President’s message
July 2016

 

2016 will undoubtedly be a watershed year for health. This is not so much because of what we have achieved to date, but because a new guiding vision spells out clearly what we have yet to achieve and that we must achieve. The 2030 agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals launched on 1 January is aptly called Transforming Our World[1], and leaves us few excuses.

We should not set aside what has been achieved to date, impelled by the Millennium Declaration[2], a document that, although without status as a negotiated document, was founded on a set of universal values that similarly inspired the Sustainable Development agenda fifteen years later. At the term of the Millennium Development Goal targets on 31 December 2015, extreme poverty had been reduced, and child and maternal mortality had declined. Moreover, new HIV infections had fallen, millions of AIDS deaths had been averted, malaria incidence and mortality had declined, especially for children, and tuberculosis prevalence and mortality had fallen. Importantly, the global population had also gained a new right – the right to water – that is fundamental to health. But we are still far short of numerous MDG health targets.

And what about everything else that ails the human population? Health interventions in the 15 years of the MDGs had become narrowly focussed, to good and bad effect. Monitoring made great strides, allowing us to measure progress, and our knowledge about the health status of populations and the epidemiology of targeted diseases was substantially augmented. The special focus, however, of programmes, health expertise and health research encouraged a vertical approach that falls short of the needs of populations. Moreover, it could not long satisfy the ambitions of the global health community.

The new agenda is no longer constrained by the achievement of narrow goals and is founded on the potential reach of universal access to essential health, supported by social protection and guided by the pursuit of human rights and social justice.

The NGO Forum for Health has always been dedicated to the principle of Health for All, founded on a right to health. The MDG agenda allowed us to advance this approach and to see progress. The new SDG agenda, however, more clearly expresses what we seek to achieve. And this makes 2016 a very special year. I am greatly honoured to take on the Presidency of the NGO Forum for Health at this time. Civil society in its broadest sense played a critical role in the elaboration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and every entity of civil society to the last is called on to ensure their very fullest implementation.

As like-minded organizations dedicated to health, we must play a central role. Our membership is growing again, and my intent is to broaden our base to encompass like-minded organizations that further reinforce the strong links between the SDG of universal access for health[3] and the SDG to provide social protection, which provides for universal access to essential health care meeting criteria of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality[4]. Importantly, universal access to essential health care is one of the four pillars of Social Protection[5], which is a fundamental component of the eradication of poverty. Health and social protection are inextricably linked.

I take this opportunity to express deepest thanks to my predecessor, Alan Leather, who has worked tirelessly for the NGO Forum for Health for many years, for his remarkable contributions and continuing support. More than most, he knows of the work that lies ahead on burning issues that face us in the short and longer term, such as:

  • The High Level Commission for Health Employment and Economic Growth of the ILO, OECD and WHO that will report soon to the Secretary General of the United Nations on the future workforce needed to implement the SDG agenda[6];
  • The health plight of migrants and refugees that is of utmost urgency;
  • A new, more prominent role for health in the forthcoming climate negotiations at COP22 that will prepare the entry into force of the 2015 Paris Agreement;
  • Implications of the specific inclusion of mental health issues in the SDG agenda;
  • The inclusion of targets to address the consequences of exposure to hazardous chemicals in the new SDG agenda with its substantial implications for occupational health and safety; and
  • Many more…

I will work with each and every one of you to bring forward Health for All to the best of our abilities.

Odile Frank

 

[1] See http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E

[2] See http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.pdf

[3] Sustainable Goal 3 aims to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.

[4] Sustainable Goal 1 aims to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”, and Goal 1.3 calls to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems for all…”

[5] “Recommendation Concerning National Floors of Social Protection” (N°202, International Labour Organization, 2012).

[6] See http://www.ilo.ch/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_462721/lang–en/index.htm; http://www.oecd.org/about/secretary-general/high-level-commission-on-health-employment-and-economic-growth-opening-remarks.htm; and http://healthworkforce.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/6a_20160504_Campbell_ComHEEG_04May16.pdf

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