Aspen Institute Receives $8.7 Million Grant From Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health

March 20, 2008  • Institute Contributor

Aspen Institute Receives $8.7 Million Grant From Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health

March 20, 2008, Washington, D.C. – A significant new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will strengthen the leadership capacity of health ministers and their senior staff in select countries, and support renewed efforts to have a positive impact on women’s health around the world. 

The four-year, $8,714,441 grant to the Aspen Institute will support the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health (MLI) — an innovative project of Realizing Rights, the Health Financing Task Force and the Council of Women World Leaders, designed to meet the critical need for political leadership to address major global health challenges. MLI partners will work with select ministers of health and their senior staff to improve the equity and effectiveness of public and aid financing for health. Participating ministerial teams also will become part of a cohort of leaders engaged in peer learning activities, providing a network of mutual support for reform, and a platform for exposure on the international stage.

Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights, stressed the importance of political leadership in achieving positive health outcomes: “We have the resources and technology needed to reach the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] for health – what we need now is the political will to employ them. If we are serious about meeting the MDGs, we need to be serious about supporting political will and action. The Ministerial Leadership Initiative is pioneering a demand-driven and practice-based leadership development model to do just that.”

This initiative focuses on the critical importance of ministerial knowledge and decision-making skills in building sustainable health systems that provide quality, accessible and affordable healthcare. “Political leadership is critical to ensure that effective health interventions reach women and their families,” said Kathy Cahill, Deputy Director of Integrated Health Solutions Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “The Ministerial Leadership Initiative will provide valuable support to government leaders addressing serious health challenges in their countries.”

“In some countries, key health indicators are sliding backward, and vulnerable populations, including women, are suffering the most,” said Laura Liswood, Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders. “Ministers often act in isolation in their countries; there are few forums available for them to share experiences and learn from one another. MLI is providing this much needed space.”

The Ministerial Leadership Initiative Calls for Submissions

MLI has issued a call for submissions to participate in the technical assistance program that will support selected ministries of health. (To view the call for submissions and obtain more information, please visit Competitively selected, up to five ministers of health and their teams will receive three years of leadership and technical support to assist them with their efforts to design and implement reforms geared toward pro-poor health financing and donor alignment and harmonization.

There is an urgent need for data, skills and expertise to strategically apply new approaches to public health policy. “Ministers need support that is technically-driven,” David de Ferranti, Chair and Director of the Health Financing Task Force, stated, “but also tailored to their positions as political leaders.” MLI will support ministries through direct technical assistance, peer learning, and practical, business-style cases highlighting ministerial-led best practice.

Extensive consultation with health ministers from around the world has revealed a demand for leadership support grounded in practical experience. Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, Nigeria‘s Minister of Health from 2003 to 2007 and MLI Advisory Council member commented,”[M]inisters of health need to find ways to get health high on the political agenda of the country. They need to have the skills required to argue their cases in the cabinet, to be able to argue too with counterparts, particularly the minister of finance.”

For further information on the Ministerial Leadership Initiative, please contact Peggy Clark, Managing Director, Realizing Rights/Washington, DC Tel:+1-202-736-1081; Email:

Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative aims to put human rights principles and standards at the heart of global governance and policy-making, ensuring the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are addressed on the global stage. Realizing Rights programs address health, equitable trade and decent work, women’s leadership and corporate responsibility issues. In Africa, Realizing Rights works with political, civil society and business leaders to promote innovative policy solutions which promote greater respect for human rights. (

The Health Financing Task Force is an international body of prominent public and private leaders dedicated to helping developing countries achieve more effective financing of health services, and thereby to improve health and contribute to poverty reduction. The HFTF was created in response to the absence of attention to systemic health financing for health and social protection and the role it plays in making the right to health a reality in developing countries. (

The Council of Women World Leaders’ mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women. The Council for Women World Leaders is a network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers. The Council’s mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development. (

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership initiatives in Africa, Central America, and India.


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