February 28, 2023, marked the fourth Platform of Experts (PoE) meeting: stepping into the year with a focus on the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in September. The PoE allows for healthy discussions between TB stakeholders: uniting in preparation for the HLM, and discussing what is needed to prepare for more effective communication and advocacy come September. 2023 has been called “the year of hope” for TB, and this is the perfect time to galvanise efforts against TB and get the world back on track.
Political Will, COVID-19, and the Year of Hope:
The first speakers were Hon. Jamshed Murtazakulov, (Tajikistan National TB Caucus), Hon. Dr. Christopher Kalila (Co-chair of the Anglophone Region), and Senator Juan Luis Castro (Chile).
Hon. Jamshed raised key points of political involvement: securing commitments and political will, while ensuring there are good interactions with TB communities, CSOs, and public & private healthcare partnerships. He closed with some reflection: “the UNHLM is a key moment to galvanise progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and 2023 is the year to change TB response; reestablishing the work towards ending the disease.” Dr. Kalila shared insights from the African context and ended his presentation with some inspirational words: “[COVID-19] slowed our momentum, but we are beginning to find our footing again. This year will be extremely important, moreso because of the 2nd High Level Meeting on TB. All of us together, all across the world, can rejuvenate this movement against TB. We believe that we can change our trajectory despite recent delays; it is never too late.”
Sen. Castro shared South America’s focus on resuming progress against TB, and then shared some insight what is needed: “I have been involved in the global movement against TB for several years, and last we had a South American meeting in Paraguay, we agreed that we need to really focus on making progress against TB again. After COVID-19, this is more challenging than before, and as such is why we need to continue the fight against TB. We need to make this a reality; politically, take it to the UN, and secure better financing.”
Afterwards, Senator Soledad Tamayo gave further insight from South America; emphasising the helpfulness of the commitments to work against TB: South America has consistently made the disease a focus, and an intersectoral committee for healthcare is currently being formed, with TB as one of its top priorities.
In Preparation for the UN High-Level Meeting on TB:
Dr. Robyn Waite (Policy and advocacy lead for the TB HLM affected communities and Civil Society coordination hub, GFAN) and Ms Priyanka Aiyer (Communications lead, TB HLM 2023 Affected Communities and Civil Society coordination hub, GFAN) shared a lot of their recent work: focusing on systems that link to preparation for the UNHLM, such as mapping national targets and stakeholders. GFAN has also been pushing for coordinated advocacy for the HLM, and they have prepared a variety of assets to provide support to advocates.
In line with this, TB Europe Coalition (TBEC) Executive Director Yuliia Kalancha presented TBEC’s various letter templates for a variety of channels: from CSOs/TB Community to Ministers of Health, from CSOs/TB Community to Heads of State/Government and from MPs to Heads of State/Government (prepared alongside the Caucus).
Updates were presented by Dr. Tereza Kasaeva (Director of Global Tuberculosis Programme, WHO) and Dr. Suvanand Sahu (Deputy Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership). Dr Kasaeva opened with current TB statistics and the success of the first HLM, and then shared some aspirations for this year that would be helpful to keep in mind as we lobby for TB to be a point of global focus:
Prevention and treatment at the heart of response
Improvement of the quality of care
Ending the MDR-TB Crisis
Advancing multi sectoral engagement and accountability
Adequately and sustainably funding the TB response
Dr. Sahu updated all present with additional information on the HLM: Poland and Uzbekistan are slated to be co-facilitators, leading the discussion on the 22nd of September; during the UN General Assembly. This date is particularly significant, as it follows the February 16, 2023 letter sent to the President of the General Assembly requesting that the High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis be held on this date. This letter was signed by 1,044 TB Champions from 650 organisations in 91 countries, and Dr. Sahu gave his thanks to everyone who signed the letter for their timely response and involvement.
The final presentations were by Leonid Lecca (Executive Director of Socios En Salud (Partners in Health Peru) and Americas TB Caucus Focal Point), Deliana Garcia (CSOs coordinator of the Americas TB Caucus and Chief Program Officer, International and Emerging Issues of Migrant Clinicians Network), Dr. Donald D. Tobaiwa (Executive Director: Jointed Hands Welfare Organisation), and Bertrand Kampoer (Coordinator, Dynamique Réponse d’Afrique Francophone sur la Tuberculose, DRAF-TB). Lecca presented the work of Partners in Health Peru and what steps they took to prepare for the first HLM, such as the creation of a Civil Society Task Force dedicated to the UNHLM, and the steps they took to ensure the HLM was a priority for the government in Peru. Lecca thanked the Caucus (in particular Dr. Luz Salgado) for their assistance at this time, ultimately culminating in Peru taking its president to the 2018 UNHLM. Deliana Garcia reminded all present that as much as the HLM is necessary and helpful, it is not the end of TB, but rather one of many steps towards a world without it. Dr. Tobaiwa reiterated how CSOs are committed to ensuring the world reaches the 2030 SDGs, and reminded us all that the UN General Assembly will be a key reality check in the fight against TB.
Across all discussions, there is a united sense of importance regarding the UN High Level meeting, and every presenter emphasised the value of adequate preparation to ensure fruitful, meaningful advocacy.
The Caucus would like to thank all who participated in this year’s first Platform of Experts: As we step into 2023, we are reminded that we must continue to work together to end TB, and each of us should look at what spheres we can influence to ensure that all efforts against TB are holistic, person-centred, and bolstered by sustainable investments & political will.