As we reflect on 2011 and look forward to 2012 this holiday season, it’s hard not to get caught up in the bad news.
With the global economy still struggling to regain its footing and partisan politics holding us back from real progress, it’s certainly an easy time to be a bit of a Grinch.
But while I’m the first to acknowledge the challenges of working on development issues in the current climate, it’s also important to take stock of some of the incredible achievements of 2011 and recognize the prospects for greater momentum in the future.
This holiday season, here are five reasons to look back on 2011 and forward to 2012 with a very optimistic attitude.
Progress. Today, more than 5 million people receiving AIDS treatment in some of the poorest parts of the world. From a recent WHO report, we learned that malaria deaths are down 25 percent globally since 2000, and by 33 percent in the WHO African Region. And child survival rates have been increasing every year since 1960. We are making steady progress on multiple fronts.
Advances in technology are making it possible to address health and development challenges, previously considered just a way of life for millions living in poor countries. Take for instance new vaccines. This year alone new vaccines against the two leading killers of kids – diarrheal disease and pneumococcal were rolled out in countries across Africa and South America. And funding for these modern miracles has been marshaled thanks to the courageous leadership of the UK government which harangued other donor governments for months to make multiyear pledges to GAVI that will ensure another 5 million lives are saved in the next five years.
The next reason I’m optimistic is because of the Emergence of a new set of players. I’m referring to countries which will change the way we think about development in the future: including China, Brazil, India, and Korea. As many of these countries have themselves emerged from a recipient of aid to a new donor, they will bring unique approaches and insights in addition to their check books. And we’re already seeing the evidence of this: Brazil is working with Japan to help poor farmers in Mozambique grow soybeans. China, which has perhaps the world’s leading rice research program, has recently launched the “Green Super Rice” partnership, along with several global research centers, to develop adapted varieties of rice with 15 poor countries in Africa and South Asia.
The private sector. The rise of this important actor is my number four reason for a happy new year. For me, the surge in private sector activity in Africa confirms the fact that Africa is open for business. We’ve seen the statistics: 6 of the top 10 fastest growing world economies are in Africa, and the continent’s purchasing power currently exceeds $1.3 trillion annually. When combined with smart aid, business investment will be a tremendous driver of growth and development. The Economist has even changed its tune, reversing its assertion a decade ago that Africa was hopeless to today calling it the hopeful continent. Africa is clearly open for business.
And my last reason for optimism, though I may be cheating on this because we’re not there yet, is Polio. Since January, there have been no new cases of polio in India. By staying focused, India could be certified polio-free in 2012, dropping the number of endemic countries in the world down to just three.
When it comes to turning the tide on disease and global poverty, we’re in this for the long-haul - beyond one financial downturn.
Instead of getting weighed down by dismal headlines, let’s reflect on the remarkable progress that’s being made every day to lift millions out of poverty, end global disease, and make the world a more equitable and prosperous place.
Happy New Year!