21 September 2011
Commonwealth priorities captured in political declaration of UN high-level meeting
The Commonwealth on Wednesday, 21 September, welcomed a political declaration agreed at the United Nations, to galvanise global action against the burden and debilitating impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The declaration captured key Commonwealth priorities as identified by health ministers at their meeting in May 2011, under the theme 'NCDs: A Priority for the Commonwealth'.
The high-level meeting itself was a response to a call by Commonwealth Heads of Government, who at their 2009 meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, called for a UN NCDs summit.
“The Commonwealth welcomes this declaration, a pledge and commitment to deal with one of the biggest challenges its members face, especially small and vulnerable states,” Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith said on 21 September.
“NCDs are having a devastating impact on the health of Commonwealth citizens. The Commonwealth has long advocated for better, effective, and efficient co-ordination of global actions on the matter.”
World leaders agreed the declaration in New York on 20 September 2011 at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Commonwealth presented a statement on the prevention and control of NCDs in which it emphasised the double burden of non-communicable and communicable diseases across the Commonwealth.
It highlighted the importance of considering youth and gender when developing targeted interventions for the prevention and control of NCDs across the Commonwealth.
“As we work to enhance the Commonwealth theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’, we need to recall that women are disproportionately burdened by NCDs and this has significant social-economic implications on them and their families,” said Dr Sylvia Anie, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Director for Social Transformation, which covers gender, health and education programmes.
Dr Anie presented the Commonwealth’s statement at a Round Table held during the general assembly.
NCDs, which include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases, currently claim 35 million lives every year and this figure is projected to increase to 53 million deaths by 2030. Of the estimated 19.5 million deaths in the Commonwealth in 2008, 9.3 million, or 47 per cent, were due to NCDs (compared to 44 per cent from communicable diseases, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions).
Mr Smith said the Commonwealth wanted to see concerted action on the risk factors that fuel these diseases, such as harmful alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and tobacco use.
The Commonwealth has played a leading role in developing advocacy strategies to support policies and programmes, disseminating knowledge about best practices, and institutional strengthening of member countries to address NCDs. It has also consistently lobbied for political action on NCDs, which make the largest contribution to mortality in the majority of developing countries and economies in transition.