As delegations gather this week in Moscow to assess the state of the world's non communicable disease (NCD) epidemic and governments' efforts to cope, advocates will also be pressing to make sure that non governmental organizations, corporations and academics all have a role in clarifying the problems and identifying solutions.
All indications are that the United Nations, and in particular, the World Health Organization, is doing its utmost to accommodate the hundreds of organizations and individuals who want to be heard on the subject. For example, this week's First Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non Communicable Diseases will be videocast. The WHO has nominated several individuals to act as "Rapporteurs" or note takers at this week's Global Forum on NCDs that will precede the ministerial to better gather civil society input. And provisions have been made to allow organizations previously unknown to the United Nations to participate in a "listening session" on NCDs in New York in June. This stands in contrast to normal procedure at the United Nations, where organizations can wait for up to a year or more after submitting a request to learn whether they have been "accredited" to attend meetings of the Economic and Social Council, for example.
Nevertheless, some organizations continue to chafe at the process. Space limitations dictate that only one representative per organization can attend the June event, and the full UN High Level Session on NCDs planned for September 19-20. And uncertainties about visa processing means that some organizations have had to make strategic decisions months in advance about which representatives to register for these important gatherings. In addition, the UN has still not named its civil society steering committee on NCDs, which is charged with -- among other things -- deciding which organizations among the more than 700 registered are permitted to attend.