Alan Leather and the NGO Forum for Health

The NGO Forum was created in the aftermath of the Declaration of Alma Ata on Primary Health Care of September 1978 to attain “An acceptable level of health for all the people of the world by the year 2000”. It had existed informally for a few years before and then Alma Ata led its members to consolidate the group into an accredited association with a mission and a vision.

Alan became involved in the NGO Forum very early on, as he became increasingly interested in global health issues in his professional life. He eventually became one of the Forum’s most dedicated officers from the moment of his commitment until his Presidency of 4 successive terms from 2008 to 2016, and his final mandate as Treasurer from 2016 to 2018.

Alan’s engagement in the field of global health was remarkable. He was an early pioneer of advocacy in support of persons living with HIV, and throughout the years he unfailingly supported human rights in health and the right to health. He increased the membership of the NGO Forum and guided it through years of relative plenty. He sought to involve local Swiss organizations as well as the international health-related associations that naturally gravitated to the Forum.

Alan enabled the Forum to take a stand on health issues, to advocate for causes and to disseminate the positions agreed collectively by the Forum’s members. The NGO Forum for Health was “on the map” throughout his presidency.

Together with his wife, Susan, Alan worked solidly on a number of NGO Forum for Health issues. Both were involved squarely with the HIV epidemic in their professional lives, and this gave a strong thematic content to the Forum’s work. Their shared concern over human rights and HIV supported the extraordinary contribution that Susan made to the issue of workers with HIV, the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work of 2001. Susan in turn helped Alan to produce the NGO Forum for Health Newsletter for a number of years, which became a valuable resource to the Forum membership on actions taken by the multilateral organizations in the field of health, and new research findings on global health.

Alan did not leave the NGO Forum for Health. As its treasurer, he assisted his successor in the challenging task of asking an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Forum to dissolve the Association in January 2018. The NGO Forum for Health had made a great contribution for 40 years, but we all agreed that it could not continue as a single broad-ranging umbrella association at a time when global health advocacy had become highly disseminated, much to the benefit of specialized advocacy on the numerous issues that it had encompassed.

Alan oversaw an Assembly that released the Forum members, enabling them to focus on their preferred themes in partnership with the vast number of health advocacy organizations that have emerged across the world since the NGO Forum was created. He fully accomplished the mandate of the NGO Forum for Health. His work was done.

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