HID Conference Ponders Aids Developments

On April 6-7, 2001, the world congregated at The Kennedy School of Government for the Seventh Annual Harvard International Development Conference. Speakers from places such as China, Bangladesh, Bolivia, South Africa, Latvia, Mexico, Brazil, and Dominican Republic, spoke about “Delivering Impact: Evolving Partnerships in International Development.” The conference organizers, made up from a partnership of schools, including Harvard Business School, Kennedy School of Government and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, asked the panelists and conference attendees: “What development strategies really work? What partnerships most effectively reduce poverty?” The conference sought to tackle these difficult questions by bringing together development practitioners, business leaders, academic researchers and members of nonprofit organizations. There were over 35 international development leaders represented on eight panels, ranging from Reconciling Responsibility and Profits: The Corporate Role in Development, Countering the Pandemic: Partnerships for the delivery of AIDS Drugs to Developing Countries, and Technology in Development. The keynotes of the conference were Leonel Fernandez, former President of the Dominican Republic, Michael Fairbanks, CEO of ontheFRONTIER, and Jorge Quiroga Ramirez, Vice President of Bolivia.

The Harvard Conference kicked off on the evening of the 6th with a speech by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for International Development, spoke about success and failures in development. Prof. Sachs brought up the contrasting development paths of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, countries both on the same island, a fact allowing a comparison that is not rooted in geography. According to the Kennedy School’s 7 year test (divide the growth rate by 7 years and you can find out how often the economy doubles or halves). The D.R.’s GDP has been doubling every 11 years, while Haiti’s been halving every 35 years. Prof. Sachs postulated that development has two fundamental pillars, and it is critical to have both to succeed: one, economic growth, and two, health of its population. Economic growth through a business environment that allows for technological advancement and flourishing of businesses is key. The D.R. has a booming business sector that has developed through partnerships, while Haiti’s has been turning down the wrong direction. In a similar way, the D.R. has invested greatly in health and social issues. The D.R.’s life expectancy is 73 years, while Haiti’s is 52. Health, and especially an epidemic such as AIDS, stated Sachs, cannot be solved without absolute commitment from international partnerships between the government, including developed and developing, as well as civil society, academia, and industry. These partnerships, 20 years in the making, are still not happening. Prof. Sachs closed his speech with a call to students to be involved in these partnerships, to propel them forward and to engage in any kind of partnerships to foster development

Health, and specifically AIDS continued to be a key issue at the conference and innovative strategies were discussed at the AIDS panel where a variety of perspectives were presented with Serena Koenig from Partners in Health, Anne-Valerie Kaninda from Doctors Without Borders, Thomas Bombelles from Merck, Richard Marlink, Executive Director from the Harvard Aids Institute, and Samantha Power of the Kennedy School [picture at left]. Ms. Kaninda made a strong case, advocating for fast deployment of the AIDS cocktail by making it affordable and accessible. Merck’s Bombelles, on the other hand, characterized their recent price lowering as a “leap of faith to human kind.” The critical success factors for increasing the cure of AIDS are 1) Developing a distribution system or the infrastructure necessary for poor remote towns/villages to have access – this implies the need for training or for doctors to follow up and administer it to patients and 2) Providing preventive and user education though this is not often the main topic on the agenda.