UNANIMA at the DPI Conference

The 63rd UN DPI/NGO (Department of Public Information)  conference, entitled Advance Global Health: Achieve the MDGs, was held in Melbourne from 30th August to 1st September. UNANIMA International was represented by Louise Cleary who was also a presenter at a workshop on Migration: A Response to Violence.

A roundtable on Equity, Rights and Progress towards the MDGs was both illuminating and disturbing. One panelist, Dr. Claudio Schuftan of Chile, coordinator of Global Right to Healthcare Campaign, strongly stated that for poorer countries the MDGs are “ too little too late” and that they would only modestly advance global health. A case was made for the fact that it was easier to improve the health of those who were already better off than it was to address the needs of the poorest, who had no access to health care, and hence some MDGs initiatives could in fact be contributing to growing inequity.

One powerful comment was that of Dr Sue Wareham speaking on the interdependence of issues like global health, war, climate change and globalisation during the roundtable Achieving the MDGs in our Changing World. Countries spend $1.46 trillion dollars a year on war, while less than a tenth of this could achieve the MDGs.

The conference Declaration noted that despite 10 years work on the MDGs—which in 2001 the leaders of 192 countries made a commitment to fulfil by 2015—a billion people around the world are still malnourished, 2.6 billion lack access to adequate sanitation, nine million children die before the age of five and environmental degradation including climate change represents a significant health threat.

Among other actions, the declaration called for:

  • equity in healthcare and a greater say for the community in designing programs;
  • the empowerment of women; and
  • the replenishment of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and the global vaccine initiative.

The “rhetoric action gap” named by Dr. Schuftan needs concerted action by civil society and political will by governments otherwise the MDGs will remain just words and promises.