I am here today to call on all global leaders to perform their most sacred duty, the defense of humanity against its most vicious enemy, Non-Communicable Diseases. Our charge as a Commission is to move beyond commitments to the bottom line: “Political leadership, responsibility and accountability”.
In this first report of the Commission “Time to Deliver”, we emphatically state that there is no excuse for inaction. Evidence-based solutions exist, so there is an arsenal we can deploy to win this war. Our recommendations target political leaders at all levels because it is time we accepted as the human family that leadership is not just about political will, it is about guaranteed implementation and the achievement of results and impact. Leadership is about employing accountability and action to share stakeholder action and to pin down responsibility and monitor implementation for results.
Please allow me to unpack this political leadership.
Yes, it starts with political will, the threat of NCDs to our individual and collective development and poverty eradication brooks no denial. Lessons have been learned from controlling HIV & AIDS and in ending Ebola outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa. Countries that have delayed engagement have paid a heavy price. We must not ignore the epidemic and we must not underestimate it. Unpacked, this political leadership has to be transformed into commitment and results:
Political leaders should bring everyone together to the table, all stakeholders - private, public, development partners and civil society - to develop prioritized joint policies and plans, based on a comprehensive assessment of key drivers of Non-Communicable Diseases in the country. These will be accompanied by laws and regulations that enforce compliance with standards, such as the use of sugar, salt and fat in food.
Political leaders should lead by mainstreaming NCDs into party political manifestos, national development plans, poverty reduction strategies, and annual budgets. They should lead in including behavioral change interventions for individuals, families, and communities to guarantee prevention, early detection, treatment and management of NCDs.
Political leaders should build joint stakeholder capacity for an operational integrated primary health care system, with equitable coverage of NCDs, including comprehensive quality community health programs with robust reliable health management information system to inform action and drive change.
Political leaders should mitigate economic, commercial and market factors. They will initiate market shaping to reduce the prices of drugs and commodities such as the price of HPV vaccines and Insulin, which are currently unaffordable to the poor. Like I said in the Final Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel On Access to Medicines:
“A paradigm shift in transparency is needed to ensure that the costs of R&D, production, marketing and distribution as well as the end prices of health technologies are clear to consumers and Governments”
Political leaders should allocate resources to priority areas and mobilize additional funding from partners and from the private sector.
Political leaders should develop a robust accountability and action mechanism across sectors and at all political, operational, and leadership levels. The people need to be engaged to hold their representatives at the lowest and highest levels accountable.
I would like to emphasize that you cannot lead without being held accountable for results, and you are held accountable because it is expected that you will monitor implementation along the continuum of care and service delivery, for all sectors and for all players that will enable you as a leader to protect your people and society from the vicious onslaught of NCDs.
In conclusion, I commend this 1st report to you, to every country, every leader and every citizen. It is time to deliver results in our war against Non Communicable Diseases.
*Festus G. Mogae, Former President of Botswana & Commissioner of the WHO Independent Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases “POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY” at the Interactive Hearing on NCDS Convened Under the Auspices of the President of the United Nations General Assembly, in NEW YORK on 5TH JULY 2018.