Melinda Gate believes Progress Is Not Inevitable


    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF recognized five “new and emerging leaders” Tuesday, whose work on issues ranging from child malnutrition to access to digital technology is helping to advance global health and antipoverty efforts.

    A Global Goals Awards ceremony kicked off a series of events taking place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that aim to bring attention to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 goals that went into effect in early 2016 and aim to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity” by 2030.

    Progress in these areas is “not inevitable,” Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Tuesday night. Last week, the Gates Foundation released “Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data,” a progress report on the SDGs, which are also known as the Global Goals.

    Though the report, which uses data projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, found countries had made significant progress on indicators like infant mortality and AIDS-related deaths, other areas, such as access to contraception, lagged behind. The report warns that a 10 percent reduction in donor funding for HIV/AIDS could lead to 5 million deaths by 2030.

    “We have more to do and we know some of the incredible leaders to help us do that work,” said Gates, who co-hosted the event with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed. The honorees were recognized for their outstanding contribution as activists and groups who have demonstrated a positive impact on people’s lives and are inspiring others to accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals).

    Bernard Coulibally, a local political leader in southern Mali, has led local initiatives that helped drastically reduce severe acute malnutrition in recent years. Colombian activist Laura Ulloa, who as a child was held hostage by FARC rebels for seven months, promotes peace and reconciliation following as her country emerges from 50 years of civil conflict.

    Ria Sharma, an Indian filmmaker and social entrepreneur, is bringing awareness to the epidemic of acid attacks against women. Marieme Jamme, who as a child was trafficked, is a tech entrepreneur who aims to enable one million women and girls to code by 2030. Felix Manyogote, a Tanzanian medical student, has launched a project to provide free maternal and newborn health services.

    Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Laureate and Africa’s first female head of state, was also honored as the Global Goalkeeper Commendation award. She pointed to political gains women have made in her country, saying that a record 164 women were competing for positions in parliament in the country’s October elections. “Liberian women [are] the ones who really hold the nation up, who provide the basic sustenance of life for the nation,” she said, referring to her country’s recovery from civil war.

    Other presenters included actor Jaden Smith and supermodel Naomi Campbell, who launched the Together band, a bracelet that aims to bring awareness to the Global Goals; YouTube star Casey Neistat talked about the power of video to mobilize viewers to act for social change; singer Lili Allen performed.

    Gates also announced Pathways of Prosperity, an initiative she says will launch next year that aims to bring together global thought leaders to study digitization around the world.


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