RESULTS Executive Director Joanne Carter's Full-length Speech from the International Conference
Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, gave the following speech at the opening ceremony of the 2011 International Conference:
“First, thank you for your commitment that got you here: the long distances you traveled — from Australia, India, Kenya, Zambia, from Alaska and Western Canada — and, also all the hurdles of life and of economics that you overcame to get here. It’s an expression of your profound commitment to a just and humane and flourishing world that you’re here, and of your commitment to each other and to supporting this community of caring and of action to end poverty.
“A special thank you to all the fathers who are here instead of with your families today on Fathers Day here in the U.S. Please know in the deepest way that you’re with your other family, and we thank you for caring about all the children in this country and the world.
“If I can do my job tonight, it will be to first reflect back to you who you are and what we’ve accomplished together, the enormous difference we are making through the work we do and how we do it. Second, to have us also embrace the enormous opportunities of this moment in the world: what we’ve helped make possible; the transformational change that we’re on the cusp of right now; the things we know how to do that could slash poverty and fundamentally alter futures here and around the world.
“Third, to acknowledge the risk in this moment: the needs yet unmet; the opportunities that will be lost; and the harm done until we are able to shift the context in which decisions are being made in many of our countries and on the global stage.
“And finally, to look together at how we can shift that context and advance the remarkable opportunities of this moment by expanding the reach of our efforts and the impact of our work. How we can build on our core strengths to both deepen our impact and extend our networks in our own communities and into new places where our voices are needed. In the U.S., we are in the midst of designing and taking forward a strategic plan to both build our network and be more powerful everywhere we already work. I want to share some of the exciting strategic priorities and ideas that have emerged from that and also share our collective excitement about and commitment to international expansion to more countries, which will be essential to achieving our mission.
“One of our biggest challenges, I think, is that we’re often so busy trying to make change, and we have such a big, deep desire for change that is always demanding we keep moving, do more, that we don’t ever stop and look up. We don’t stop and notice that through our work change has actually happened. We also have that deeply human tendency to minimize what we do as inconsequential. So I want to remind us of what we have made happen.
“Ten years ago, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria didn’t even exist. With our prodding and support it was launched in 2002, and with our persistent, bold efforts it has seen its resources increase so that it, in turn, has approved funding of $21.7 billion dollars for more than 600 programs in 150 countries to fight these diseases and save over 6.5 million lives. We didn’t play a small part in this — we were and are central to mobilizing those resources and allowing these achievements to happen. Every letter, every call, every meeting you had — own it.
“A decade ago, AIDS was ravaging the very fabric of society in Africa and many other parts of the world, essentially unchecked; many in this room lost beloved family and friends. A friend of mine said he was propelled into his AIDS activism in the late 1990s when he saw that one of the growing microbusinesses in Zambia was making coffins. Only a miniscule number of people were on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment — maybe 50,000 — in low- and middle-income countries. And it wasn’t just that people weren’t on treatment; many experts said that scaling up treatment in those settings was impossible and impossibly expensive.
“But with bold goals, persistent demand, and resource mobilization by so many in this room,— today about 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries are on ARV treatment in less than a decade. And the cost of drugs has been driven down from about $12,000 to less than $100 per year.
“We’ve also hugely scaled up TB treatment. As well, in just the last few years, with bold goals fueled by Global Fund monies, we’ve seen almost unimaginable reductions in malaria deaths in Africa: 60, 70, 80 percent reductions in deaths in children and pregnant women in more than half a dozen countries.
“I truly believe we will look back and see the turnaround of these diseases as our generation’s landing a man on the moon. Though, if we hold with that analogy, we haven’t landed yet; we’re just orbiting because we still have the rest of the job to complete.
“In just these past weeks, you played a pivotal role in the enormous success of the pledging conference for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) that took place last Monday. In the U.S., pushing right up until the day of the conference to achieve the United States’ pledge of $450 million, and at the same time our UK, Australian, and French partners pushing hard and achieving breakthrough pledges from their governments. The conference actually surpassed its target of $3.7 billion and raised $4.3 billion — –enough resources to vaccinate over 250 million children between now and 2015 against two of their greatest killers: —pneumonia and diarrhea, and in doing so, saving over 4 million young lives — that’s three children vaccinated every two seconds; a child’s life saved every 40 seconds! That may actually be the fastest public health impact in history. It’s important to realize that these are new vaccines that have just become available here in the rich world, made available not decades later but months later in some of the world’s poorest countries. It’s the coming together of technology and equity to say that all children are our children and deserve protection.
