Executive Director’s blog


When I arrived in PMNCH January 2011, I said at a staff meeting ‘this is my passion and my dream job’. I meant it then, and it still holds true. Whoever takes over as Executive Director will take on one of the most exciting jobs in global health and development. In the last 45 months, it has been a roller coaster ride of collective achievement, with partners, and staff, pushing all of us faster and further for women and children. So, I could have done a long list of these collective achievements, and might yet. Or I could have done a list of remaining challenges, but these are well known. Or a list of heartfelt ‘thank yous’, but there is not enough space for this exceedingly long list.

Instead I will mention just three things:

Women and Children at the centre of development. It is no longer just an optional add-on for decision makers to consider women and children, or more specifically RMNCH+A (with the newborns, the premature babies, the stillbirths, the children who bear children, the sexual and reproductive health and rights, all now fully recognised). It’s now central to the debate on development and the SDG discourse. The fact that there is talk, as at UN General Assembly, about ‘Every Women, Every Child’ in whatever shape, form, or nomenclature post 2015 is something we should all be proud of.

Youth and adolescents. The highlight of the Partners’ Forum for me, and for many, was the energy and passion which the young people injected into the event. But, more importantly what they injected into the debate. The Success Factors study, and much else, has proved, through evidence, what we all knew intuitively (though I still only have the haziest grasp of what Boolean analysis is….). That health is not just about what happens in the health sector. Youth and adolescents might never interact with a health service. So, what is happening elsewhere - in education, in employment opportunities, in legal and civil protection, in civic representation and much more, will shape their lives, and consequently all of our lives. We will progress only insofar as we truly ensure that this group is not just given a tokenistic nod - ‘tick the youth engagement box’ - but is truly at the centre. I hope when I view the PMNCH Board from a bit of distance in future, that there will also be young, fresh faces and brains around the table.

Investment. I have followed the global health architecture debates probably longer than is good for my health. But, the fact that PMNCH, over the years, through many (and you know who you are) never let go of turning the spotlight on the lack of investment for women and children - both on the policy side, but also in actual funding and resourcing – has already led to increased resources, also as we heard at UNGA. That this might now lead to consolidated, and vastly increased funding, both domestic and international, is very encouraging. And, PMNCH, with its truly representative stakeholder constituencies will hopefully have a central role to play in advising how resources can be channelled to the right things, in the right places, and through the right mechanisms and groups.

And, at the end, after all, I can’t resist a few profound thanks. To all the partners first (300+ when I arrived, 600+ now) - I have learnt more than I can say. To the always supportive Board and Board leadership during my tenure - to Julio Frenk, Vinod Paul, Flavia Bustreo, Anuradha Gupta, CK Mishra and last but definitely not least, our inspiring and passionate current Board Chair, Graça Machel. To the gracious hosts of Board meetings and the Partners’ Forum during my time - to the French government, to UNFPA in New York, the Nigerian Ministry of Health and government in Abuja, the NGO constituency in Johannesburg in June 2013, and the South African government most recently. To PMNCH’s host agency, WHO, without Dr Margaret Chan’s personal support – and that of her staff - PMNCH’s life would be so much harder. And, finally, to the fabulous Secretariat team. Never was so much done for so many, by so few. I am not going to single out anyone, but I know I will have to look far and hard for such a committed group of people, including my deputy Andres de Francisco who will take on the role of acting Executive Director. But hopefully, no further than the Global Fund, where I look forward to the new challenge of being Head of the office of Board Affairs at a really exciting time for the Global Fund’s agenda. So, it’s definitely au revoir not adieu.

Carole Presern