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March 31, 2012

Sharing the MLI story

Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health
  Rosann Wisman welcomes country leaders to the MLI Learning Collaborative Forum Photo Credit Dominic Chavez

When I started as director of MLI nearly four years ago, I had very few preconceived notions.  I wanted to keep as open a mind as possible about how MLI could help developing countries follow through on their priorities for the health care of their people.  Today, March 31, 2012, MLI is coming to a close and I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the program’s journey.

My initial thought going into the job was that we could help build leadership in health ministries.  But I soon realized that it wasn’t about building leadership--  that dynamic leadership was present but sometimes swamped beneath the enormous pressures of huge jobs with little resources.   MLI looked for ways to support ministry leaders’ efforts and to better position and promote their voices and their priorities to national and global audiences.  And we gained an appreciation for the value of senior ministry leaders supporting, learning, and sharing with each other. 

I soon learned the key to MLI’s future success -- we needed to build trust.

Gradually, month by month, trip by trip, the scores of health leaders in our five country ministries – Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, Senegal, and Sierra Leone – realized we were there to help. While we worked to improve policies and procedures in the areas of aid effectiveness, health financing, reproductive health and health systems strengthening, from the start, we simply have tried to support senior ministry teams move forward on the priorities that they had set for their countries.

It has been a life-altering privilege to have worked in partnership with these ministry leaders for these past few years. And the work of MLI will continue through the lessons we have shared and in the principles of country ownership that we have helped to foster.   MLI’s lessons will continue to have an impact on country ownership -- a movement that is profoundly altering the nature of development practice and relations between donors and developing countries.

There are four documents that I think help to tell the story of MLI and our work with leaders in our five partner countries:

-Proceedings from the Learning Collaborative Forum, held in Ethiopia in the fall of 2010, which was the springboard for much deeper sharing and learning among our countries;
-The Call to Action for Country-Led Development in Health, signed in May 2011 by all five MLI country ministers, reflected their language about the importance of country ownership and practical steps for how to get there; 

-The MLI Model for Advancing Country Ownership, a newly released legacy document drawn from our experience with each of our countries; and

-Proceedings from the MLI Roundtable to Advance Country Ownership for Greater Results, held in January 2012, featuring the highest ranking USAID officials as well as senior ministry representatives from MLI countries who had a frank and powerful dialogue about the future.

I hope all of these documents and others on the MLI website at  will serve as valuable resources for anyone seeking to use development dollars wisely and improve the health of the most vulnerable in the world.