Written by Jeffrey Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the Washington Post.
“In the fight against extreme poverty, we face a puzzle. When the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals were set in 2000, they included both health and education objectives. The health goals were pursued with vigor — and money — and great progress was achieved. Yet the pursuit of basic education languished. The U.S. government and others dropped the ball on an agenda that should have been a no-brainer.
When the goals were set, I worked closely with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to help launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Despite the knee-jerk opposition of some cynics, the Global Fund received billions of dollars, as did new U.S. programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative. Nearly 15 years later, we know that these programs have performed strongly. The aid worked as hoped, and the diseases are coming under control.
Yet creating a similar global fund on education proved impossible. The cause of universal access to education turned out to be a policy orphan, unable to mobilize the same kind of donor interest as disease control did. Yes, modest aid helped millions of children attend primary schools, but because of the shortfalls, those schools often lacked basic materials, trained teachers and even safe water. Millions of other kids remain out of school.
Why the difference? I’ve scratched my head over this for 10 years. Perhaps the life-and-death stakes of health crises are more dramatic. Perhaps it was because the pharmaceutical industry helped to scale up the health response while the private sector was strangely absent on global education. Perhaps world leaders simply failed to put in the needed effort.”
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