GENEVA - JUNE 08: Numerous national flags are seen in front of the United Nations Office (UNOG) on ... [+] June 8, 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland. Housed at the Palais des Nations, the United Nations Office at Geneva serves as the representative office of the Secretary-General at Geneva. A focal point for multilateral diplomacy, UNOG services more than 8,000 meetings every year, making it one of the busiest conference centres in the world. With more than 1,600 staff, it is the biggest duty stations outside of United Nations headquarters in New York. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)Getty Images
To move the ball forward and truly make our world a better place to call home in 2023 and beyond, we must put our minds, power and money toward solving longstanding global problems and challenges left unresolved last year. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has destabilized the global economy and created suffering for millions. Years after the first reported infections, Covid-19 continues to claim thousands of lives every month. And a looming debt crisis looms even larger for dozens of vulnerable economies. Here are five related areas where I'm confident the global community can make progress: Getting the African Union into the G20 There's an old saying that you might be familiar with: 'If you're not at the table, you're on the menu.'
The G20 was created in 1999 and, in the years since, has helped address – with varying levels of success – a number of global challenges. But one group that has yet to see real solutions emerge from the G20 and is under-represented in the discussions that drive these solutions – is Africa.
There are some encouraging signs that we may finally be on the precipice of changing that. In December, President Joe Biden officially backed the African Union and Senegalese President Macky Sall's longstanding effort to bring African voices to the G20's table, joining his counterparts in China, France, Indonesia and South Africa, among others. For far too long, our international system has treated Africa and its people as a challenge to be addressed, rather than a legitimate partner with whom we can work. There seems to be real support for changing that – which would not only improve representation in the short-term, but would also enable a broader discussion about what's needed to drive a global economy – one that includes the continent as an active player. Reforming Multilateral Development Banks
Speaking of what's needed… I'm also optimistic that 2023 is the year for reforming and modernizing the multilateral development banks (MDBs) – probably the most important global priority that you've never heard of. Whether we're thinking about climate change, global poverty, or any other challenges we face today, there is one common and daunting obstacle: We're going to need money – and a lot of it. That's where MDBs come in.
These organizations, including the World Bank, have achieved a lot. But in today's fast-moving world, they're proving to be slower, less agile and more risk averse than circumstances demand. The good news is that the G20 has solicited recommendations from experts on how best to modernize these institutions – and the experts have delivered a proposal that could be a game-changer, enabling the MDBs to access an additional trillion dollars to finance development and climate initiatives.
This year could mark the beginning of the final chapter in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Twenty years ago, the United States launched the single most successful global health initiative of all time. Led by President George W. Bush and a bipartisan coalition of partners in Congress, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has distributed roughly $100 billion for treatment, prevention, and research programs around the globe. And those funds have been remarkably effective.
At its global peak, the virus killed 2 million people a year. Today, that has been cut by two-thirds and we have saved more than 25 million lives and prevented countless HIV infections around the world. The global response to this epidemic is one worth celebrating. But our work isn't done yet.
That's why, earlier this year, the State Department announced a new strategy to end this scourge once and for all. The plan, developed alongside governments, public health experts and local stakeholders, is designed to close gaps in coverage and strengthen public health systems. Ending AIDS is an ambitious goal, but certainly one worth fighting for.
U.S.-Africa Food and Security Pact
Some would argue that the United States has allowed its relationships with African partners to atrophy. Fortunately, the recent U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit offered an opportunity to reverse that trend and build a strong, sustainable relationship. And early indications suggest that the White House is committed to making progress.
In a significant development, President Biden and the African Union announced a new food security pact designed to tackle Africa's food insecurity by building out its agricultural capacity. And not a moment too soon — right now, a child is admitted for treatment of severe malnutrition every minute in Somalia. Around the world, at least 600 million people lack sufficient access to food. And, in part because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, food prices are higher than ever. But this pact seeks to address immediate food supply challenges while also marshaling the full power of the United States to expand food production and access across the continent.
Of course, the real legacy of this agreement won't be determined by an announcement but by the concrete steps taken to achieve real outcomes. This is a big idea – like PEPFAR – that could not only reshape relations between the United States and Africa but also enable the continent to break through one of the major constraints to achieving sustained and inclusive economic growth and even producing food for other countries.
A Step in the Right Direction on Climate
The world isn't making nearly enough progress and we're seeing the consequences each and every day – from flooding in Pakistan and drought in East Africa to tropical storms in the Philippines and historic heatwaves in the United Kingdom.
However, there is still reason for optimism. Last year, the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) wrapped up with an announcement of a historic deal to establish a fund that aims to provide financial assistance to vulnerable nations most affected by climate change.
The agreement on the loss and damage fund is a breakthrough worth celebrating – not because the world is going to ante up the money anytime soon, though it should. But because it signals, finally, recognition of what low- and middle-income countries have argued for years – they've done the least to cause the crisis but are paying the highest price. While it's too soon to tell whether or not this will translate into real financing, what it has done is begun to level the playing field in climate negotiations. And that's something we can and must build on if we want a meaningful response to a global crisis in the years to come.