“Our U.S. poverty activists fought hard to expand tax credits for low-income working families. For those who don’t know, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the largest poverty reduction program in the U.S. In 2009, the EITC lifted 6.6 million people out of poverty — half of whom were children. Because of the work of our 30 RESULTS domestic groups and their allies, 7 million Americans living in poverty will receive the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — or a larger CTC and EITC — in 2011 and 2012.
“In April 2011, Congress finally passed their budget for FY2011, which included major cuts to the overall national budget. Originally, the House’s budget proposal for the remainder of 2011 cut more than $1 billion from Head Start, which would have forced programs to drop more than 218,000 children from their programs nationwide. However, the final budget provides a $340 million increase for Head Start and Early Head Start, which allowed children in over 7,000 Head Start classrooms to continue to receive services. However, we’re only halfway there as even with that increase in funding, Head Start is still only providing services to less than 50 percent of eligible children and families, and fewer than 5 percent of eligible kids through Early Head Start.
“And, we’re at the cusp of even more, in part because of the work we’ve done. The opportunity of the moment is not incremental change — it’s transformation; it’s finishing the job.
“Two weeks ago in New York City, we were part of launching a blueprint to save an additional million lives of people with HIV who would otherwise die of TB — an 80 percent reduction in TB-HIV deaths. We can achieve this if we do what we already know how to do, take advantage of new diagnostic technologies and do so at scale.
UNAIDS and others have agreed that it is entirely possible to end the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children by 2015. Imagine that: ending pediatric AIDS by 2015 if we have the commitment to do it.
“If we continue a bold scale-up, we’re within reach of essentially ending malaria deaths by the same date — unimaginable a few years ago.
“The Economist, just this month, showed that we can nearly see our way to the end of AIDS — especially with powerful new data that shows if we treat AIDS we also stop transmission by 96 percent. So, that treatment is also powerful game-changing prevention. If you read the piece, you’ll see the question mark on the cover is not primarily about the science of whether this is possible, but whether the political commitment is there to invest the money and make it a priority.
“We’ve helped abolish primary school fees in most of the world and we’re poised to finish the job. We’ll be working to also move forward to abolish secondary school fees so all those kids now in primary school don’t hit that barrier of smashed hopes and expectations in the sixth or seventh grade.
“And here at home, as in the rest of the world, we have powerful evidence that investments to break the cycle of poverty make the biggest impact in a child’s early years, from birth through age five. We know what to do: that comprehensive services are needed including health services like Medicaid and CHIP, access to quality nutrition through programs like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) where over half of recipients are children, supplemental nutrition program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), and what you are fighting for this week — safe and high-quality child care and early childhood education opportunities, like Head Start, to reach to the kids not yet benefiting.
“In 2009, RESULTS and other anti-hunger organizations released the Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger in America by 2015, and it is completely clear that this can be done.
“And, similar to our work begun three decades ago on the then little-known issue of microcredit, there’s enormous potential in ramping up our work on innovative savings and tax policies that help low-income families here in the U.S. build assets. Data shows that children in low-income families whose parents save are far more likely to escape poverty. Children with a savings account in their name are six times more likely to attend college than those without an account. There are new tools and huge opportunities.
“In all of these cases, we know what to do, we have the evidence of what’s worked, and we have proven the seemingly impossible is possible.
“The risk in this moment is not just the scaling back of efforts at the very time we’re poised to make enormous progress or even finish the job; it’s not just cuts to funding for critical programs. The greater risk is that we come to believe that we need to abandon ambition because we can’t afford it. That in an economic downturn in the U.S. and many European economies, and in many of the world’s poorest countries, that there’s no circle of protection. That everything is seen as fair game for cuts.
“Internationally, while there used to be a kind of donor competition to keep up by scaling up (we still saw some of that beautifully with GAVI last week), now there’s the very real experience of a downward spiral where one donor’s withdrawal from the Global Fund or education makes others’ easier.
“In the U.S., a series of frighteningly draconian budget measures are proposed — all would results in the same thing: massive cuts to programs and services that millions of people here at home and around the world rely on.
“So, our collective work right now requires not only championing the programs and priorities we know will have the biggest, most game-changing benefit. Our work also requires us challenging and shifting the context in which decisions are being made about these programs; holding out the bigger picture of what’s possible, and the very small picture — the picture of one child that makes it real.
“As conservative columnist and former speech writer for George Bush, Michael Gerson, wrote about proposed cuts to malaria programs: ‘not all sacrifices are shared equally. Some get a pay freeze. Some get a benefit adjustment. Others get a fever and a small coffin.’
“It will require creating priority and a circle of protection for programs that, in turn, protect the most vulnerable and framing budgets as moral documents that reflect our deepest values.
