I’ve been reporting this week on the United Nations’ declared support (however vague) for expanding the global health agenda to go beyond the traditional focus on infectious diseases like AIDS, TB, measles or malaria and include non-contagious, chronic disease like cancer or heart disease.
Across town, the Clinton Global Initiative was also in New York City this week and has been exploring how to fight hunger, poverty, unemployment, gender discrimination as well as disease.
One organization from Seattle in attendance here at this high-caliber, invitation-only event, Landesa, is dealing with all these at the same time.
“Land rights are at the root of many of these problems,” said Tim Hanstad, president and CEO of the non-profit organization (formerly known as RDI, Rural Development Institute) which works to help poor people around the world obtain legal ownership of their land.
Did I mention that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is pretty high-faluting? Only select folks are invited. People like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Obama, Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi — and actually quite a few people representing organizations from Seattle such as PATH, Microsoft and a creative nerd working on a literacy device.
Media are allowed in, within limits. I got kicked out of a room (where I was interviewing physician-activist Paul Farmer) because I had inadvertently left the media quarantine area. For more on what it’s like to be a journalist at CGI, read this hilarious piece by the Wall Street Journal’s Ralph Gardner Jr.
But I digress. The point is it’s a high honor to be invited to attend the CGI event. It is also often a sign that your issue — aimed at creating a social good — is rising up on the political and philanthropic radar screen.
Hanstad’s been to this luminous event before, but he said there’s no question the issue of land rights for the poor is gaining more recognition. Part of this, he said, is due to the so-called “land grab” going on in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. See this Oxfam spoof video for one view.
“It’s hard to get precise numbers on what’s happening out there, but it’s clearly huge,” Hanstad said. Continue reading