Good evening. It is my pleasure to welcome you tonight as we begin this week’s 70th World Health Assembly.
With the imminent selection of a new Director-General, the World Health Organization is poised for an important, and perhaps historic, shift. We need a strong WHO now more than ever.
This year’s World Health Assembly also occurs at a watershed moment in the evolution of the NCD Alliance. We began just eight years ago and have transformed from a largely fragmented and disjointed community into a strong, unified network of 2000 civil society organizations in 170 countries around the world.
Additionally, we have created a network of more than 50 national and regional NCD Alliances. I am delighted that representatives from more than 10 national and regional alliances are here this week, testament to the effectiveness of united advocacy platforms.
This is a moment to pause, and acknowledge how far we have come. And to keep in mind there is still a long way to go.
Unlike many other coalitions and alliances in global health that struggle to survive, the NCD alliance is stronger than ever. A tireless focus on what needs to be done to reduce the burden of NCDs and a steadfast belief in the value of multi-sectoral partnerships have guided our growth and success since our very beginning.
Building on these strong foundations, I am delighted to announce that we are taking the step to become a full-fledged organization – shifting from an informal alliance to a standalone NGO, registered in Switzerland. Our new model will have an elected Board and a consolidated membership base. We are very excited about what this will mean for the future.
Before talking about the rationale and implications of these changes, I want to acknowledge the leadership of the three federations that founded the NCD Alliance – IDF, WHF, and UICC. Without their vision and leadership in those early years, the NCD alliance would never have been formed.
My own organization, the Union, joined shortly after. And more recently, FCA, ADI and MSH came on board to strengthen our resolve even further.
We are also indebted to the representatives who have dedicated time to the outgoing Steering Group, many of whom are here tonight, including Vash Mungal-Singh, Luis Gardete-Correia, Catharine Taylor, Francis Thompson, Marc Wortmann, Sir George Alleyne, Paula Johns, Neal Kovach, and Gerald Yonga. I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor Dr. Cary Adams, who attended the very first Steering Group Meeting and has served on it ever since. Thank you all.
My gratitude also goes to the NCD Alliance Supporters Consultation Group who have been an enduring pillar of our work and shared success. And the NCD Alliance team, that make it all happen!
This transition will allow us to have a structure that will provide more sustainable support for the NCD community, and will embolden our strategic priorities as we approach the UN High-Level Review on NCDs in 2018. As we gather tonight to celebrate the NCD Alliance as a formal, legal entity, we should reflect on three reasons for our shift to a registered NGO.
First, a key driver for this change is inclusiveness. The NCD movement is more diverse than ever. This is why we are committed to include more organizations from across the NCD community in our advocacy efforts.
While the WHO’s “4 by 4” framing has been useful for galvanizing the policy response, we believe we will be stronger with more groups giving voice to the urgency of NCDs. From the social determinants, to risk factors, to the diseases and multiple co-morbidities and across all spheres of sustainable development, we need to unite and come together. Our new membership structure will allow for this, and ensures that the Alliance will be an even more credible global leader.
Second, our members will augment our ability to deliver on our strategic goals for 2020. The Alliance’s cultivation of a dynamic membership base goes hand-in-hand with a new strategic focus on capacity development of civil society organizations at national and regional levels. Our growing and influential membership and partner base will help us reach our goals more quickly and efficiently.
Third, our new status places us on a more solid long-term foundation, opening up opportunities for strategic partnerships with key institutions such as WHO and UN agencies. We are already looking at ways to ensure that NCD prevention and control can be innovatively funded over the long term so that all nations benefit.
With the gravity of our present challenges clearly in mind, and the excitement of our full potential to accomplish great work together in this important new phase, I am deeply honored to have been chosen to serve as President of the incoming Board that will steer the NCD Alliance onward.
I would now like to welcome my board colleagues for 2017 to 2019. We recognize the great strength of this new team, in terms of the deep and diverse expertise across many areas of the NCD community, and its far reaching geographical representation. I invite these new board members now to join me on the stage.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce:
Two additional board members, Deborah Chen, Executive Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, and Luis Gardete-Correia, Vice President, International Diabetes Federation, were unable to be here this evening.
A very ambitious woman once said: No society can thrive when half its people are left behind.
Our world will not thrive when the burden of NCDs is so high, and the vast majority of annual global deaths are due to NCDs.
We won’t leave people with NCDs behind. Nor will we allow NCDs to claim more people’s health and livelihoods when we know the ways to prevent illness and protect them from harms.
Together, we will remain committed to fight for a world free of preventable suffering, disability and death due to NCDs. We will not rest until our goals have been achieved.