By Mike Wisheart, World Vision International
In a country with an abundant supply of fresh food, five-year-old Asha is lucky to be alive. A lack of awareness and access to the right nutrition at the right time in rural Tanzania robbed her of her sight, but thankfully not her life.
Despite global progress in the last 15 years, millions of children like Asha still die or suffer life-long effects of poverty and under-nutrition every year. Out of sight, out of reach, out of mind, they are the often-invisible victims of two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’ failings – aiming to halve extreme poverty has seen a job half done; and measuring success through averages has failed to close the gaps in countries where the most vulnerable children live, and die.
The post-2015 framework must not only build on the MDGs’ success, but go much further to finish the job, ensuring that invisible and unreached children feel the benefits of global development progress.
World Vision believes the next set of goals must aim for zero; zero preventable deaths, zero violence against children, zero under-nutrition. We believe that achieving this is possible, but not by doing more of the same. New and innovative approaches are needed.
Like the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, World Vision is committed to identifying practical actions to implement the post-2015 development goals. It is vital that the process gives significant consideration to how the new goals will be achieved, and in particular to engaging businesses as partners.
Creating and strengthening links between groups who may have traditionally been seen as strange bedfellows is one way to achieve this. For example, partnerships between government and business, or other private sector actors and civil society, or between government, private sector and UN agencies, will help maximise development successes.
World Vision is already involved in cross-sector partnerships at various levels. Nearly 2,000 frontline staff are working in a programme to systemically build and strengthen capacity for brokering collaborations. They are full of praise for the approach. “It builds ownership, capacity and contribution of resources,” said one. And another: “The response to our new approach has been overwhelming. When we did our action planning collaboratively, people were saying ‘I can provide this’, ‘I can provide that’. This wasn’t happening before.”
Last year, World Vision and global science company working in nutrition, Royal DSM, began an ambitious partnership to tackle under-nutrition, starting in Tanzania, recognising that children like Asha continue to fall through the gaps. With a focus on fortifying maize flour with essential micronutrients, both organisations are leveraging expertise, resources, and reach.
A recent World Vision study, including over 30 interviewees from government, business, civil society and the UN, explored two questions: (1) how targets for cross-sector partnerships could be captured in the post-2015 framework, and (2) how cross-sector partnerships can help to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children.
We found that the post-2015 framework should include three targets to enable cross-sector partnerships to flourish. We need multi-stakeholder platforms at both the national and global level, and accountability mechanisms covering all cross-sector partnerships.
Our study affirmed the importance of cross-sector partnerships to reach and help the most vulnerable children, but unearthed differing views on whether ‘market-based’ cross-sector partnerships are realistic.
Those who felt this approach was feasible said that it was only viable for those at the very bottom of the pyramid – the most vulnerable children living in fragile contexts – if subsidised, to offset the costs involved.
Those who did not agree were not, in principle, against market-based solutions for development, but said they were only viable to help less vulnerable children at the higher strata of the pyramid.
Reaching the most vulnerable is most challenging in fragile contexts, but business can still make a significant contribution within cross-sector partnerships. One way is by building infrastructure and improving physical access to children living in the most remote or conflict and fragility-affected communities. Another is by strengthening capacity within governments and among those with influence on the broader economic environment.
World Vision believes that companies should take a holistic view of their investments to ensure they maximise the benefits to the world’s most vulnerable people, especially children. This could include focusing any philanthropic spending on reaching the most vulnerable children, especially those living in fragile contexts, and ensuring alignment with national strategies and global coordination mechanisms.
Business can also increase investments in:
Companies can also use their influence to advocate for pro-poor government policies and practices, particularly in fragile contexts, and act as role models in their own behaviour. As leaders across sectors look to a new set of development goals, we need to seize new opportunities and partnerships. Asha’s life was saved because a large NGO partnered with local health workers and government officials, in a programme funded by various international donors, to raise awareness of and access to the right kind of nutrition for children.
“Every morning I would prepare porridge mixed with sorghum, groundnuts, maize and millet. This was the type of food we were taught to prepare for better health of children,” her adoptive mother said. Our hope is that in 15 years time, cross-sector partnerships will contribute to making better health the norm. For every child.
Mike Wisheart is World Vision International’s senior advisor for corporate engagement within the Advocacy and Justice for Children team. He previously worked for six years in a faith-based development organisation in Tanzania and prior to that in the private sector in the UK. Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @MikeWisheart.