Koenders explains his idea of modern development cooperation
‘Modern development cooperation should work as a catalyst to set things in motion,’ explains the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders. ‘Eventually it’s the people in developing countries who should do it themselves.’ Koenders was interviewed at a meeting organized by De Grote Onderneming ((DGO) 'The Big Enterprise’) on May 25th, titled: “Developmental aid in times of crisis and the role of the business community.” In addition, Sjoerd van Keulen, Board Member of the Health Insurance Fund and former CEO of SNS REAAL, gave an update on the successes and challenges of the Health Insurance Fund program.
Besides this meeting, on June 20th DGO organised the annual AmsterdamDiner, one of the largest fundraising dinners in the Netherlands. The theme of the evening also focused on the crisis. The thousand guests present at this festive evening, amongst whom Dutch celebrities, royalties and politicians, were asked to think ‘out of the box.’ They were called upon to invest in the developing world, now that it is feeling the impact of the crisis harder than ever. Over €550,000 was raised.
The successful AmsterdamDiner had a specific focus on the disastrous effect of the crisis on the healthcare sector of developing countries. This has enormous consequences for the effectiveness of the fight against AIDS. The funds raised, will be donated to a project of the Health Insurance Fund. In partnership with HIVOS andStop Aids Now!, two Dutch health related NGO’s, the Fund will start an insurance awareness campaign in Tanzania for the microcredit organization PRIDE. The members of PRIDE are a target group for the Tanzanian program; HIV/AIDS treatment is included in the insurance package of the program. DGO is a platform of socially engaged Dutch companies, including AEGON, Heineken, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SNS REAAL and Unilever, that actively contributes to the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
According to Minister Koenders “out-of the box thinking” does not only apply to the guests of the AmsterdamDiner, but for development cooperation in general as well. At the event in May he emphasized that with less money to spend the focus of development cooperation should be on efficiency. Increasing the impact can, in his eyes, be achieved by strategic partnerships between the public and the private sector. The exchange of knowledge and resources between private and public organisations has proven to be a fruitful method of building effective bottom-up projects. Not only did he mention the Health Insurance Fund, but he also praised the partnership between his Ministry and Philips to light Africa. And especially now, in times of what Koenders calls ‘the financial drought of developing countries’ he expressed the wish that more companies get rid of their cold feet, and participate in public-private partnership.
Setting things in motion
Koenders believes the program of the Health Insurance Fund is a good example of a catalyst approach, in this case in building a bottom-up community based health systems: ‘Without healthy people, it is not possible for a community to develop economically.’ The introduction of health insurance is a good instrument to ensure that a community receives quality health care without the disastrous consequences of out-of-pocket payments and to make the community fit to work, now and in the future. ‘Insurance is in general an extremely interesting concept. It could for example also be used to protect farmers in Africa from unpredictable future shocks.’
Van Keulen in conversation with the moderator of the meeting Roderick Veelo (journalist for the Dutch news station RTL-Z)
He expressed his enthusiasm for the program in reaction to the introduction of Sjoerd Van Keulen. Van Keulen summed up the achievements of the Fund in the past two years, with two major breakthroughs in particular: expansion of the program to Tanzania after summer and the recent start of a new program in Nigeria. The latter is an enormous milestone since the program is co-funded by the Governor of Kwara State. The Governor believes the insurance mechanism is a blueprint to reach quality health care for all inhabitants of his state and possibly even for the whole of Nigeria. These major developments are an indication that the idea of health insurance has set things in motion. Not only is the community embracing the insurance program, but the Nigerian government as well.
‘Despite the successes a lot of challenges remain,’ Van Keulen added. ‘What we have learned is that setting up a well-functioning administration and payments system is extremely important.’ Something, he said, the Fund underestimated in a surrounding where for example streets and houses are not numbered and even people are not always registered correctly. ‘Another challenge has been raising awareness amongst potential beneficiaries of the importance of health insurance.’ The start of an insurance awareness campaign, together with Hivos and Stop Aids Now, in Tanzania with the money raised at the AmsterdamDiner, is therefore much needed to educate the members of PRIDE about the importance and benefits of health insurance.