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London UN development panel meeting: "People are tired of being told what they need" says VSO


Head of Sierra Leone midwifery school addresses High Level Panel meeting

The High Level Panel advising the UN on the new post-2015 development framework, meeting in London this week (1 November) and co-chaired by David Cameron, must listen to and support people in poor countries who are already actively engaged in fighting poverty, rather than seeing them as passive beneficiaries, according to international development charity VSO.

Francess Fornah, Head of the Makeni Midwifery School in Sierra Leone and a partner of VSO, will address the High Level Panel at a roundtable meeting on Friday 2 November. She will urge the Panel to listen to the voices of those already engaged at grassroots and national level in development, to ensure that the future development framework reflects their concerns and supports their work.

Francess, who is currently based at Kings Health Partners in London as part of a three-month Commonwealth Fellowship placement organised by VSO, said:

“People are tired of being told what they need. Right now, thousands of people in poor countries are working on maternity wards and in local schools and communities to tackle poverty. They are driving their own development. We need our voices to be heard. And the voices of women, who are so often excluded from making the decisions that affect their lives, must be some of the loudest amongst them.

“I work in midwifery in Sierra Leone, where too many women are still dying in childbirth. The goal to reduce maternal mortality is something I know all too well. Yet I work with trainee midwives every day who do not know what the MDGs mean for their work. These are the people who know about maternal health – they need to be engaged in this process and in the implementation of the framework. The MDGs have helped focus attention and funding but we must focus on people as well as targets.

“I’m pleased I can share my own experience with the High Level Panel here in London. I hope what we say has a real influence on the final report and the new development framework.”

VSO works with over 1,000 partner organisations in developing countries to fight poverty. It believes that recognising and supporting the work of people and organisations actively engaged in development must be central to the process that follows the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

VSO UK Policy manager Lisa Horner said:

“2015 gives us an opportunity to really build on the MDGs. A new framework could achieve much, much more. But development must be driven by active participants in the fight against poverty, not distant elites. We need to get away from this idea of poor and marginalised communities as passive recipients of aid.

“The post-2015 framework must also address the issue of inequality. Women are most affected by poverty and make up the majority of the world’s poor, but they have the least influence over decisions being made to tackle it. This needs to change.

“The new framework must have a clear goal on gender equality and a target to support women’s participation and influence in public life. Inequality is an injustice and is causing more poverty. This is our chance to do something about it.”

Editor’s notes

About VSO:

VSO is different from most organisations that fight poverty. Instead of sending money or food, we bring people together to share skills and knowledge. In doing so, we create lasting change. VSO volunteers work in whatever fields are necessary to address the forces that keep people in poverty – from education and health through helping people learn the skills they need to make a living. In doing so they invest in local people, so the impact they have endures long after their placement ends.


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