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Rebuilding Faith In Institutions Is Necessary for Progress

Anand Mathur Hanging Bridge, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo © The Rockefeller Foundation

There are good reasons to be optimistic about the world’s future. We live in an era when more people are leading better lives than they were just a decade ago. Fewer families live in extreme poverty, half as many children die before turning five-years-old, and twice as many families have access to electricity. And yet, our current era is increasingly one of global division and strife. Armed conflict and massive waves of displaced people have led to an increased rate of global hunger for the first time in years. And here in the United States as well as around the world, there is a measurable and pronounced loss of faith in the institutions we historically rely on to overcome major societal challenges like the ones we face – especially government, the media, and the private sector.

In this era of both dramatic progress and retrenchment, The Rockefeller Foundation is committed not only to protecting progress we have made, but to continuing to forge ahead and solve new challenges – further reducing rates of extreme poverty, child and maternal mortality, and increasing access to electricity. We are especially committed to efforts that advance those goals for the most vulnerable populations, especially in fragile states where societies face a host of challenges including conflict, displacement, and extreme climate impacts.

We advance these goals by working to secure the fundamentals of human well-being—health, food, power, and jobs—to ensure every family experiences dignity and opportunity in our rapidly urbanizing world. In addition to our major programmatic commitments in those four areas, we work in many other ways to bring peace and stability. Here are three examples:

  1. In Africa, we’re partnering with the African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa to explore how the African Continental Free Trade Agreement could enhance economic opportunity, food security, and health outcomes for more than 1 billion Africans. We organized a major convening in Nigeria to bring together African leaders in the public and private sectors, and we launched a digital outreach campaign to educate Africans on the deal’s potential and pitfalls.
  2. Last week in France as the world recognized the armistice of World War I, we threw our support into the Paris Peace Forum—an effort not only to preserve a peaceful world order but also to represent collective action as a mainstay of international relation. Our focus here is in finding innovative solutions to end state and societal fragility and to learn more about how digital public services—the so-called digital state—could enhance equity and inclusion.
  3. The Rockefeller Foundation has supported a free and independent press all around the world for decades. One illustration of this commitment is our support for reporting by The Miami Herald and The New York Times on efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Or our support for One Small Step, StoryCorps’ new national effort to encourage people to engage in a conversation with someone they may not agree with politically.

As proponents of an unencumbered, robust civil society, we face a series of tough questions every day.

  • Can civil society, corporate leadership, and social impact organizations like ours genuinely come together to address the root causes of inequality at home and around the world?
  • For those often left behind by innovation, can we harness science, technology, and finance to maintain progress toward achieving our long-term vision of success – ending poverty and hunger, ensuring access to productive power for everyone, eliminating preventable child and maternal mortality, increasing economic opportunity, and combatting climate change?
  • Can we do it in a way that allows every parent to really believe that their kids will have a brighter future?

Our answer to those questions is an enthusiastic, optimistic, “YES!”

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