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International Diabetes Federation

October 2011

The Summit at a Glance

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In September, the global NCD community came together for an historic event: the UN High-Level Summit and its numerous side- events, some of which were organized by the International Diabetes Federation. The UN Summit and its Political Declaration have changed the global health landscape forever, creating a strong political will and leadership for diabetes and NCDs. Policymakers have recognized the magnitude of the NCD epidemic and the fact that diabetes and NCDs are a development issue.

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A Watershed Event

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World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan called it a “watershed event” in the opening plenary and it certainly lived up to her description. An unprecedented number of 34 Heads of State and Government attended, thus exceeding representation at the 2001 HIV/AIDS Summit. One hundred and thirty-three Member States made statements during the plenary meetings, expressing their concern of the global burden of NCDs and committing themselves to finding solutions. In fact, so many governments asked to speak that, in an unprecedented move, the UN extended the hours of the meeting till 9pm on the first day. Not only did the Summit put diabetes and NCDs on the global agenda but it also brought together committed and engaged people from all over the world to share stories and solutions in the many side events, covering everything from NCDs and gender, climate change, HIV/AIDS to digital health and physical activity.

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Adoption of the Political Declaration

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The most important part of the Summit was the adoption of the first ever Political Declaration on NCDs, which includes 22 commitments that governments worldwide must now be held accountable for. They span the spectrum of the diabetes and NCD response: treatment, health system strengthening, prevention, resourcing, research and development, international cooperation and monitoring and evaluation.

While some commitments could have been stronger and many lack teeth in the absence of an overarching goal and specific targets, despite WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan’s call for “what gets measured, gets done”, the Political Declaration represents a major step change for diabetes and NCDs. It demonstrates that world leaders have finally recognized the magnitude and impact of the diabetes and NCD problem. IDF strongly believes that this Declaration will accelerate international progress on diabetes and NCDs and provide a framework for saving millions of people from preventable death and disability. 

Read the Declaration in all six official UN languages.

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Government Commitments

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The majority of the world’s governments spoke on the NCD issue and committed to additional funding and new Action Plans to specific programmes and policies on NCD prevention and control.

Amongst the 25 nations committing to specific NCD Action Plans were Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Fiji and Italy. Governments pledged to encourage healthy lifestyles by increasing public awareness of healthy eating and exercise, providing healthy meals in schools and making voluntary commitments with the food industry – such as South Africa’s commitment to reduce the salt content of processed food. There were strong pledges to combat alcohol and tobacco consumption by increasing taxes, banning smoking in public places and New Zealand’s landmark announcement to be tobacco-free by 2025. Some governments committed to establishing specific government departments to coordinate their NCD plans. They also stressed the importance of monitoring and evaluation, with countries such as Nepal and Swaziland pledging to implement NCD surveillance systems.

Countries also set targets for NCD treatment. These included Gabon promising free diabetes screening, India pledging to screen 150 million people for diabetes and hypertension by March 2012 and Brazil promising to increase access to medicines for patients with these diseases. Commendable NCD targets with time bound commitments were made by Sri Lanka, which intends to cut premature mortality from NCDs by 2% annually over the next decade and Vietnam, which aims to increase detection of diabetes from 36% to 50% from 2011 to 2015.

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Member Association Perspective

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Our Member associations worked hard to make the UN Summit a success. We interviewed Dr Nancy Larco from FHADIMAC, the Haitian foundation for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases on her viewpoint of this unique event. Dr Larco was fortunate enough to participate in the Summit as a member of her national delegation.

Q1 How did you get to be on your country’s delegation?
For over 15 years, the Haitian Foundation for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases has worked to get diabetes and cardiovascular diseases to achieve the recognition they deserve as a public health priority. The United Nations Summit gave us the opportunity to elevate the debate to its highest level in Haiti. The International Diabetes Federation’s Advocacy Toolkit was very useful in our advocacy efforts.

FHADIMAC got in touch with the First Lady, Sophia Martelly, who since May has displayed great interest in health issues. Since that date, several meetings have been held with the Presidency, the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), WHO, the Cancer Support Group (GSCC) and the Haitian College of Cardiology (CHC).

This is how we came to be selected for the Haitian national delegation to the UN.

Q2 What did the UN Summit deliver for you?
The United Nations Summit has been an enriching experience. We were very interested to hear all the Member States explain the scope of their NCD problem. Given that the Resolution is not binding, the real challenge will be to translate all these speeches into concrete actions in order to change the lives of millions of people across the world.

Q3: What are your Member Association’s/ country’s next steps?
The first step will be to form a joint public/ private commission that will be tasked with setting up a national programme to fight NCDs.

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An Abundance of Events!

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There were over 40 side-events held during the week of the Summit in New York. Some highlights are below:

On Saturday 17, the NCD Alliance convened civil society for a pre-Summit briefing to strategise, coordinate advocacy efforts and look ahead to the post-Summit landscape. It was a rare opportunity for the NCD civil society movement, mainly NCD Alliance Common Interest Group (CIG) Members, to come together face-to-face and the interactive sessions were energizing and inspiring. 

