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September 18, 2017

NCD Alliance Side Event – United Nations General Assembly

The following remarks were given at the NCD Alliance United Nations General Assembly Side Event: “Breaking Down Silos, Building Synergies: Implementing NCDs in the SDG Era.”

Honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good evening, and welcome to tonight’s side event, “Breaking Down Silos, Building Synergies: Implementing NCDs in the SDG Era,” hosted by the NCD Alliance.

My name is José Castro, and as President of the NCD Alliance, I would like to thank you all for attending what I am sure will be a fascinating conversation.

Though we have different backgrounds, we are all here for the same reason. Noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, mental and neurological conditions—these are responsible for half of all global disability, and nearly 40 million deaths per year.

Unfortunately, the burden of NCDs is only increasing. People are more exposed to modifiable behavioral and environmental risk factors. The marketing and trade of health- harming products has expanded to new territories. And rapid urbanization, coupled with fragile national health systems, makes an adequate, coordinated response seem daunting.

And when we examine this global context, we do not always find what we might hope. Just this morning, WHO launched the 2017 NCD progress monitor. The report found that at our current rate of progress, we will not meet the global NCD target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality by 2025, nor its associated target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals of a 30 percent reduction by 2030.

Some countries, such as Costa Rica, Thailand, and Norway, have made noteworthy progress. But sadly, less than half of all countries have set national targets, or established an integrated plan or strategy for NCDs. This lack of progress has several causes. One worth noting is the complex interplay of social and commercial determinants that drive many risk factors. To address these risk factors, we must seek high-level commitment, and increased awareness and capacity across government sectors.

Next year, the UN General Assembly will hold the third High-level Meeting on NCDs to evaluate progress on commitments made in 2011 and 2014. This is an opportunity for governments to renew their existing commitments, and to make new ones, reflecting the integrated nature of the SDGs.

The first step to making that meeting a success is fast approaching. Next month, WHO and the President of Uruguay will host the Global Conference on NCDs in Montevideo. There, we will look to countries to adopt an ambitious outcome: a document that sets a high bar for our collective action to address NCDs.

Tonight, our distinguished panel will explore ways to implement actions that make achieving our NCD goals a reality. They will discuss our broader health-related targets in the SDGs, focusing on the shared space between health and NCDs with other sustainable development priorities, and the investment needed to drive these actions forward.

Our moderator for this evening is Director Emeritus of the Pan American Health Organization, and a Board member of the NCD Alliance. He has been a leader in global health and development for over 40 years, and has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.

In all his endeavors, he is a tireless champion for the health and wellbeing of all. Please join me in welcoming Sir George Alleyne.

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