Reflections for the 2023 UNHLM at this year’s Union Conference
November 8, 2022, marked the Global TB Caucus’ participation in this year’s Union Conference, with a session titled “Parliamentarian role in pushing for accountability: Lessons learned as we prepare for the UN HLM in 2023”. TB was discovered over 100 years ago yet remains one of the leading infectious diseases in the world, claiming over 1.5 million lives each year. Despite these statistics, funding towards successful TB response has generally been inadequate; COVID-19 has also impacted this response, with some estimates putting the regression of progress as far as 12 years back.
The event at the Union Conference showcased and celebrated the work done by MPs from around the world, and highlighted key learnings towards fostering accountability in TB response, all while considering the UN High Level Meeting on TB. Accountability within TB response is key to facilitating collaborative, mutually beneficial work. It also ensures that political commitments are followed, and the necessary high level political will is maintained to finally end TB.
Lord Herbert of South Downs CBE PC, Global Co-Chair of the Global TB Caucus, gave opening remarks and raised certain concerns. “TB was knocked off track by COVID-19, and I don’t need to reiterate that. It’s troubling how off-track the fight against TB has become.” In the spirit of the discussion, he also emphasised that the Caucus is focused on ensuring accountability is upheld.
Alesia Matusevych (Global TB Caucus Secretariat) discussed the Platform of Experts: launched in 2021 with an aim to enable shared spaces between civil society, members of parliament, and other relevant stakeholders. This discussion took the time to introduce the Multisectoral Accountability Framework (MAF): a quantifiable means of assessing how thoroughly a governing body honours its pledges and work in the TB field.
Following Alesia, Hon. Kim Minseok (Co-Chair of the Asia Pacific TB Caucus) took the time to cover the Caucus’ achievements for its G20 campaign. He lauded Indonesia’s G20 presidency in the spirit of recovering together, and recovering stronger: working towards holistic and effective solutions in the fight against TB. He reiterated how the Caucus has supported the Indonesian G20 presidency through various high-level meetings and campaigns to ensure TB remains in the global health discussion.
After Hon. Minseok were four discussions on TB in the context of COVID-19. Opened by Bertand Kampoer (Regional Coordinator for DRAF-TB), he pushed for the accelerated establishment and thorough implementation of the MAF, in accordance with WHO guidelines, to ensure that commitments are met and appropriately monitored.
Following Kampoer was Dr. Luis Sánchez (Technical Secretary of Guatemala's Tuberculosis Social Observatory), who expressed concerns over Guatemala’s most vulnerable populations (such as its indigenous peoples), and the myriad social realities that those affected by TB must face: appealing for a more compassionate and human-centred approach when dealing with TB
Next was Dr. Giorgio Frayunti (Executive Director of Medical Impact Mexico). He stressed that the best way to connect with communities is simply to get them involved, and thanked the Caucus for their continued support. He ended by saying it is imperative to prioritise engagement: push for members of parliament to ensure that the focus is on TB, and that political will translates into meaningful action.
Last was Deliana Garcia (Chief Program Officer of the US International and Emerging Issues of Migrant Clinician Network). She congratulated Latin America’s growing efforts and thorough commitments against TB, but felt that Latin America is often forgotten when it comes to the conversations surrounding TB. Garcia emphasised that they have a significant role to play in ending TB, and thus any support the Americas can receive would be beneficial to the global health sphere at large.
The session ended with a Q&A with MPs, starting with Hon. Daniel Molokele (MP, Zimbabwe), who discussed the progressive shift in how TB is addressed in Zimbabwe, and what he called a trickle down effect: “[...] when resources are allocated, how far are they moving, how does it affect local and affected communities? How do we ensure impactful, beneficial responses?”
Next was Sen. Pierre Flambeau Ngayap (Regional Co-Chair of Francophone Africa, Cameroon): “We have been revitalising and relaunching national caucuses to ensure continuity of political advocacy around TB. The Francophone and Anglophone regions are planning to relaunch and launch new caucuses in several countries, including Côte D'ivoire, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Namibia and Senegal.”
Finally, the session was closed by Lord Herbert of South Downs (Global Chair of the Global TB Caucus) and Lucica Ditiu (Executive Director Stop TB Partnership). Lord Herbert synthesised the discussions with some heartfelt words: “It’s great to hear from colleagues in different regions, and it reminds me of what Hon. Molokele said about working together. We’re at our most effective when working together, be it in our own parliaments, across different regional and national parliaments, or even globally.”