On Sunday 18, a celebratory NCD Alliance “UNite for a Healthy Future” event led by IDF drew hundreds of people to the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) at Central Park. The highlights included a bike ride with professional cyclists from Team Type 1, led by Phil Southerland, energetic SocaMotion, Zumba and Tai Chi sessions and a Health Walk with diabetes activists. At NYAM, the First Lady of South Africa, Gloria Bongi Ngema Zuma, gave a rousing speech touching on her work to improve education and care to people with diabetes. This event also touched upon the real-life issues of NCDs through the work of ten NCD artists engaged in the Live Art Mural. This aspect of the UNite event resonated with the public and policy makers alike on how the topic of NCDs should not only speak to the pockets but also to the hearts and minds.

On Sunday evening, over 200 participants gathered at the Global Diabetes Symposium where IDF Vice president Ruth Colagiuri  launched IDF’s first ever ten year Global Diabetes Plan and a new policy brief series. IDF’s President Jean Claude Mbanya also spoke at the Symposium, tackling the topic of IDF’s vision for the future of diabetes worldwide.

On Tuesday, IDF and the NCD Alliance co-hosted a side event on gender-responsive approaches to NCDs with the Commonwealth Secretariat, PAHO and the Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Child Health (PMNCH).The side event brought together UN agencies, governments, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and the private sector to build awareness and consensus on how to integrate gender into NCD responses.

A panel of distinguished guests examined new findings on the gender dimensions of the NCD epidemic, discussing implications for NCD policy and practice and sharing best practice examples of gender integrated approaches to NCDs from Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico. Newly released data from Nicaragua and Trinidad and Tobago (TRT), and a new interchange of experience between Mexico and TRT indicate that success in addressing NCDs will only be found in addressing the gender aspects of these diseases. This means understanding the social norms, roles, and stereotypes for boys and girls, men and women that cause overeating and lack of physical activity and are barriers to care.

The event concluded that gender must be an integral component of all NCD strategies, policies and programmes to ensure the human right of universal access to NCD prevention and treatment programmes. Particular attention should be paid to the reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health continuum of care, which provides important opportunities to prevent, diagnose and treat NCDs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) held a number of high-level side events on important issues for the future. The most significant was entitled ‘What Gets Measured Gets Done’ , focusing on global targets and indicators, a major omission of the Political Declaration. The panel included WHO Director General Margaret Chan, Sir Michael Marmot, Dr Tom Frieden and Dr Christopher Murray. Discussions centered on the process over the next year to develop a global set of targets for Member States to monitor progress on NCDs. The other WHO side event was on NCDs and HIV entitled “Achieving health equity: uniting around a common agenda to address NCDs and HIV”, which saw the launch of a report on leveraging the HIV/AIDS experience for NCDs.

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Diabetes Flying High

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For four days, small planes flew over New York City with banners reading “Act on Diabetes. Now!” We hope political decision makers got our message.

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NCDs Make the Headlines

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As reported in our previous issue, news coverage of the UN Summit increased significantly in the days leading up to the High Level Meeting and continued to generate interest as the Summit unfolded. IDF’s President and CEO gave multiple interviews and were quoted in media from London to Bali! You can access media coverage of the Summit via the NCD Alliance’s dedicated webpage or browse through our specially compiled press review.

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Next Steps

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The Political Declaration of the Summit is just the beginning, not the end. We must keep the momentum going for diabetes and NCDs, and ensure that commitments are translated into action on the ground.  We call on you to take immediate action:

- Learn more about the Political Declaration and commitments made.

- Write to your UN Mission, government delegation or other national organisations represented at the Summit. Many governments made statements during the Summit, some with financial commitments such as Australia and the Russian Federation.

- Communicate the Political Declaration and commitments in your country, notify other civil society organisations and hold governments to account.

- Let the public know that their governments have made promises that now need to be kept

- Offer your support to help governments implement commitments with guidance and technical expertise.

- Watch out for the NCD Alliance analysis of the Political Declaration

- Keep up the momentum – we are in this for the long haul!

IDF and the NCD Alliance will be continuing global advocacy on priority areas including the development of global targets, the establishment of a global monitoring framework, and a high-level NCD partnership. With the MDG Review in 2013, we must also ensure that diabetes and NCDs are integrated into future internationally agreed development goals.

The 2014 Review of the Summit sounds like a long way away but 3 years will pass quickly. In those 3 years, we need to monitor actions of our governments so that each one has some progress to report when they return to the UN.

Watch this space for IDF’s Post-Summit Advocacy Toolkit for its Member Associations and wide civil society, which will provide a user-friendly guide on the Political Declaration and future advocacy priorities.

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Useful Resources

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Download the Political Declaration

Watch the plenary and round tables

The official media releases of the Summit include great detail of statements by Member States:

View plenary meeting statements from:

Links to the extensive media coverage surrounding the summit can be found here.

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