Shaping The Future

Brian Ackerman

Where do we go from here? Young people at Women Deliver may have offered the most revolutionary road map for reducing maternal mortality rates and effecting global change.

My final day at the Women Deliver Global Conference in London could be best characterized as frustratingly inspiring. The gathering of so many passionate world leaders and experts who work in the maternal and reproductive health fields has been an awesome sight, yet simultaneously I end my time in London wondering where we are going from here.

Addressing the Millennium Development Goals is the challenge that we have taken on as a global community. Women Deliver has attempted to be a piece of achieving goal number five, which is related to the reduction of maternal mortality. Hearing vivid stories about the tragedy of unnecessary deaths of women due to pregnancy and childbirth for reasons ranging from the HIV/AIDS epidemic to abuse of human rights has indeed illuminated "MDG 5" for me. Young women my age are dying because of lack of access to basic healthcare.

Thus, I can say that Women Deliver has left me with a visceral drive to reduce maternal mortality. However, at the same time, it has left me with a similar sense of frustration concerning the ability of the international advocacy community-including intergovernmental, non-governmental, and political organizations-to work cohesively to achieve this single end. The many dimensions of maternal mortality necessarily require a multi-faceted response from various sectors of civil society and governments, which I saw represented in the more than 2,000 delegates at the conference. Yet this is the frustrating piece of the puzzle for me: international development itself is a multi-dimensional challenge requiring a multi-faceted response from different levels and sectors of global society. But somehow cohesion in this response seems to remain elusive.

Given the various representatives from important international agencies and organizations and governmental ministries who have walked through the halls of the conference center of the past few days, I personally believe I saw the most potential for action in the youth. I say that not to be cliché, nor to push a "youth agenda," but out of a basic impression. We are working in a global system in which there are developing countries and developed, recipients and donors, those to be helped and those who do the helping.

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While I met many young people from "developing" countries, they did not describe a future in which money for AIDS drugs still came from the United States and Europe, or in which maternal mortality continued to be a problem. Why? Because young people of today are part of a new global paradigm that reflects a shift in the world order. Women Deliver showed me more than anything else that if and when maternal mortality is to be reduced substantially at a global level it will be done not through a helper-recipient model, but through a model of collective and equitable support, a new model of global development that is defined most purely by those who know the new world best: its youth.

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