The Cable

Ban Ki-moon calls on Obama to raise funds for moms and kids

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Washington called on the Obama administration Monday to lead an effort to raise another $45 billion for maternal and child health at the upcoming meetings of the G-8 and G-20 in Canada.

"We need U.S. leadership. I hope the U.S. will come out with strong additional support," Ban said, noting that the U.S. government has invested in programs to combat HIV/AIDS but arguing that it must now make the same level of commitment on child and maternal health. "I know President Obama and Secretary Clinton will exercise their strong leadership role in the G-8 and the G-20."

Ban declined to say how much exactly the new U.S. contribution should be, but he did say he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue recently.

"As the world's biggest leader and power, the U.S. should be able to mobilize, together with major donors, strong financial support," Ban said. "I know the economic situation is quite difficult, but still, the economic situation should not give any excuse to give any less attention on this. There must be strong and focused attention by the U.S. government."

Ban stopped in Washington to attend the "Women Deliver" conference being held Monday at the convention center and spoke to reporters with Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates. The Gates Foundation announced Monday a new $1.5 billion commitment to maternal and child heath.

Gates said that the U.S. government must "step up" the way that the new British government has done and commit to funding this effort.

"You need to see these developed nations step up and say ‘This is the right thing to do,'" she said. "That's how you get leadership on this."

The effort is part of Ban's drive to meet the deadlines laid out in the Millennium Development Goals, specifically goals four and five, which set out ambitious targets for reducing deaths for mothers and their children by 2015.

None of the new Gates money will go to fund abortions, Gates said, and the U.N. has no official position on abortion other than to support its safety where legal, Ban explained. One out of seven deaths among pregnant women result from illegal or unsafe abortions, but this will not be a focus of the new initiative.

Ban said the initiative dovetails with the third Millennium Development challenge goal of "gender empowerment," even though it doesn't address women's rights or human rights directly.

"To be empowered, women should be healthy. That's the basic starting point," Ban said. "Human rights is a cross-cutting agenda ... Simply because there is less mention of human rights does not mean there is a lack of willingness."

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The Cable

State keeping key development report under wraps

Hey, development community readers, have you been wondering what ever happened to the QDDR interim report, which was supposedly being released in March? As it turns out, the interim report was finished, but is not going to be publicly released at all.

Administration sources confirmed to The Cable that the State Department's first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Defense Review is chugging along toward its target completion date in September. The review will set policy for all sorts of important issues relating to the way that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operate.

But although State repeatedly promised outside groups interested in the QDDR that they would get a public report halfway through the process, back in April the decision was made not to release an interim report at all. Here's what went down.

The interim report was originally scheduled for release in January. But as it made its way through the interagency process, it got bogged down because various stakeholders wanted various changes. The date got pushed back again and again until early April.

At that point, the White House was finishing up its own overall development policy review, the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7), and getting into the final stages of the writing of the National Security Strategy (NSS), another huge interagency process. (A draft version of the PSD-7 was published exclusively on The Cable here and the NSS was also published first on The Cable here.)

According to administration sources, at an April deputies committee meeting, it was decided that the sequencing for the documents should be NSS first, PSD-7 next, and QDDR interim report after that. The NSS was released in late May. The final version of PSD-7 is also missing in action, but could be released anytime, although not necessarily to the public.

Given all that, by the time State would be able to release the QDDR interim report, it wouldn't really represent the current state of play, sources explained. Moreover, the time and effort required to roll out the thing would have taken the whole schedule off course.

The interim report covered "Phase 1," which is all about identifying the problem, not specifying solutions. Today is actually the due date for reports on "Phase 2," and now State has added "Phase 3," or the wrap-up phase, which will commence shortly. The interim report is now only being used internally to inform the other phases, officials say.

There's also been a drop-off since April in consultations with Capitol Hill, and some staffers reported that they hadn't heard anything from State about the QDDR in weeks. Administration sources said that consultations with select staffers were ongoing and would pick up again when they process got a little further along.

Meanwhile, not everybody outside the administration is thrilled that they won't actually see the interim report as promised. "They hyped the interim report and now they're saying it's worthless so we shouldn't care," said one slightly bitter development leader. "Nice."

"Our sense is that the lack of communication regarding the QDDR is due to the fact that the administration continues to lack consensus at higher policy levels about what it intends to achieve both with the White House-led PSD process and with State/AID's QDDR," said one congressional aide. "We had hoped that at this juncture we would receive a clearer signal about the direction and shape of foreign aid reform, but clearly there continues to be much disagreement and discussion over in the executive just what the best path forward is."