“The opportunity and the risks of the moment bring me to why I am so excited about what we’ve been developing in our U.S. strategic planning and planning we’ve been doing together with all of our RESULTS countries on international expansion. I want to share some of the key elements with the hope that it have some resonance for all of you and stimulate your own thinking and our collective efforts.
“Last year, a number of the board and senior staff and other stakeholders and allies of RESULTS U.S. came together and identified some of the core strengths of our organization and began to envision the next phase. We took grassroots input, and then late last year we brought together a design team — of board members, staff, and grassroots to further define a vision and set of strategic priorities for advancing and accelerating our mission.
“That vision is to be a leading catalyst of rapid progress toward a world where extreme poverty no longer exists:
- where nobody dies of causes in one part of the world or nation that are easily preventable in other parts of the world or nation
- where all are children are receiving a quality education
- where all people have access to economic opportunity
- where all people have access to heath care
- where a critical mass of people take responsibility for guiding their government decision makers and others to create a world that includes all of the above
“To accelerate progress toward our vision, we need to expand our reach and impact in the U.S. and around the globe.
“We have defined several key priorities:
1. Increasing our grassroots reach to cover all 50 states in order to reach all 100 senators. Our Senators are hugely influential and we’re already in 36 states. With just 14 new groups we can reach all of them —including in some of the smallest population states where our access is magnified even further, and we can just about double our impact by being in an additional 20 of the most critical Congressional districts in the next few years.
We’re already working on this — we’ve received support from two generous donors to kick off this part of our strategic plan and hired an expansion organizer — and we’ll be asking you tonight for your help in identifying contacts in our top targets.
2. Building stronger partnerships to find new activists and allies and have more people powerfully know who we are — the work RESULTS Domestic did with the filmmaker of “To Catch A Dollar,” a film about Grameen America is a great example where we were part of over 30 events and able to find those I’d call pre-qualified to care, and offer them a way to take action. We’ll be kicking off a partnership in the U.S. with the Global Poverty Project this fall — the GPP seeks to raise awareness about the problems and solutions to global poverty — and we provide the way to take action. Our UK and Australian colleagues have introduced us to GPP and have worked powerfully with them.
3. Creating additional on-ramps for new people — more ways for new people to get engaged; a space for everyone who wants to make a difference and to help them take the next step; to create a pipeline for new partners and donors, and a larger “footprint” in our communities — so we can have 50 or 100 or 500 people in our community making a call or sending an email to backstop our deep advocacy.
4. Creating more champions — among our policymakers, community leaders, and ourselves. One thing we’ve learned is the power of one champion to shift the context — whether it’s Senator Sherrod Brown taking on TB, UK Prime Minister David Cameron championing GAVI, a local HeadStart parent becoming a spokesperson, or one of you convincing your newspaper to write an editorial. Part of our vision is to create a cadre of breakthrough coaches to support us to be even more effective — none of us did this alone. We all had support and we all need support to keep being bold and calling our policymakers to be bold.
“And of course this will be built on developing an even more robust funding base and the organizational platform and systems so that we have the foundation to deliver our plan.
“We will be working through the summer and asking all of you for your input — via phone calls, webinars, and other forms of engagement to finalize a plan this fall.
“Parallel to our work in the U.S., our international network met last fall in London to talk about how we can collectively expand our global reach, especially into countries with high burdens of poverty.
“Our work to mobilize resources from donor governments is incredibly important to help low-income countries fill financing gaps, accelerate progress, catalyze change. But we will only achieve the full resources and the lasting change we need when we support partners in the countries that are burdened by dire poverty to become more powerful advocates with their own governments. We need both sides. The majority of investments in areas like education and sometimes health come from national budgets. And many middle-income countries have both huge burdens of poverty and huge resources not currently being applied to reducing that poverty. And when donor funds come to countries, advocates on the ground are crucial to ensuring that these are most effectively used and driving country leadership to make these issues a priority.
“Our RESULTS national leaders have been looking at creating new RESULTS national chapters as well developing partnerships with other organizations in additional countries like the powerful partnerships we already have with partners in Kenya, France, and India. We are already a network in nine countries, including six national RESULTS affiliates.
“We’ve been assessing where we can have the biggest impact on poverty; we’ve developed an international agreement on how we work together; and we’re identifying a list of priority countries that we’ll be discussing in planning meetings this next week, including where we can find powerful allies and financial support.
“I want to thank you for being the amazing advocates you are and pledge to work with you to make us bigger, bolder, and stronger so we can achieve our mission even sooner.
“We want to also collectively engage everyone on activating our vision during this conference with a few key activities, starting tonight. Because it will take all of us and all of our collective resources.”