Posted by Erin Schwartz on September 21, 2011
On September 19th, at 9 am, the United Nations (UN) High Level Summit on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) was declared open by his Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. This was the second time in the history of the UN that a High Level Summit was held for a health related issue. Ten years before, the UN held a Summit on HIV AIDS and, since then, great progress has been achieved on both prevention and access to treatment.
Perhaps the most emotive and courageous remarks were given by her Excellency Princess Dina Mired, Director of the King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan, a dynamic cancer advocate, and mother of a cancer survivor. Princess Dina was chosen to represent the voice of the civil societies. She spoke poignantly of the historical nature of the meeting, but also made it clear to world leaders that the language of the resolution is still far from perfect and that we will not accept anything less than what we deserve as a human right. She remarked that the Political Declaration ratified refers to NCDs as a “challenge” instead of an “epidemic” and that the resolution suggests that countries “may” enact NCD control plans, instead of requiring them to do it. As members of the NGO community, as cancer advocates, as caregivers, and as someone having the privilege to know the Princess personally, we felt great pride as she made her speech.
The presence of civil society representatives at the General Assembly Hall was also remarkable, given that many Heads of State were present on site and security was a great concern. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon remarked the importance of tackling NCDs and emphasized the opportunity to prioritize NCDs. Madam Margaret Chan; Director General of the UN also gave her remarks, stressing the importance of evidence based data in developing successful health policies. Following opening remarks, the heads of several other countries added their voices to the call for NCD control, lead by the Caribbean leaders, the region who originally called for the Summit. Throughout the Summit, representatives of all sectors of NCDs felt great unity and hope. Among key opinion leaders who came out in support of the effort were Dr. Paul Farmer from Harvard and Partners in Health, Lance Armstrong champion cyclist and founder of LiveStrong, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and CNN contributor Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Cary Adams, Executive Director of UICC, and Dr. Eduardo Cazap, Chairman of the Board of UICC had the enormous task of bringing 500,000 plus signatures to the attention of the UN. They chose to present them to Madam Margaret Chan at a session lead by her and the Deputy Director of the WHO, Mr. Ala Awan. They presented the signatures with a poster symbolizing the voices of every person who signed the World Cancer Declaration, which Ms. Chan graciously accepted.
Pat and I carried each and every one of you with us during the Summit, with the pledge to continue the movement until every cancer patient is able to access treatment, care and support no matter where they live. Thank you for being a crucial part of this important mission!
Be sure to click through the Photo Gallery to see all of our photographs from the Summit!