Nurturing the Future – 21 Challenges for the 21st Century Moving Forward Together

Closing address by Anwar Fazal, Chairperson, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA)   at the Second WABA Global Forum - Nurturing the Future: Challenges to Breastfeeding in the 21st Century, on 27 September 2002, at Arusha, Tanzania.

Good meetings are about the three “I’s”: Information, Inspiration and Initiatives. This forum was a joy because it has given us an abundance of the 3 “I’s”.

We face a triple crisis – a crisis of equity, a crisis in economics and a crisis in ecology. Underlying this triple crisis are the real crises – the crisis of leadership, of integrity, of good governance. Society is like a fish, it rots from the head down. The real “axis of evil” are those who promote a world of violence, manipulation and waste. The “triangle of hope” are those who struggle for a world of balance and harmony, of stewardship and trusteeship and of accountability – accountability to the people and to the future. The struggle to promote, protect and support breastfeeding is a struggle between this “axis of evil” and this “triangle of hope”.


What do we do? Where do we go? The great civilisation of China gives us one framework – acupuncture, and to make that succeed you had to have a good map of pressure points, good needles and good skills.


The map of “Action Areas” is a formidable one. Listening to the new discourse over the last week. I like to share with you those key action areas – the 21 action areas for the 21st century- Agenda 2121, for short. It can form the platform for our work together. Let me list them briefly:


  1. Human Rights and Responsibilities – we must be and our work must be rooted in this fundamental of the right to breastfeeding.
  2. Fostering Women’s Empowerment and mother support must be central to any regime.
  3. Ensuring Food Security, of which breastfeeding is the first.
  4. Community participation – involving listening and working with people, real people and their real issues.
  5. Involving the young – no social movement succeeds better than the ones which nurture “leadership”, not “followership”.
  6. Involving the culture of integrity – corruption, sponsorship and conflicts of interests are the cancers.
  7. Holding authorities accountable for the Code, subsequent resolutions and other global instruments from ILO, from UNICEF, and from WHO. Shame those who don’t comply as IBFAN had done so ably and bravely with their State of the Code reports (in “UN Blue” and “Swiss Red”).
  8. Capacity building in a big way - Audrey Naylor dares us to dream about a new spirit in the many areas of skills needed, medical and political. Margaret Kyenkya reminded us thatr medical textbooks have to change.
  9. Creativity - We are a force for happiness. Our work, our materials, our methods must have spirit and joy. Bonnie Davis, Anne-Marie and all the other wonderful creative people from the Philippines and locally showed us the sparks and springs of hope.
  10. The AIDS pandemic - a new partnership between us, the AIDS community and the UN system, has been created for us at this meeting, and we must make it work.
  11. The challenge of Body Burdens, of toxicants that challenge the inner limits of our bodies and the outer limits of mother earth. Our partnership with the environment movement is a shared one, beginning with the fact that breastfeeding is a supremely and deeply ecological act.
  12. The Globalisation Scourge - together we must work for what UNICEF/the UN has committed itself at the recent special UN session - A world fit for children. Next year therefore, the World Breastfeeding Week is to be on this theme and what a powerful slogan it could be. 
  13. Genetic Engineering, cloning and playing with life and fire will challenge us as milk is targeted.
  14. The strategy of massive economic environmental and conflict-based refugees is a humanitarian challenge we cannot ignore.
  15. Militarisation - All our spiritual traditions talk of "swords into plowshares", of peace but militarism seems the emerging religion. It depletes resources and lives.
  16. Equity - social justice systems globally are essential but if the world's greatest powers have no respect for equity and justice, what role model for the local goons and tyrants. And the UN System must rethink its increasing and worrying and often  unconscionable the so-called "partnerships" with questionable corporations. At this Forum we have initiated  a petition  calling on UNICEF to rethink its clearly  unconscionable involvement with the fast food chain MacDonalds. Do sign it.
  17. The Internet Revolution is going to be a new frontier for us - advertisements, propaganda. It can be both a power of empowerment and disempowerment. Join the People's Communication Charter movement.
  18. The healthy business (or unhealthy) - the corporatisation, privatisation, liberalisation (the "CPL" virus, some called it) will need a countervailing response. The Peoples Health Charter provides us with a framework for this. And we must ensure that so-called debt reduction strategy do not undermine basic health services.
  19. Annelies Allain reminded us to be alert that we are not in a "standstill" battle - new products, new services, new territories will challenge us downstream and upstream.
  20. The challenge of the workplace - employers and the whole nature of work and its relations to gender, nurturing and family has to be transformed.
  21. And lastly, underpinning our work and beginning again from the beginning, the challenge of humane birth and humane care as Mary Krueger and Prof. Adik remind us. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative must be also mother and community friendly. And GIMS - Global Initiative for Mother Support (and now GIFS - Global Initiative for Father Support) must be strengthened to be among the pillars of work


The Agenda 2121 is indeed a formidable one but never forget the world changes and if you dare, and if you dream and if you do, it can happen.


I shared with you at the opening how I saw breastfeeding as a beautiful flower with petals representing medicine, nutrition, ecology, economy and deep, deep love. I'd like now to share with you a framework for transformation: a five-pointed star of hope and power. The five points are:


  1. The power of one - never underestimate the power of one individual, for example, that little actions can change the world. And in the breastfeeding movement, everyone is a miracle worker.
  2. The power of “many” – build a power of alliances and networks of breastfeeding links with the gender, ecology, justice, workers, health, consumer and many other movements. And our wonderful partners: IBFAN, La Leche League, ILCA, Wellstart, Linkages and many other make us feel the strength of family and community.
  3. The power of the “Halo” – draw from our spiritual traditions and what George Kent called the “Fundaments of Accountability” – make them real and make them work for us.
  4. The power of the “Information” – access to good research and good communication skills is central and Denise Arcoverde from Brazil has shown us how to make the Internet work for us.
  5. And lastly the power of “Success” – every victory, however small, celebrate it, share it, good work inspires more good work.

So remember the real “Axis of Evil”, remember the “Triangle of Hope”, remember the “Agenda 2121”, remember the five-petal flower and remember the five-pointed star. Remember those five things as we journey together in our struggle to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

To mark this new stage of our journey, WABA will be initiating a “World Breastfeeding Charter” – a popular mobilising tool that can uplift our spirit as we sing the same song, with our heads and our hearts and our hands.

Asalamaliakum, brothers and sisters, peace be with you – inner peace, peace with other people and peace with Mother Earth.


Thank you

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