Summer interview 2014 – Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance
Seth Berkley is the CEO of the Geneva-based GAVI Alliance, committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing access to immunisation in the world's poorest countries. In this interview, he tells us about his work over the summer months, his holiday plans as well as his favourite books, music and places to visit in the Geneva area this summer.
What will you be working on this summer?
I will be actively preparing for GAVI Alliance replenishment. 1.5 million children under five still die each year of vaccine-preventable disease and this is unacceptable. As you know the GAVI Alliance Board recently approved our strategy for 2016-2020. We firmly believe that a fully-funded Alliance can reach an additional 300 million children with vaccines in the 2016 to 2020 period and save between five and six million future lives.
The GAVI Alliance is asking donors to invest an additional US$ 7.5 billion over five years to support developing countries' immunisation programmes from 2016 to 2020. This is an ambitious request but we have an historic opportunity to build on the foundations that have been laid over the past 14 years of the GAVI Alliance with vaccine programmes that are resilient, sustainable and equitable.
Do you have holiday plans?
I will take my family to Sag Harbor which is a small village and former whaling community outside of New York. It is mentioned in Moby-Dick but it is very different from the place described by Melville, a place where sailors lose their souls. Now it is much quieter! I hope I'll be able to do some sailing, bicycling and spend time with my children. Given all the traveling I do, I don't often have time to enjoy precious moments with them.
What do you take the opportunity to do in Geneva during the summer?
I like to be able to bicycle to work even if it is a long ride. It's about a 40 kilometre round-trip as I live in Vaud, but it is an amazing ride through the vineyards, by the lake and it is a fun one too.
Do you have a place you really love in Geneva or in the surrounding area?
I love the fact that we work next to the Botanical garden and therefore we can have walking or lunch meetings outside the building in the beauty of that place. On a more personal note, my family is very fond of horses, when I met my wife I had a horse in New York that I rescued from the race track. We love that it is a strong part of the local culture; we live surrounded by farms. I also love the international scope of Geneva, home of so many different types of organizations where people with so many different cultural backgrounds work together. There is always an opportunity to learn from other cultures and experience the profound truth of the remark by Saint-Exupéry, "in being different to me, you are not doing me harm, brother, but enriching me".
Do you have a summer book recommendation for our readers?
There are many; Steve Jobs bio because Steve was such an innovator and he was an amazing person who was deeply impressive when I met him. Inferno, by Dan Brown for the way he manages to get the reader glued to the plot even if sometimes everything is not scientifically accurate. I'm currently reading The Lord of the Rings with my daughter which sets the standards for fantasy books and not only for the summer!
Do you have a musical recommendation for our readers?
My daughter is learning the cello and I love listening to the Bach Cello suites with her, performed by Yo-Yo Ma who, by the way, took them up when he was four. He is not only an excellent musician but also served on the Rockefeller Foundation board. I find the harmonic structure of this rich and complex music relaxing, peaceful but at the same time energetic. It's an energy that is so different from the stress of daily life. To help me work, I prefer the Brandenburg concertos also by Bach which express much grander and sublime feelings.