit meetings began.

Humanitarian organizations had urged leaders of the eight wealthiest nations to double their collective spending on maternal and child health to $20 billion over five years, saying the money could save a million children a year and more than 200,000 mothers.

What the group offered was $5 billion over five years, with an additional $2.3 billion from others. The Gates Foundation is picking up most of the private tab with its $1.5 billion pledge, the second largest in its history.

"With economic uncertainty and the massive Gulf oil spill taking a significant toll in the U.S., it's not a shock that President Obama and other leaders shied away from greater commitments at this summit," said Robert Zachritz, director of advocacy for Federal Way-based World Vision. But it's shortsighted, he added. "Investing in global child and maternal health yields a high return for a tiny fraction of the sums spent so far on financial bailouts."

Politicians are absorbed by the world financial crisis and other mounting problems at home, and skepticism about the effectiveness and impact of U.S. foreign assistance has grown.



SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

A highlight of the G8 meeting was the Muskoka Initiative to save 1.3 million children; a low was the funding to do it.

One lesson in all this may be that guilt doesn't work as effectively as self interest. Investments in global health in fact are an economic stimulus, argues Jack Chow, a CMU professor and former U.S. health ambassador under Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The combination of rising diseases and economic uncertainty calls for a new approach that can address both, he said.

"The G-20 leaders should recognize the connection between health and long-term economic security in both developing and developed countries," Chow argues. Healthy workers are more productive and can save more for food and medicines. Sound economies, in turn, permit greater investment in health." And, he might add, eventually buy the products that ailing economies like ours are making.

Chow suggested combining the two aims by promoting a health-jobs package for the poor, supported by alternative funding sources from the reserves of oil-rich and Asian exporting nations.

In Seattle, global health and biotechnology are important sectors that continue to add jobs in spite of the recession and inspire a generation of young people to tackle some of the world's toughest challenges.

One of the main recommendations of Global Washington is for the U.S. government to streamline the process for businesses, especially small businesses, to get involved in public-private projects designed to boost health and development in emerging markets. Trade policy should also be linked to development objectives, the Seattle non-profit argues.

Tueday's discussion will include examples of successful development partnerships in Washington state, with Sen. Maria Cantwell and Dr. Maura O'Neill, chief innovation officer at USAID, participating.

World Vision, whose foundation is faith-based, also uses economic terms to get its point across. It estimates that $15.5 billion in potential productivity is lost each year when mothers and babies die from preventable causes such as malnutrition and lack of basic health care. Each dollar invested in global health would create a $3 gain through extended healthy lifespan and faster economic growth, the organization says.

World Vision estimates it will spend $1.5 billion on child and maternal health over the next five years, making health a greater priority throughout its programs. The organization has an annual income of about $2.6 billion.

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