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December 9, 2017

Global NCD Alliance Forum 2017 – Opening Ceremony

Your Royal Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Your Highness Sheika Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of Friends of Cancer Patients, International Ambassador for the World Cancer Declaration of the Union for International Cancer Control and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for the Union for International Cancer Control, and Patron of the Global NCDA Forum.

Your Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, Your Excellency Mrs Sawsan Jafar, Honourable ministers, Delegates, ladies and gentlemen, It is my honour to warmly welcome you all to the second Global NCD Alliance Forum, here in Sharjah.

On behalf of us all gathered here today, I would like to thank His Royal Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, for his leadership and hospitality in welcoming us to Sharjah for the second Global NCD Alliance Forum.

Your Highness Sheika Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of Friends of Cancer Patients, International Ambassador for the World Cancer Declaration of the Union for International Cancer Control and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for the Union for International Cancer Control, and Patron of the Global NCD Alliance Forum, thank you for your continued commitment, energy, and passion to cancer and NCDs.

We are deeply grateful for all that you do, and for your patronage of this Global NCD Alliance Forum.

Thank you to Friends of Cancer Patients, the local host organization, for your tireless work in the months of preparation leading up to the Forum. And than you to the members of the second Global NCD Alliance Forum Planning Committee, for your invaluable contributions to ensure the Forum delivers a high-quality programme.

I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the late Her Excellency Ms Ameera Binkaram, former President of the Board of Directors, Friends of Cancer Patients, to the NCD movement and to the Global NCD Alliance Forum – her loss is deeply felt in the NCD community.

Ladies and gentlemen, the second Global NCD Alliance Forum comes at a crucial time. Noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental and neurological conditions are the global health tsunami of the 21st century.

These diseases and conditions are devastating communities, crippling health systems, and thwarting economies, through widespread sickness, disability, and untimely and often avoidable deaths. No country is immune, and no country has this tidal wave under control.

The data speaks volumes. If the world continues down the current path of “business as usual”, by 2025: One third of the world’s population will be living with obesity…and more children and adolescents will be obese than overweight. The total number of people living with diabetes will be close to 500 million.

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.

This bleak picture stands contrary to the fact that governments around the world have at their disposal evidence-based and cost-effective solutions and interventions that can both prevent and control these diseases.

Let us be clear. The lack of progress on NCDs is not a dilemma of a technical nature, rather it is political and commercial.

In less than a year, we have a golden opportunity to address these issues head on.  Next year, likely in September 2018, governments will return to the United Nations for the third time to take stock of progress on NCDs, to evaluate bottlenecks, and to agree upon a way forward for the push towards 2025. The third UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in 2018 is a unique opportunity to inject the necessary political leadership, action, and accountability for NCDs worldwide.

This second Global NCD Alliance Forum is therefore organized under the overarching theme “Stepping up the pace on NCDs: Making 2018 count.” Over the next few days, plenary sessions and workshops will focus on three key areas:

1. Advocating for NCD prevention and control

2. Breaking down silos and building synergies in the SDG era

3. Sharing tools and strategies for NCD advocacy and mobilisation

The Forum provides us, NCD civil society, with a platform to discuss, to meet, and to strategise on our collective advocacy priorities and campaign goals as we prepare for the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting. Nearly 350 NCD civil society advocates from 68 nations present here will share ideas, experiences, and explore solutions to our common challenges.

Among you are delegates from the growing network of 55 national and regional NCD alliances around the world, who
provide unrivalled platforms for advocacy, and bring crucial perspectives of what is occurring on the ground in the fight against NCDs.

We are excited that this year we have an increased number of youth delegates and people living with NCDs at the Forum. This reflects the NCD Alliance’s conviction that the voices of the next generation and of the people most affected will drive the change we demand from our governments. The energy and vibrancy of the youth pre-meeting that took place on 7-8 December was certainly testament to this.

Ladies and gentlemen, civil society are crucial agitators of change. It is our belief that a vibrant and strong civil society movement equipped to deliver on its primary roles of advocacy, awareness raising, improving access, and accountability, is fundamental for fast-tracking progress on NCDs at national and regional levels.

Our ambition is that this Global NCD Alliance Forum serves as a platform and a safe space for you to network, deliberate, strategise, and join forces ahead of the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs.

And it is our hope that you leave the Forum energised and equipped with new ideas, advocacy asks, and connections that will help you work towards our common goal of reducing the burden of NCDs worldwide.

It is my sincere hope that you take advantage of the incredible amount of knowledge and shared experiences gathered here over the course of the next three days at the largest convening of NCD civil society.

Again, welcome, and I wish you a successful Global NCD Alliance Forum.

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