PMNCH release: Davos event explores business leadership to advance MDGs 4 & 5

28 JANUARY 2011| DAVOS, Switzerland

Mrs Singh and Mr Shivinder Singh, CEO Fortis; Mr Paul Stoeffels, CEO J&J Pharmaceuticals & Mrs Stoeffels ; Ms Barbara Bulc; Mr Tore Godal, Special Adviser to Prime Minister, Norway
Mrs Singh and Mr Shivinder Singh, CEO Fortis; Mr Paul Stoeffels, CEO J&J Pharmaceuticals & Mrs Stoeffels ; Ms Barbara Bulc; Mr Tore Godal, Special Adviser to Prime Minister, Norway

World leaders at a special event at the World Economic Forum called on private-sector businesses and partnerships to join the ranks of those fighting to improve maternal and child health in low-income countries. The event, in support of the UN Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, was attended by more than 100 leaders from global companies and organizations as well as the Prime Minister of Norway, President of Tanzania, and heads of UN organizations including UN Women and the WHO.

The Davos event was organized by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary General, the Government of Norway, the UN Foundation and PMNCH. In support of the UN Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, participants at the event outlined opportunities in 2011 and beyond for business leaders to advance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with milestone events in June in Oslo and September in New York. The Global Strategy seeks to mobilize resources and, among other things, to catalyze public-private partnerships to prevent the deaths of millions of women, newborns and children.

At the event

The event's speakers included Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister of Norway; Jakaya Kikwete, the president of Tanzania; Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Dr Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women and former president of Chile; Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General to the UN; Dr Paul Stoffels, CEO of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals; John Davies, head of Intel’s World Ahead Program; and Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, who moderated the event.

The event was attended by more than a hundred leaders and representatives from private-sector companies such as Intel, Novartis, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nestle, Fortis Healthcare, KPMG, Omnicom Group, Siemens, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey, Accenture, FTI Consulting, and Nike. The event also welcomed leaders from non-profit organizations such as Ad Council, Save The Children, World Vision International, The Nature Conservancy, and Amnesty International; foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; leading government development agencies including USAID and NORAD; and leading academic experts, including Jeffrey Sachs and Joanna Rubenstein.

Quotes of note

Speakers thanked national governments, especially Norway and Tanzania, for their leadership and continued support of the UN's Global Strategy for Women and Children. They also praised the important efforts of companies that have already pledged their support for the Global Strategy for Women and Children.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete

"The Global Strategy was the proper guide, the way forth. But the guide itself would have been nothing without funding. The contributions that were made will save the lives of women and children that die of causes that can be prevented, causes that can be treated."

Paul Stoffels, CEO of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals

"We have a responsibility to contribute to a future in which women and children have the latest knowledge, technology and medicines to support good health."

Margaret Chan, Director General WHO and Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General to the UN

Speaking on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, Dr Margaret Chan and Robert Orr noted that progress towards accomplishing better healthcare for women and children has been slow: approximately 500,000 women and almost 10 million children still die every year, largely of preventable causes.

Margaret Chan, Director General WHO

Dr Chan argued that the world needs increased support from the private sector as well as from low-income countries in order to achieve the MDGs 4 & 5: "We need to look to you for innovation, for vaccines, medicines, making them accessible…we are with you; we will work with you. The next phase, for all of us, is action. Because we don't have much time," said Dr Chan.

Corporate commitments and strategies

In September 2010, Johnson & Johnson made a commitment to reach 120 million women and children in low-income countries over the span of five years, through avenues including grants, medicine donations, and research and development. Other companies--almost twenty global corporations so far--have developed innovative strategies in developing countries to improve maternal and child health by raising awareness and contributing to the fight against substandard healthcare for women and children through delivery of products, services, health education programs and innovative partnerships.

These strategies include new partnerships such as mHealth Alliance, which aims to increase access to healthcare for women in rural areas through use of mobile technology. Several companies such as Intel, Siemens, Novartis, PwC and Fortis, which are already committed to improving maternal and child health, are currently looking into new innovations and technologies that would expand the reach of healthcare, improve access, and ultimately help countries achieve the MDGs for women and children.