STATEMENT BY H.E. DESIRE DELANO BOUTERSE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME ON BEHALF OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) ON THE OCCASION OF THE HIGH LEVEL MEETING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
20 September 2011 / 12:45
The convening of the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the prevention and control of Non Communicable Diseases is a source of a special sense of pride, gratitude and accomplishment for the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on whose behalf I speak today. Four years ago, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Heads of State and Government of CARICOM expressed alarm at the impact of NCDs on our societies.
Our deep concern stimulated urgent efforts within CARICOM Member States as well as initiatives at the international level to enlist greater attention to address NCDs. The most notable outcome of these efforts to date was the adoption by the General Assembly of the landmark Resolution 64/265 on the Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases.
In important ways, Resolution 64/265 embodied our conviction that - in view of the scope and impact of the NCD epidemic, with common modifiable risk factors and interrelated determinants - the effort to successfully combat NCDs would require a response that was urgent, comprehensive, multi-sectoral, and fully coordinated at the national, regional and global levels. The necessity of formulating such a response by Heads of State occasioned this High Level Plenary Meeting.
The Political Declaration to be adopted by this Meeting is a concrete outcome of the intense and sustained activity that has followed the adoption of Resolution 64/ 265. We owe a debt of gratitude, in this regard, to the Co-Facilitators, the Permanent Representatives of Jamaica and Luxembourg, for the great efficiency and dedication with which they conducted the preparatory work, as well as to our experts for their tireless efforts and to all delegations for the constructive spirit of collaboration that allowed for the completion of negotiations on a consensus document in a timely manner.
It is clear that the NCD epidemic is a scourge, particularly for developing countries where financial resources cannot match the high cost of treatment and care of these diseases. Additionally, we are challenged by the commercialization, globalization and proliferation of unhealthy lifestyles, which will exponentially increase the number of patients.
The good news, however, is that, NCDs do not have to spell inevitable doom for our countries and peoples. The scientific and other knowledge concerning the genesis and spread of these diseases, combined with the technical capacities which are available, certainly provide a basis for identifying the actions required for responding in an effective manner to these diseases. This we believe is the strength of the Political Declaration before us in that it offers a turning point in the fight against the global tsunami of NCDs at all levels and provides a good platform for on-going consideration of the developmental and other impacts of NCDs by the international community. For this reason, CARICOM fully supports the adoption of the Political Declaration.
For CARICOM, the central message of the Declaration is a global consensus on strengthened commitment to action to address NCDs and their risk factors at all levels. In particular, among other things, the Declaration makes vivid the gravity of the impact of the NCD epidemic, particularly on development; stresses the primacy of prevention and the importance of multi-sectoral approaches; emphasizes the cost effectiveness of responses and the desirability of an effective partnership involving all stakeholders; and further, commits to the implementation of a range of actions to combat NCDs and their risk factors, including through specific follow-up initiatives.
The successful wide-scale implementation of cost-effective measures, including those contained in the Declaration, in addressing NCDs and their risk factors presupposes a context of finely focused and well-structured national as well as global plans, which include the identification of clear targets with a set of indicators for measuring progress toward their achievement. However, to increase the likelihood of the success and sustainability of these efforts, the concerted support of the international community is critical. Such support, which includes technical and financial resources, is needed to complement the national resources available to developing countries, as well as to enable United Nations agencies to scale up action to help countries prevent and control NCDs.
Mr. President, CARICOM is committed to ensuring that this Declaration does not turn out to be a mere rhetorical achievement, but that it becomes a platform for resolute actions by all states and other stakeholders. That spirit of commitment is already being demonstrated in our actions.
We have developed a Strategic Plan of Action for our Region, and have established national commissions in 8 of our member territories. Ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has expanded, and we have developed standards for tobacco labeling. Standards for nutrition labeling regarding salt, sugar and trans-fat have also been developed and Member States are at different stages of ratification of these. A new primary care policy aimed at improvements in the quality of patient care with an attendant chronic care policy has been developed and we are putting in place mechanisms to track risk factors and monitor annual progress toward the goals of the Declaration of Port of Spain.
One of the actions that the CARICOM countries have implemented, and which we regard as our premier regional health-promotion activity, is the setting aside of the second Saturday in September of each year as Caribbean Wellness Day. It is a day dedicated to teaching about and practicing healthy lifestyles. We feel very proud of this achievement, and invite Member States to join us in a similar initiative and so lead to a concurrent, world-wide celebration and focus on health and wellness.
At this juncture, it is worth mentioning that the initiative to establish a Regional Sports Academy in Suriname was received with appreciation by the CARICOM Heads of State and Government at their 22nd Inter-sessional Meeting in February of this year. The establishment of this Academy was supported, particularly against the backdrop of the important role such a facility can play in addressing NCDs by promoting and actively supporting healthy lifestyles through sports in the Community.
Mr. President, in the view of CARICOM States, the Declaration falls somewhat short of some of our original expectations. Among which are: not elaborating a clear goal and corresponding road-map for the global NCD campaign which it is launching, lack of strong commitments on targets, resources, a global collaborative NCD mechanism and strong reservations on the use of the term “epidemic” in relation to the global spread of NCDs. Yet, we see in it a significant stimulus to preventing and controlling NCDs through, inter alia, the re-orientation and strengthening of national health systems, universal access to available medicines, and the technology for preventing and treating these diseases.
We believe that, if scrupulously implemented, this instrument could contribute in meaningful ways to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. However, our work in establishing a firm normative and operational platform is far from complete. There is still need to agree on ambitious global targets and indicators, a monitoring framework and a clear mechanism that allows all stakeholders at the global level to engage in joint endeavours to address the developmental and other impacts of NCDs through a meaningful partnership. We are hopeful that by the time we will gather to undertake a comprehensive review and assessment of progress on NCDs in 2014 as provided in the Declaration that the picture will be a much more positive one.
As participation in a wide range of activities and initiatives leading up to and in this HLM confirms, concern about addressing NCDs is immense and growing.
This has stimulated a commendable activism within and among countries, and regions, as well as internationally. CARICOM welcomes the variety and the intensity of these efforts – whether within governments, , relevant NGOs, civil society, the private sector and industry, international development agencies, the UN and other agencies within the UN system – including the World Bank, philanthropic religious, and intergovernmental organizations and foundations, and academia.
In this regard, I wish to pay special tribute to the invaluable contributions of the WHO and PAHO on the issue of NCDs and also express our confidence that it will provide strengthened leadership to deal with all dimensions of the challenge of addressing NCDs in the future. Credit is also due to the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, whose initiatives have been pursued within as well as outside the region of the Americas. We believe that the momentum that this High level Meeting has generated should be sustained. Perhaps a helpful action that might be considered as an interim measure is the appointment of an envoy or representative of the Secretary General on NCDs who could facilitate continued attention and collaboration among all stakeholders in relation to NCDs.
CARICOM is willing to share its experiences and successes in confronting the NCD challenge. Once again, we invite the rest of the world to share our passion and join us in our continued endeavours to prevent or reduce the incidence of morbidity and mortality from NCDs and subsequently to reduce its negative impact on development.