Dear UN, it's time for an NCD partnership

28 November 2012

It's time for the UN to take the initiative and establish the global mechanism to drive action on diabetes and NCDs.

Following the recent historic breakthrough on global targets for diabetes and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Geneva, eyes turn this week to the United Nations (UN) in New York. At last year’s UN Summit on NCDs in September 2011, the UN Secretary General agreed to make recommendations on multisectoral action on diabetes and NCDs. This week, Ban Ki-Moon’s proposals will be discussed by the UN General Assembly and we are waiting for positive news.

Federations like ours are based on the principle that organisations working together are louder, better informed and harder to ignore. Partnerships are in our DNA.
 

Federations like ours are based on the principle that organisations working together are louder, better informed and harder to ignore. Partnerships are in our DNA. We have seen, in the NCD Alliance, how powerful federations and other NGOs can be when working on a common platform. Three years after IDF invited our sister federations to form the NCDA, we have shown that NGOs can work together across diseases.

Now we need governments at the UN to establish a mechanism for governments, NGOs and the private sector to work together under the UN umbrella on the 'whole of society' approach to NCDs envisaged in the UN Political Declaration on NCD's. That is what government leaders said they wanted when governments drafted and signed the Political Declaration last year but progress has been mixed since the commitment was made.

IDF and the NCD Alliance were the first NGO organisations to put forward a model for the global partnership we want to see driving follow up from the UN Summit. When the NCD Alliance was formed we said early on that we did not want a new UN agency or Global Fund for NCDs. We are not looking for a building or a large bureaucracy. WHO will continue to have a critical role to play as the UN agency leading on health. We have always said, however, that diabetes and the other NCDs are best integrated into the policies and programmes of existing UN agencies and funds, and into health system strengthening programmes at country level. But such a 'mainstreaming approach' could mean NCDs get lost without a leadership coalition to drive and monitor action at a global level.

We urgently need a vehicle to drive change and someone in the driver's seat.

The NCD Alliance’s preferred model is a light touch Global Coordinating Mechanism – which builds on highly successful precedents such as the Partnership on Maternal and Newborn Child Health (PMNCH). This Mechanism would be led by governments, housed within the UN, and include donors and the private sector, to coordinate the concerted response that is so desperately needed. Governments must lead this partnership, but any model is doomed to fail if it is not a formal structure and does not harness the resources, expertise, energy and commitment of civil society, people with diabetes and NCDs, and the private sector.

Now I understand that not everyone agrees on inclusion of the private sector but we cannot allow progress on NCDs to be held hostage by this point. IDF's latest data shows that 371 million people globally have diabetes. This epidemic won't wait. Partnership parameters have been defined to enable the private sector to contribute to other UN housed partnerships and the same is possible with NCDs.

The Political Declaration, Global Targets and next Global NCD Action Plan will map our road ahead – defining the future vision, goals and priorities in the global response to diabetes and NCDs. Over one year after the UN Summit on NCDs the clock is now ticking on establishment of the multisectoral partnership to be the catalyst for coordinated action. This week I call on governments to make their political commitment a reality.

We urgently need a vehicle to drive change and someone in the driver's seat.