As our co-chairs emphasized over the course of their trip, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cannot be successful in India without partnering closely with government. As a private foundation, we can take risks that the government cannot, work with the private sector to scale up solutions that have commercial viability, help convene the best people to work on difficult problems, and ensure that best practices are exchanged, both within India and between India and the rest of the world. However, without the political will and unrelenting commitment of the government – at both national and state level – we cannot aim for the audacious but achievable targets that will give every Indian the chance to live a healthy life and fulfil their potential. Only the government can truly own India’s development and mobilize resources at scale to reach every mother, and every child. We saw the power of this earlier in the year, with India’s certification as “polio free”.
It was in this spirit that Bill and Melinda met with national and state (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) government last week, to “shine a light” on the progress that has been made in India in recent years, on the challenges that remain, and – most importantly – on the known solutions that need to find their way into the hands of the country’s most vulnerable communities. And to offer our hand in partnership.
We offered our support in the areas of sanitation and financial services for the poor, two sectors where the Government of India is keenly focused. Bill and Melinda stood alongside the Minister of Health to launch India’s Newborn Action Plan, committing further partnership with the government to improve the prospects for India’s mothers and newborns. We agreed to work on nutrition, now that the Ministry of Women and Child Development expressed with great candor their need for assistance. In a show of solidarity with the afflicted areas, we also offered emergency relief for the flooding in Jammu & Kashmir.
Garnering significant traction among policymakers, partners and media alike, our co-chairs’ trip was the embodiment of catalytic philanthropy as a mobilizing force for change. But for those of us who are stewards of the foundation’s resources in India, it’s just the beginning. Bill and Melinda helped “shine a light” – we have some work to do!