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A Day of Criss-Crossing Manhattan

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Crosstown Express

A Day of Criss-Crossing Manhattan

Day two in New York just ended, and it was another terrific day. Melinda and I got to see a lot of people who share many of the goals we're working on. We were both criss-crossing Manhattan between the U.N. and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), but I don't think we were ever in the same place at the same time until the end of the day. That's often how it is during U.N. Week.

I started the morning talking to some financial reporters about global development, the MDGs, and the impact of foreign aid. Then I headed over to CGI to participate in a panel discussion about making big bets in philanthropy. It was an insightful discussion about how philanthropy can take on challenges that are too risky or too complicated for governments and private businesses. Developing medicines for poor-world diseases is a good example of something where there isn't a market signal—and no single national government can fund it—so there's room for philanthropy to step in. CGI just keeps getting bigger and better each year. Former President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, spoke just ahead of my talk. I got to say hello to them, and it was fun to see all three of them together.

As I was heading out to the U.N., Melinda was taking the stage with Queen Rania of Jordan, Secretary Clinton, and Muhammad Yunus. The theme of their session was investing in health and education for girls and women, a subject Melinda is very passionate and knowledgeable about. Seventy percent of the world's poor are women, so investing in their well-being makes a huge impact on poverty. Melinda shared stories about the women she has met during her travels, and she also talked about understanding the data and using it to craft solutions. For example, understanding the where, when, and how of child mortality gives you a lot more insight into how to save lives than looking at the data in aggregate. The first 30 days turn out to be critical, so we're advancing strategies with our partners to drive up survival rates in this key period.

At the U.N. I got to talk with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Among other things, we talked about how just last week Ethiopia announced that they have met the MDG on child mortality—reducing deaths by two thirds—and they did it three years early. Success stories like that deserve to be big news.

I met with two leaders who are key to the work on polio that we're doing with our partners. One was President Idriss Déby of Chad. Chad is very close to Nigeria, which is the focus of a great deal of effort as we work toward eradication. I encouraged President Déby to keep focused on immunization as a crucial part of the effort to keep Chad polio-free. Government leadership is key as we work to finish the job of eradicating the disease.

Toward the end of the day, I met the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. We'd spoken on the phone soon after his election, but this was our first face-to-face meeting. It was clear that he shares our resolve to get polio out of Pakistan once and for all, and we had a really good discussion about the challenges of getting polio vaccines to the children in Pakistan who need them. I was impressed by the strength of his conviction that vaccinating children is a matter of justice. The next couple of years are a particularly good opportunity for us to make progress on this goal.

I also joined a panel at the U.N. on digital financial inclusion—projects designed to deliver banking and other financial benefits to the very poor, usually using mobile phones. Not having access to banking—and risking the loss or theft of what little cash you might have—is a real problem for the very poor. But we're seeing really interesting pilot projects. One project in Malawi is helping to reduce corruption and giving farmers remarkable tools that help them save money safely, including putting aside money for next year's seeds.

It was a busy day, but a really fulfilling one. It's encouraging to meet so many people who are so optimistic about the chance to improve the lives of the world's poorest.

Tomorrow Melinda and I will spend most of our day at the U.N. We'll have the honor of speaking at a special event on the Millennium Development Goals, talking about how important they have been in saving lives and lifting people out of poverty. The U.N. has a lot of important issues to deal with right now, and we'll be making the case for keeping extreme poverty and global health high on the agenda. It should be another great day.

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