The Buzz Around U.N. Week

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Arogya World

by Nalini Saligram, Founder and CEO of Arogya World

What an incredible experience last week was, as world leaders gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, as they do every September. Climate Change was of course at the top of the agenda—spearheaded by the People’s Climate March on Sunday (September 21), with 300,000 people marching in New York and other places around the world demanding action for a sustainable future, a stable economy and a greener, healthier planet.

I had the privilege of attending three key meetings last week including the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 10th Annual Meeting (September 21-24), the Social Good Summit (September 21) and key meetings at the United Nations on September 25.

CGI did not disappoint. As in the past, this meeting brought together powerful world leaders, the private sector, and non-profits, nurturing and encouraging them to together make commitments to improve the world. At Arogya World, we have leveraged the global platform offered by CGI multiple times. Pithy and insightful comments were made this year by World Bank President Jim Kim (who called for evidence-based optimism), China entrepreneur and billionaire Jack Ma (who believes being seriously rich is a serious responsibility), and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who while on stage unforgettably proceeded to calculate fair compensation for a housewife and stay-at-home mother, hour after hour, day after day. This point—that women’s unpaid work should count in the world economy—really struck me.

This was also one of the key insights from our 10,000 women’s survey on the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We launched the report at a panel discussion on September 23 on which I was invited to participate, along with Rabin Martin’s Jeff Sturchio, the American Cancer Society’s Sally Cowal, and Vitality’s Derek Yach. Sally unveiled the NCD+ campaign, which encouraged all to wear a T-shirt she charmingly modeled, declaring that we are “NCD positive,” and that we care. The Hult Prize competition at CGI also touched on NCDs this year—it was wonderful to watch the presentations from the different student teams. We congratulate the Indian School of Business for winning the coveted $1 million prize for their diabetes project NanoHealth. Inspiration came from many quarters at CGI, but the biggest jolt of all for me came from President Clinton himself who, in his closing remarks, gave all attendees an unforgettable pat on the back in his unique and inimitable way.

The Social Good Summit also had incredible energy and many great moments. But what stood out for me was the session on conflict minerals and how the CEO of Intel and a college girl could today use their own platforms and their reach to reduce our dependence on minerals from the conflict-ridden Republic of Congo. Bold actions. Inspiring stories.

And finally, I was pleased I could attend two major U.N. meetings last Thursday. At the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Advocates meeting in the morning, the world took stock of the progress made against the MDGs. Reflecting on the comments from the many world leaders that morning and on reading the Millennium Development Goals Report 2014, it was heartening to note that the world has made remarkable strides against poverty. At the “ Every Woman, Every Child” meeting that afternoon, promises were renewed to do all we can to end maternal and child deaths in a generation. Of all the big announcements made last week, perhaps one of the most innovative and far-reaching is the establishment of the Global Financing Facility to advance women’s and children’s health.

It was exciting for me as a global health advocate to see the passion of so many people, not just the leaders, but also the attendees, at the various meetings last week—how they are willing to truly engage in world issues, how they confront tough challenges, and come up with new and innovative solutions and partnerships. I am glad my generation has risen to the occasion and is doing its best to leave the world a better place for future generations. I am glad my work at Arogya World is giving me a front-row seat to watch many of these awe-inspiring developments.