The best way to build tomorrow’s human capital is by investing in today’s people — especially in children and young people, across both decades. Their health, education, opportunities and protection matter to the future of their countries — and to the future of our world.
Innovative financing mechanisms like the Global Financing Facility offer a new pathway to invest in these lives, from the very start, and throughout their life cycles.
From the investments that underwrite the health and nutrition systems that care for mothers and newborns. To the administrative systems that register children’s birth, so they can grow up as citizens. To the education systems that will help them work and contribute to their economies. To the social and legal systems that protect them throughout their lives.
As we make these investments, however, I urge that we do so with an eye to strengthening these systems for the future. In many of the 27 countries in which the Facility operates, we see public systems stretched like never before — unable to adequately serve those who need it the most. The poorest and most disadvantaged. Those who live in remote communities. Those contending with weak or non-existent infrastructure.
Or those facing humanitarian emergencies — the natural disasters or protracted conflicts that destabilize and destroy the infrastructure vital to human capital: hospitals, schools, water and sanitation systems.
The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi have provided a stark reminder of the widespread damage that can result from these crises.
Which is why the Facility must include a focus not only on responding to immediate needs, but driving long term, transformational changes to systems like health, which keep children, families and their communities healthy and safe from disease…the school systems that shape the young minds that will become tomorrow’s workers, professionals and leaders…and the nutrition systems that feed their bodies and brains.
UNICEF has decades of experience working with governments and partners — including in all 27 GFF countries — to establish affordable systems across a number of sectors. And always with a focus on the most vulnerable children in every society — including in the most fragile settings.
Through the Facility, UNICEF is providing technical support and expertise in programming, procurement and financing…our wealth of data around the world…our global reach…and our international network of partners.
Now, UNICEF is working with the GFF to not only strengthen primary health care systems, but to help a growing number of countries develop new systems — like community-based health services — that can better serve the health and wellbeing of women and children, no matter where they live. An important step as we make progress towards our goal of Universal Health Coverage.
Another step forward is the effort led by the World Bank on the Famine Action Mechanism, dedicated to investing in the prevention of future famines. Such efforts are key to building resilient nutrition systems in countries where the risk of malnutrition is high — especially for vulnerable young children.
To prevent another famine alert in Somalia, for example, it is important that we collectively invest in shock-responsive systems, together with the government.
To that end in Somalia, UNICEF is making a transition from a humanitarian cash response to a safety net approach with a focus on nutrition. At the same time, we’re part of a joint programme with the government and the World Food Programme to develop Somalia’s first social protection policy. The World Bank is a natural partner in this process, and we look forward to continued engagement as it moves ahead.
Over the long term, this kind of systems approach to development financing will be critical to building human capital.
Which is why I’m so glad to see so many partners here today, from across a number of sectors and a number of ministries. Human capital is about more than a country’s finance ministry. It’s also about a country’s health ministry, education ministry, and social welfare ministry.
And it’s about more than governments — it’s about the innovations and products of the private sector…the reach and influence of civil society and NGOs…the resources and commitment of international financing institutions…and the experience of agencies like UNICEF.
All coming together to help countries shape the bodies, brains and hearts of a generation of young people, and prepare them for the future.
And all joining forces to invest in the human capital — the people — that will, ultimately, determine our future.