Siddharth Chatterjee. Photo credit: Newton KanhemaNAIROBI, Kenya, Jan. 20 (IPS) – Siddharth Chatterjee is UN Resident Coordinator (RC) in Kenya, and RC for ChinaCOVID-19 is like a rainstorm, a thundering and powerful rainstorm across the world. If we didn’t know before, we now surely know where the holes are in our roofs or where there are no roofs. We see more and more clearly who gets drenched and who dies and who stays dry.
But ultimately nobody is left untouched. This fact alone must awaken us to a fundamental truth: humanity will only survive and thrive if all countries work together. We need to improve global health governance and embrace multilateralism.
This is good for all people, good for governments, and good for business.
The United Nations is the body best placed to advance this call. I wholeheartedly believe that global collaboration is possible.
I have the privilege of having served the United Nations Resident Coordinator (RC) in Kenya for the last nearly five years and now have been appointed RC in China, a position I will be taking up this month.
I learned an important lesson in Kenya that I will take with me to China. Before I became an RC, I was a UNFPA representative in Kenya. At that time, in 2014, Kenya was among the ten most dangerous places in the world to become a mother. The maternal mortality rate was a shocking 500 deaths per 100,000 live births – almost three times the Millennium Development Goal of a maximum of 170 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
Siddharth Chatterjee. Credit: Newton Kanhema In response, under the leadership of the government in 2014, I helped raise $ 15 million to reverse this trend. Together with colleagues from the UN system, I mobilized six private sector companies from China, Kenya, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to focus our efforts on the six counties in Kenya where maternal mortality was highest. In just 2.5 years, the rates in these counties had dropped by a third. More recently, during my tenure as RC in Kenya, I had the privilege of meeting with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss female genital mutilation (FGM). He said fiercely that he wanted to end the practice of FGM in Kenya once and for all and that he wanted the United Nations to partner in that effort. Thanks to his leadership, Kenya is making remarkable progress.
In Kenya, my experience has shown me again and again how important political will is, as in my earlier contributions in Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Indonesia and in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina as was the case in Iraq, Kurdistan.
With committed political leadership, good public order, and strong partnerships, we can achieve the impossible. With these “three Ps” we can minimize the number of mothers who die in childbirth. We can end the practice of FGM. We can create a world where girls and boys everywhere can dream big and make those dreams come true. And we can create a stronger UN to address cross-border challenges like this pandemic.
I couldn’t be happier than transferring this lesson to my new position as United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, a country that has the commitment and resources to support global cooperation and development. China can share important lessons with developing countries after lifting over 890 million people out of poverty in 30 years.
China is dedicated to multilateralism. It is the third largest donor to the United Nations, the second largest donor to UN peacekeeping, and one of the largest contributors of troops to UN peacekeeping. It is a leader in South-South cooperation and supports peace and development work in other countries in the southern hemisphere.
China has the resources to support multilateralism. With nearly 1.4 billion people and a power plant economy with perhaps the largest purchasing power in the world, China is making strides in development and has been a major source of global wealth creation for the past 11 years. China’s Belt and Road Initiative creates an infrastructure that benefits people in the many countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.
We need all the countries in the world to do their best to the world community and the United Nations, which are working so hard to promote this.
This actually serves the self-interest of the countries. Many global challenges ignore national borders. Illness. Violent conflict. Refugees. Climate change. A country becomes safer if it helps stop these crises across a border or an ocean. The challenges are cross-border, but so are the advantages of solving them.
Multilateralism is also an act of fundamental humanity. It is compassionate to respond to other people’s cry of pain. Don’t we all want people to get a fair shake no matter where they are? Don’t we want children all over the world to be free, safe and happy? We are enhanced and enlightened when our siblings thrive in the human family.
We now have less than 10 years to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. We are well past the first blush of the SDGs celebrations and far from the last insane shot. We are all wounded by this pandemic, some more than others.
But we can’t give up now. We can’t slow down. We have to focus our vision. We have to encourage ourselves and each other. And we have to work together.
This article was originally published by the United Nations.
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