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Secretary General’s Leadership Luncheon

New York, NY

April 14, 2010

Mr. Secretary General, President Kikwete, Prime Minister Stoltenberg, Vice President Boediono, Minister Oda, my good friend Dr. Margaret Chan, my fellow health ministers, Ambassador Rice, and distinguished leaders, I am honored to be in your company.

I also send best wishes from Secretary Clinton, who as you know, has long championed the needs and contributions of women and girls – and in particular on maternal and child health.

I want to applaud the Secretary General and all of you here today for your joint effort on maternal and child health. This is one of the greatest human rights issues of our times. The hundreds of thousands of deaths each year among women due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, the devastating lifelong consequences among millions more, and the millions of children who will die from preventable causes, are among our greatest moral and development challenges, and they highlight the world’s lingering inequity.

We gather today amidst signs of progress. This week’s Lancet article suggests that in many parts of the world, we are making some progress in saving women’s lives. It is up to us in this room to escalate our efforts and accelerate sustainable progress toward Millennium Development Goals Four and Five.

This comes at a time when the United States Government is committed to working with all of you to build momentum.

My presence here demonstrates that the Obama Administration truly believes in a “whole of government” approach when it comes to international engagement. Global health is not just a development issue, nor is it simply a technical issue. It touches every doorstep in every corner of every nation, rich and poor alike. Just as we are working within the United States to assure that all Americans have access to health care, it’s to our benefit to work together to improve health around the world.

Goal setting and mutual accountability are important. Today, as we look ahead to the Millennium

Development Goals summit this fall, I can tell you that the United States is more committed than ever to working with our partners in this room and around the world to build on and sustain the substantial and meaningful progress achieved to date. By holding each other accountable, we will continue to make sustainable progress.

President Obama has launched an historic Global Health Initiative that will invest $63 billion over six years in improving health outcomes in the world’s poorest countries. We’re proud that this Initiative calls for a significant increase in support for maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition programs. My Department of Health and Human Services is proud to be a partner in this effort with the US Agency for International Development, the Department of State, and other U.S. Government partners.

Although the Global Health Initiative includes a significant boost in funding, it goes beyond financial commitments. To improve results, it brings an innovative new approach to the way we do business. We are committed to better integrating our programs within the U.S. Government. We’re looking for new and better ways to work with our international partners to meet common goals by coordinating with multilateral organizations, NGOs and foundations. We are also focused on working together at the country level, in support of a country’s national plan and objectives. If we do these things, we can better achieve sustainable progress toward our common goals.

A cornerstone of the Global Health Initiative is women and girl-centered programming. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to ill health and are comparatively underserved by health services. Improving the health of women and girls is important in its own right. We know that improving the health of women and girls frees up untapped potential. It enhances their productivity, and serves as a force multiplier. When women and girls have access to health care, including family planning and other reproductive health services, we see rapid and lasting progress. When women are valued, educated, and enjoy legal and property rights and protection, and when their reproductive rights are supported, they have smaller families, healthier children, and live longer lives.

A women and girl-centered approach also acknowledges that women are the gateway to their communities. Women the world over are primarily responsible for managing water, nutrition, household resources, and accessing health services for their families. When women receive the care they need, their families, communities and all of society benefit.

Maternal and child health is an important piece of the Obama Administration’s women and girl-centered approach. When women are healthy and can make their own decisions about their reproductive lives, the gains ripple through their entire community. When children are healthy, the benefits last a lifetime.

For example, through the U.S. government’s AIDS program, PEPFAR, we fund women’s groups for HIV-positive mothers. A typical success story is that of woman named Stella who joined one of these groups in Abuja, Nigeria while she was pregnant. Thanks to the group, she was able to get the right antenatal care and have a healthy child. Later, she had a second healthy child, and by this time, Stella had become a group leader. She was able to educate her peers about the steps they needed to take to protect themselves and their children – advice that was much more effective coming from Stella than it would have been from an aid worker.

So by supporting one woman in her own desire to stay healthy, the health of dozens of Nigerians was improved. That’s a force multiplier, and it’s the promise of the goals the global community committed ourselves to in 2000, and that we recommit ourselves to today.

As we speak, the G-8, under Canada’s leadership, is developing an initiative that will provide renewed focus and additional momentum to meet the objectives of Millennium Development Goals Four and Five. The many complementary efforts now underway, together with the work of the Secretary General, are illuminating the path towards the Millennium Development Goal Review Conference that will be held this coming September.

This is our time. The wind is in our sails. By working together, we can build on and sustain progress towards Millennium Development Goals Four and Five. We owe it to the world to open up the opportunity for a healthy life to those tens of millions around the world who do not yet have the chance to live up to their full potential. We will all be healthier – and safer – for it. Thank you.