The Ministers’ Forum brought together over 30 Ministers of Health and Finance, as well as other delegates representing their Ministry of Health or Department of Health from over 25 countries with high maternal and newborn mortality to refocus high-level policy attention on maternal and newborn health. The forum consisted of a series of private meetings designed to review data and analyze the efforts to achieve MDG 5. These were working meetings aimed at identifying strategies to overcome the barriers to achieving MDG 5 and helping to reinvigorate national policies and programs that will ensure that countries can reach their targets by 2015. The result of the Ministers’ Forum was a consensus statement, which was part of advocacy efforts for the G8/G20 Summits and United Nations Special Meeting on the MDGs in September.
The delegates heard presentations and panels from experts on why reducing maternal mortality should be at the top of every nation’s development priorities; which programs and interventions have been shown to work best; what resources will be needed, globally and nationally, to implement effective interventions; and what kinds of political strategies will get us from where we are today to where we would like to be in 2015. The ministers and country delegations discussed the context of maternal and newborn health in their own countries. Special attention was paid to what kinds of advocacy efforts are needed to generate political will.
The first presentation the delegates heard was from Ruth Levine, Director of Evaluation, Policy Analysis & Learning at USAID. She highlighted six cost-effective solutions for women and girls:
- family planning
- skilled care
- safe abortion when & where legal
- prioritizing young people
- strengthening health systems with positive bias to girls & women
- advance & protect the human rights of girls & women
The next presentation was from Mayra Buvinic, World Bank, on the economic benefits of investing in women. Discussion centered on what can be done to allocate greater resources to maternal and women's health, what specific mechanisms are effective to encourage investments in women, and on how to sway economic and budgetary decision makers to get a health issue to the top of the agenda. A panel discussion facilitated by Steven Sinding, covered 'The Essentials: Political Will & Funding' and featured Tore Godal, Norway, Jotham Musinguzi, Uganda, Purnima Mane, UNFPA and Christoph Benn, Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB & Malaria. Topic: assessing the policy mechanisms in place to achieve solutions
- The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development
- The 1995 International Conference on Women
- The 2005 Paris Declaration on AID Effectiveness
- The Millenium Development Goals
- The International Health Partnership
Discussion centered on these questions: Are these working? Have the world’s nations met the financial and policy commitments they signed on to in these agreements? If so, why are we here? If not, what are the barriers? Are governments being held accountable? What can policy makers themselves do in their own countries? How do they work with the legislative branch of government? What about working with NGOs and the private/corporate sector? What strategies might work in getting political leaders to give maternal mortality reduction the priority they have given to, say, AIDS treatment and care or, 20 years ago, to family planning?
Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and an Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, presented on the Secretary General's Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and Dame Billie Miller, Barbados, chaired the discussion. The strategy is a roadmap that identifies the finance and policy changes needed as well as critical interventions that can and do improve health and save lives. The Global Strategy lays out an approach for global, multi-sector collaboration.