As has been widely reported, including here and here, negotiations at the United Nations have stalled over an "outcomes document" that is to be approved by a High Level Meeting on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in New York on September 20. Negotiations that were to have been concluded by now have been put off until early September, just a couple of weeks before the meeting to ratify them will be held. The draft text was supposed to be "a concise action-oriented oucome document," but had reportedly become overly long, and mired in debates over intellectual property issues for essential medicines, among other subjects. It is also likely that the right people to discuss issues like trade policy were not in attendance during the negotiations, and so difficulties with the text had to be referred back to capitals for consideration. Trade issues are not simple, and reinventing the wheel was not an option.
A bit less easy to understand is why governments seem to be having so much difficulty accepting targets for reducing NCDs around the globe. The World Health Organization recently selected 10 areas for action, based upon input from a group of experts in NCDs. Not everyone will agree with every target -- there's nothing there for example, on chronic pulmonary disease -- but there is certainly enough in these targets to create momentum toward change, based upon sound science and priniciples of public health and prevention. A target is just that -- not a promise or a guarantee -- but a benchmark to motivate change. Without targets, it is difficult to imagine progress being measured or made against the NCD tidal wave now overtaking most countries.
Will governments have the right players at the table when they reconvene in September to reach agreement? Will the outcomes document be a blueprint for moving forward or just a missed opportunity? For the sake of the millions who presently suffer with an NCD and the millions more who will do so in the future, let's hope we get it right.
Thousands of women are banding together to ask governments of the world to get it right and approve a strong document in September. To see the petition, and sign it, click here.