THE BLOG

Innovation in the Name of Global Partnership: What the Private Sector Must Bring to the Post-2015 Development Agenda

24/09/2013 09:36 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 09:36 BST

Salissou Saley, a 38 year-old father of four lives in Dan Laro, a remote village in the Maradi Region of Niger. Here access to healthcare has always been difficult. But in the last couple of years, things have been looking up. Saley has trained to be a community health volunteer and now provides essential basic health services, contributing towards eradicating child deaths, reducing hunger and improving maternal health in his local community.

The shortage of health workers is one of the most fundamental barriers to improving health in developing countries. A fully trained and well-supported community health worker like Saley can deliver treatments and provide health education to 5,000 children a year. In 34 of the poorest countries in the world, GSK is partnering with three leading charities - Save the Children, AMREF and Care International - and reinvesting a proportion of its profits to train 10,000 community health workers over the next three years.

This is one small example of how innovative collaboration across different sectors can deliver sustainable results. This week in New York the UN Secretary General will unveil the current thinking on how global policy makers, governments, donors and civil society should continue to support development beyond 2015 when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 'expire'. Partnership will be a critical theme.

The MDG programme continues to deliver great successes. Setting simple and measurable goals has proven to be an effective way of focusing efforts on fundamental economic, social and environmental challenges. Yet, despite good progress, huge challenges remain. Almost seven million children under the age of five die each year because they lack access to basic healthcare, immunization and good nutrition.

One of the most important tasks for those in the development space this week will be to learn from experiences gained during the last decade to accelerate efforts and deliver real and lasting change.

One of these learnings must be the value of partnerships that successfully combine the skills and reach of charities; the efforts of governments; and the knowledge and capabilities of business to help improve infrastructure and create prosperity to lift people out of poverty for good. This is also beneficial for business in the long-term, creating a virtuous circle.

This year, GSK launched an innovative partnership with Save the Children which has the ambitious goal of saving one million children's lives by 2015. Unlike the traditional fundraising model, the power of this partnership lies in combining GSK's scientific research capability with Save the Children's deep experience of working on the ground with local communities and governments. As an immediate step, this will see us reformulate the antiseptic chlorhexidine - found in GSK's Corsodyl mouth-wash - for cleansing the umbilical cord stump of new-borns to prevent serious infection, a major cause of newborn death in poor countries.

Similarly, when corporate organisations from a variety of sectors join forces with a shared interest in developing the social impact of their business and supporting longer term business growth in emerging markets, the impact can be significant.

We have set up a partnership with Vodafone which is harnessing innovative mobile technology to help vaccinate more children against common infectious diseases in Mozambique. The programme is in early stages but in time should deliver real shared value - enabling GSK to supply more vaccines, for Vodafone to enter a new business segment and most importantly to improve the health of thousands of children.

Finally, we should recognise that this is not a one way street and it can't be assumed that solutions formed in the global north will meet the needs of developing countries. There needs to be mutual learning and collaboration between nations and their development partners. Increasingly there are examples of successful knowledge transfer from poorer to richer countries. Methods developed in Africa for treating conditions such as HIV/AIDS and clubfoot and lenses created in India for cataract operations are now being used all around the world.

The MDG programme aimed to drastically improve and save lives. The world has already come a long way; and now as we reach 2015 we have a considerable opportunity to reflect, innovate and mobilise resources. With imagination and the courage to partner and take a long term view, the outlook for the continent is more positive than it has been for a generation.