GSO Commentary — GSO Participates in the First Dialogue of the Global Coordinating Mechanism on NonCommunicable Diseases

The “Dialogue on NCDs, Poverty and Development Cooperation” was the first multi-stakeholder “dialogue” event, held on 20 and 21 April 2015 at the WHO, for the Global Coordinating Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (GCM/NCD). Established in September 2014, the GCM/NCD is led by Member-States but is open to other participants from NGOs, business associations, WHO Collaborating Centres, academic institutions and philanthropic foundations. The Dialogue was a remarkable example of multi-stakeholder dialogue, with excellent turnout from multiple stakeholder groups. The GSO was represented at the Dialogue by its Executive Director, Katherine Hagen.

The WHO report of this event will be available in June, but we highlight some interim impressions here. The Dialogue was ably co-chaired by H.E. Ambassador Mr Jean-Marc Hoscheit, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations in Geneva and H.E. Ambassador Mr Taonga Mushayavanhu, Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva. The programme (available here) featured prominent experts whose presentations were very substantive and informative, and there were numerous opportunities for truly interactive dialogue with the participants. Poverty itself was linked to many NCDrelated conditions – especially air pollution, rheumatic heart disease and cervical cancer but also more generally the social determinants of health. The prevalence of hypertension and the role of basic vaccinations were also identified as key issues to address. But it remains a challenge to bring development agencies into the multisectoral financing needs of poverty reduction AND NCDs. Several participants highlighted projects to promote multi-sectoral financing, and others also discussed the variety of “best buys” to tackle NCDs. Raising tobacco taxes was cited as an obvious benefit for both raising revenues to address NCDs and reducing tobacco consumption. Promoting breastfeeding was another obvious cost-effective strategy. Another issue related to financing was the absence of a separate fund for NCDs in the outcome of the 2011 High-level Summit, which many participants felt was a mistake and should be corrected with a moral appeal for action against NCDs.

Another line of discussion was directed to the complex interdependencies among stakeholders as well as sectors. Financing concerns and a new set of institutional capacities and responsibilities do raise the challenge of how to bring the private sector into the national action plans. In the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the financing issues that are being addressed through the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015, a predominant message is that significant financing for the SDGs needs to come from the private sector. And yet, in the health world, the suspicions of conflict of interest by the private sector are blocking a cooperative approach. One proposal informally discussed on the sidelines of the GCM/NCD Dialogue was to develop a “typology” of business sectors with varying degrees of regulatory oversight and collaboration. Participants were aware of the separate and difficult negotiations among WHO Member-States on a new WHO framework for engagement with non-state actors, and this will be a major issue at the World Health Assembly in May 2015.