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Published on 6 December 2010

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Novartis Foundation symposium

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Experts have been discussing “10 years of Millennium Development Goals – Progress to date and the road ahead” at this year’s symposium of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development in Basel.

International representatives of the UN, NGOs and private sector are taking stock of progress and presenting ways to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

The symposium continues the dialogue started at the Millennium Summit in New York in September 2010, where the UN reviewed progress and looked ahead to the five years left for realizing the MDGs.

Special Advisor to the UN for the MDGs Jeffrey Sachs will report in Basel on the current status of implementation.

While encouraging progress has been made – for instance, the proportion of the world population living in poverty has fallen, more children now attend school than before, and many people have access to clean drinking water – there is still much to be done: the reduction in the mortality rates for mothers and children is insufficient to achieve the targets set by 2015.

The aim of the Novartis Foundation symposium is not just to take stock, but also to come up with specific proposals for the remaining five years.

For instance, using an actual project in Tanzania as an example, Flora Kessy and Salim Abdulla are showing interventions that can be used to improve access to healthcare, particularly for mothers and children.

Responsibility for achieving the MDGs lies primarily with governments, emphasizes Eveline Herfkens, founder of the UN millennium campaign.

The main focuses of the MDGs – and hence the key tasks of national authorities – are education, health and a fair economic system, she notes.

Alongside governments, international organizations and NGOs, the private sector must also play its part.

“The healthcare industry is part of the solution to the global challenges we face,” says Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, in his opening address.

“The Novartis access-to-medicine programs reached almost 80m  patients around the world in 2009. This is an important contribution to achieving the health-related development goals.”

The speakers agree that all actors must work in concert to achieve the goals.

Amir Dossal, Founder of the Global Partnerships Forum, will illustrate the strategies the United Nations pursues to promote new models of partnership between the UN, NGOs, private donors and business.

Klaus M. Leisinger, President and Managing Director of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, will describe what is needed if such multi-stakeholder partnerships are to function effectively.

Hans Rosling, Professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, is providing a historical perspective on the MDGs and will illustrate the statistical errors that may occur when setting such specific targets.

Finally, Gesine Schwan of the German Social Democratic Party, a well-known German political expert and President of the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA School of Governance, is introducing a new aspect.

The former candidate to the German presidency will explore the question of whether society in industrialized countries – and not merely in developing countries – should agree on a specific goals aimed at social and economic development.

Novartis Foundation



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