United Nations High Level Meeting on TB
Two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly met to discuss tuberculosis for the first time in history. The High-Level Meeting on TB (HLM TB) gathered Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health and Social Development, with a strong presence of civil society, people affected by the disease and academia. It resulted in an ambitious Political Declaration, endorsed by Heads of States that, if fully implemented, will transform the TB response, saving millions of lives and putting the world on track to achieving the targets established for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end TB by 2030.
The Caucus started the preparations for this event in 2016, and in the lead up to the meeting parliamentarians took countless actions to ensure a strong Declaration, including:
Meetings with Heads of State, ministers of health and of foreign affairs, sessions in parliament on the HLM, and launching of new national and regional caucuses;
Holding online and in person consultations with civil society and affected communities, including holding four regional and two global parliamentary summits;
Meetings with 110 UN Missions in New York and 60 in Geneva;
leadership of the TB community’s engagement in the HLM.
The Declaration can be found here.
Since then, MPs in over 100 countries have shared that they have taken parliamentary action on TB, and have achieved many results, ranging from increased domestic budgets for TB, increasing investment in R&D, and R&D for MDR TB, historic increased pledges to the Global Fund, and the establishment of national accountability mechanisms.
You can find here a summary review of the progress towards global TB targets and implementation of the political declaration of the UN High Level Meeting on TB, published by the WHO on September 23rd 2020.
Nevertheless, two years later, the world is still not on track to meeting the TB elimination targets that had been agreed upon in the SDGs. While partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the major reason we are still behind is the lack of realistic accountability. We must insist that all countries accept responsibility and take action.
TB is an inexpensive and effective investment, yet treated like an expensive luxury. If we are truly to end TB across the world once and for all, every country has its part to play. From economic leaders boosting ODA, investing in R&D and taking the lead to ensure that adequate resources are available, to private sector working closely with governments and civil society to secure equal access for all, we need to be globally united in the fight against TB.
On September 23rd 2020, as we celebrated the two-year anniversary of the UNHLM meeting, the WHO and the Russian Federation hosted a UN virtual side event to discuss how the world can collectively implement the recommendations outlined in the 2020 progress report of the UN Secretary-General on reaching global TB targets and advancing multi sectoral action to end TB, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was broadcast on UN TV here: http://webtv.un.org/
So what should we do now?
The burden to End TB cannot just fall on implementing countries. Donors should know that the Global Fund needs an additional US $5 billion for the next 12 months to ensure that over 100 countries where it operates can effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic: $1 billion is to adapt critical HIV, TB and malaria programs, and $4 billion is to enable the Global Fund to implement core components of the ACT-A pillars on Therapeutics and Diagnostics, and to deliver health systems strengthening interventions through proven Global Fund mechanisms.
Donors also need to substantially increase investments in TB research to drive technological breakthroughs and rapid uptake of innovations. Investing in TB has a strong return on investment, with an estimated approximately US$50 return for every dollar invested in TB R&D. But, very few countries meet GERD R&D targets, set by the Treatment Action Group - globally, last year only the UK, South Africa and the Philippines met their targets.
Finally, we need to ensure that countries request WHO to continue to provide global leadership for the TB response, working in close collaboration with Member States and other stakeholders, including to prepare for a High-Level Meeting on TB in 2023.