GBCHealth has reached a significant milestone – 15 years of mobilizing business action to improve health across the globe. I want to congratulate both the organization and its partners for their commitments and their impact on important health issues.
In 1998, I created the United Nations Foundation to support the United Nations’ life-saving and life-changing work. I was also in the audience a year later in Davos when then Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged the business community “to initiate a global compact of shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market.” At the time, world leaders were beginning to prioritize HIV/AIDS in the global development agenda – the disease had reached pandemic proportions, which sparked an unprecedented UN Security Council meeting to discuss the impact of AIDS on the peace and security of Africa. This meeting was led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, the eventual founder of the Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS (GBC) – which has since evolved into GBCHealth.
As a businessman and a philanthropist, I recognized the vision and ambition of GBC and the importance of its work. So, when Richard approached me in 2001 to support expanding the coalition beyond the initial 17 companies, I jumped at the chance to support this game-changing group of business leaders. At the time, businesses around the world were starting to come to terms with the devastating impact that the HIV epidemic was having on their workforce. An estimated 5.4 million people were being newly infected, with nearly 3 million people dying annually. Companies across Africa were experiencing up to a 50% drop in productivity throughout the 1990s. It was an unprecedented time for all of us.
GBC armed us with the necessary tools, data, and opportunities that amplified the voice of the private sector in the development space. Through this work, we came to better understand how to deploy their assets to improve health and to acknowledge that business leaders could be essential and powerful catalysts for change. GBC provided neutral platforms where a range of partners could come together for dialogue that ultimately saved lives. Trust was built between the UN, private, and public sectors in a way that responded directly to Secretary-General Annan’s challenge. Companies created internal policies that sought to destigmatize HIV and AIDS in the workplace while offering necessary support to employees, their families, and affected communities. The broader development community sought out GBC to engage the business community in policy dialogues with government leaders and advocates that helped to ease the tensions around access to life-saving medicines. GBC also created an opportunity for companies to improve the impact of their investments by engaging with global financing mechanisms such as The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Since its inception, GBC has been instrumental in demonstrating the value of collaborative action in practice within health and development. It is commonplace now to consider the private sector as a core stakeholder in leading and implementing health programs around the world. Many of the global partnerships that the UN Foundation leads today could not be successful without the active involvement of the business community. Today’s business leaders are building their companies with an understanding of the many ways their work has an impact on employees, communities, and the world at large. GBCHealth’s work over the years has helped to make this standard practice.
As the global health landscape has evolved, so too has GBCHealth. From the days of exclusively focusing on HIV, to building established portfolios on malaria and TB, and now adding leadership around regional challenges, integrated programming, health financing, and maternal, newborn, and child health issues, GBCHealth continues to work to ensure that the business community is an organized and effective partner in the daily fight to improve and save lives. It stays true and steadfast to its vision of a business community around the world that is fully contributing its assets, skills, influence, and reach to make the world healthier.
Fifteen years from the day Richard approached me, it is remarkable to think that now, with the launch of a second global development agenda, that key questions no longer revolve around whether business has a role to play, but rather how every sector can partner more effectively to deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Make no mistake, the challenges are many and great. We know that no one actor can address these challenges alone. This is why I believe the next 15 years are critical, and GBCHealth will continue to play a vital and leading role.
I am thrilled to celebrate this milestone with the GBCHealth family and friends, and I look forward to working together for many years to come.
Chairman, Turner Enterprises
R. E. TURNER (U.S.A.) – Throughout his career, Ted Turner has won recognition for his entrepreneurial acumen; sharp business skills; a vision that transformed television; leadership qualities that won sports championships; and his unprecedented philanthropy.
Turner began his career as an account executive with Turner Advertising Company and entered the television business in 1970 when he acquired Atlanta independent UHF station channel 17. In 1976, Turner purchased Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and launched TBS Superstation, originating the “Superstation” concept. The following year, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. acquired the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks, and in 1980 Turner launched CNN, the world’s first live, 24-hour global news network.
Over the next two decades, the company built a portfolio of unrivaled cable television news and entertainment brands and businesses, including CNN Headline News, CNN International, TNT, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies. In the mid-’90s, Castle Rock Entertainment and New Line Cinema became Turner Broadcasting properties. In October 1996, the company merged with Time Warner Inc., and in 2001, Time Warner merged with AOL to create AOL Time Warner. The company later changed its name back to Time Warner Inc.
Turner has also made his mark as one of the most influential philanthropists in the U.S.