|Dear Members of the NCD Alliance network,
Greetings from Rio de Janeiro! We now find ourselves at the conclusion of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, where governments from around the world gathered to discuss and agree on “the future we want.”
While the overall outcomes of Rio+20 have fallen short of expectations, health and NCDs were recognised as integral issues for sustainable development. This inclusion in the Rio+20 outcomes builds the momentum achieved at the 2011 UN Summit and keeps us on course to bring NCDs into the centre of the post-2015 development framework.
Health and NCDs recognized in the Outcome Document
When the Zero Draft of the Rio+20 outcome document was released in January, recognition of the importance of health to sustainable development was almost entirely absent. Despite a history of inclusion in the sustainable development agenda (e.g. Agenda 21 in 1992, and the Johannesburg Declaration in 2002), public health was mentioned only twice in the entire document. Non-communicable diseases were not included at all.
In response to this omission we launched a concerted advocacy effort to put health back into the negotiations. Our efforts, joined with those of other health and development NGOs, WHO, host government Brazil, and some concerned Member States, have paid off. We are pleased to note that the final Rio+20 outcome document [available here] contains references to the importance of health throughout the document, a section devoted entirely to health, and multiple references to NCDs. In the final draft adopted today, health is recognised as “a precondition for, an outcome of, and indicator of all three dimensions of sustainable development”.
In the text, UN Member States acknowledge “the global burden and threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) constitutes one of the major challenges for sustainable development in the twenty-first century” and go on to:
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called Rio+20 a victory for health. We can be assured that our advocacy has had a measurable impact and that our momentum is not only intact, but increasing.
commit to strengthen health systems toward the provision of equitable, universal coverage and promote affordable access to prevention, treatment, care and support related to NCDs,
commit to establish or strengthen multi-sectoral national policies for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases
reaffirm the right to use TRIPs flexibilities to for the protection of public health and promote access to medicines for all, and encourage the provision of assistance to developing countries
Concerns about the short-coming of the outcomes
As mentioned in our previous updates, the outcome document negotiations were very contentious. And, although a document was finally agreed, there remains much concern amongst both governments and civil society about the lack of progress on critical sustainable development issues from this Rio+20 process, including the absence of significant commitments to action.
Rather than defining a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), the text stipulates a path for developing a set of voluntary SDGs. This process will be taken forward by an open ended working group in the UN General Assembly. The text requires the SDGs to be “coherent with and integrated in the United Nations Development Agenda beyond 2015”, pointing to a possible coming together of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda and the Sustainable Development processes.
This year the World Health Assembly committed to a global target of achieving a 25% relative reduction in overall mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease by 2025. To achieve this target, health must be at the forefront of national health and development planning, and fully integrated into the post-2015 development framework. The coverage of health in the Rio+20 outcome document provides us with a real possibility to achieve this, and we must seize this opportunity.
The NCD Alliance is committed to engaging constructively with the SDG and the post-2015 development framework processes to ensure that the world tackles the NCD epidemic. WHO has already undertaken informal consultations and produced proposed health indicators that it is promoting for inclusion in the SDGs. The NCD Alliance encourages all partners and interested groups to engage in this process. We will continue to do our part to collect and share information, and to facilitate NGO participation in this process and to promote action on NCDs.
Thank you very much for your engagement in a successful campaign to put health and NCDs into the Rio+20 process and outcomes. Our collective successes will only continue from here.
With best regards,
The NCD Alliance team