The following speech was given at the NCD Alliance Side Event: No Turning Back: Charting opportunities to invigorate and intensify the NCD response during the United Nations General Assembly:
Tomorrow is the first time Heads of State and Government review progress towards achieving the NCD targets of the 2011 and 2014 High-Level Meetings since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It is a momentous occasion for the NCD and global health community as well, as never before has the UN held two High-Level Meetings on health – today, Member States held the first High-Level Meeting on Ending Tuberculosis.
We have seen the Political Declaration on NCDs and know that in many ways, it falls short of expectations given the sheer magnitude of the burden of NCDs and the preventable suffering experienced by people of all ages around the world.
The data speaks volumes, and the need for action is clear. If the world continues down the path of ‘business as usual,’ by 2025:
Over 320 million people will have died from an NCD; that is equivalent to the entire population of the United States. Over 120 million of those deaths will have been preventable.
And the amount it will have cost developing countries alone since 2011 will be $7 trillion dollars, equivalent to the combined GDP of France, India, and Brazil last year.
Despite the lack of progress, tonight is an opportunity for the NCD community and colleagues to reflect on how far we have come since 2011 and to chart opportunities to accelerate the NCD response.
We have seen progress in countries that implemented the WHO Best Buys – tried and tested, cost-effective interventions that save lives, prevent suffering, and improve economies.
We have seen progress in the number of Heads of State and Government who will attend tomorrow’s High-Level Meeting – 59 is a record number, and we hope it is an indication of the action that will follow the commitments.
We have seen progress in the establishment of 55 national and regional alliances that work within their own country’s contexts to turn the dial up on action for NCDs.
And, in the last 35 weeks, over 35 global health and development leaders have signed up to the NCD Alliance’s ENOUGH campaign as NCD Champions. These Champions are Presidents and Ministers, Ambassadors and CEOs, authors and athletes. This is just the beginning, and I encourage those of you here tonight to make a firm commitment that inspires future leadership.
The first Global Week for Action on NCDs, an initiative led by the NCD Alliance as part of ENOUGH, demonstrated the enormous momentum of the global NCD movement. Thousands of people engaged online with tens of thousands of tweets seen by millions of people, and hundreds more held activities in schools, workplaces, streets, and shopping centres.
We cannot forget that at the heart of the NCD response is people – people living with and affected by NCDs – people who are not defined by a specific disease or a specific body part, but people who live full lives and demand health systems and policies that treat them as such.
We must truly imbibe the integrated and indivisible spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and develop policies and programmes that treat people as a whole. We must work within and across sectors to achieve sustainable human development.
The NCD response is at a tipping point – governments must lead the way to create the world we want and place public health above those of private industries with vested interests. It is long past time for governments to deliver on their commitments on NCDs, and on the eve of the third UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, we are here to highlight some of the solutions to take forward the recommendations in the Political Declaration.