By Priya Kanayson, MPH*
The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015 was a landmark moment for the non-communicable disease (NCD) community. For the first time, NCDs were included among the top global development priorities – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By adopting SDG 3.4, governments have committed to, by 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment, and to promote mental health and well-being. SDG 3.a underlines the importance of tobacco control in achieving the entire Goal 3 on health, calling for strengthened implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in all countries.
2018 General Assembly review
The NCD commitments in the 2030 Agenda build on the promises made in the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which will be reviewed by the General Assembly in 2018. In preparation for the meeting, the World Health Organization (WHO) will develop a number of documents, including a report on progress with regards to national NCD commitments agreed at the high-level meetings in 2011, and again in 2014. Two events in 2017 provide opportunities to follow up on the global NCD commitments and prepare for the NCD high-level meeting in 2018:
July 2017: UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF)
The HLPF is the main review mechanism for the SDGs. The 2017 meeting will consider progress on various goals, including SDG3 on health, under the theme “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”. NCD civil society and the broader health community must come together to hold governments accountable on reaching progress on all aspects of the health goal, and help demonstrate the linkages between health and all other SDGs.
December 2017: Global NCD Alliance Forum
The 2nd Global NCD Alliance Forum will bring together NCD advocates from civil society, academia, government, the private sector and others to engage in sharing best practices and challenges in NCD prevention and control. The Forum will also serve as an opportunity for NCD advocates across the globe to agree priorities and plan for the 2018 UN NCD Review. More information about the Forum will be available in early 2017. Aside from these two events, both the World Health Assembly (WHA) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA) will provide opportunities to raise the profile of NCDs. The WHA and UNGA in 2017 will be unique as the new WHO Director-General will be selected in May, and the UNGA in 2017 will be the first session under the new UN Secretary-General. Mr António Guterres (from Portugal) will take office on 1 January 2017.
New leaders NCDs champions?
Given the change in leadership at both WHO and the UN, it will be important to ensure the WHO DG and UNSG are NCD champions. Civil society can help promote the importance of tobacco control and bring attention to NCDs by writing letters of support to both leaders, encouraging them to take up the mantle of NCD prevention and control within their organisations. At both WHA and UNGA, negotiations (even if only informal) will start on the parameters of the 2018 high-level NCD meeting. By early 2018, governments will need to decide on the objectives of the meeting, its timing and duration. On behalf of the NCDA, best wishes for a healthy and successful 2017.
*Advocacy Officer, NCD Alliance