Reflections on the 2017 NextGen Leaders Workshop: "Towards the 2018 UN High Level meeting--How can we hold our governments accountable?"

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Picture: Team Kenya presenting their evaluations of health systems readiness on NCDs at the May 2017 NextGen Leaders workshop in Kigali

Citizens and populations in a country ought to hold their governments accountable to their commitments and promises. Through accountability, we can make significant progress. It is only fair that we, as the public who pays taxes, see the money and resources used effectively and efficiently. So then, how can we hold our governments accountable?

We, as citizens and civil society, are the watchdogs of the governments, and we cannot sit back when misappropriation occurs. It is time to speak up and stand up for what is right! In the 2011 UN High-level meeting on NCDs, governments made commitments. In 2018, there is an upcoming UN High-Level Meeting. How much progress has been made in your country? Are we going to be talking about the same things we were 7 years ago?  Has your government involved you in the implementation of some of the commitments? There are so many questions to ask and answer to assess if we, as a country or region, are heading in the right direction. It starts with you and I, our friends and families; we need to come together and advocate for change in the healthcare of our countries and reduction of the burden of NCDs globally.

The Young Professional Chronic Disease Network had a workshop May 4 – 7 in Kigali, Rwanda themed “accountability”, which is a critical aspect of progress in achieving various Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) especially SDG 3: to ensure health and well-being for all at all ages. Now, what do we need to do to hold our governments accountable to the commitments? We need to:

KNOW the commitments that your government has made. It is only through knowledge that we can effect change.  Let us all commit to follow up our governments on the 2018 UN High level Meeting and know what they have committed to. The SDGs adopted in 2015 recognize non-communicable diseases as a major challenge to development. In SDG 3, targets towards reduction of the burden non-communicable diseases are clearly outlined. What steps is your country taking towards the achievement of these targets?

MONITOR governments and assess at what pace they are implementing the strategies and commitments. Through the establishment of timelines, we are confident that governments can work efficiently and within a specified time period. We need to hold governments accountable and one way we can do so is by ensuring that they place timelines in implementation. One such tool we can use is the benchmark tool formed by the NCD Alliance. The toolkit, informed by interviews with NCD advocates from around the world, showcases successful practices, lessons learned, and recommendations to drive NCD advocacy at national and regional levels!

BE INVOLVED as citizens in the development of these strategies and most importantly in the implementation process. The policies made affect the citizens like ourselves. We must be involved in the process. Civil society groups in countries such as South Africa and countries in the Caribbean are involved in the fight against NCDs.  They have released status reports on NCDs in their countries. What have civil society groups in your country done in relation to NCDs?

The recently concluded World Health Assembly saw the election of the First African Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new Director-General of WHO. We hope that he will influence, especially African countries, positively in implementation of policies. Through the World Health Assembly we know that governmental institutions, especially Ministries of Health, come together to deliberate on many issues, among them policies that affect the health of their citizens. The assembly can act as an accountability body at the global level. There are many limitation here as well as in practice since there are no real binding commitments. So what if a government defaults on its promises, or if it takes too long in its implementation of the commitments?

The process of accountability requires commitment, both at the global and the national level. We need to be involved as citizens! With a reduction in the burden of NCDs in your country, there will be a more productive population enhancing the workforce and being able to direct funds towards development rather than spending a large percentage of government revenues to treat patients with NCDs that could have been prevented.

For me as a health advocate, the problem of NCDs hits close to home. I have had family members as well as friends succumb to NCDs, in particular cancer and complications of hypertension. We cannot sit back and watch when this issue hits so close to home. I have dedicated my life to fight this menace of NCDs. I would like to challenge you all, to take some action and be involved! Together we can make great strides in the reduction of the burden of NCDs in the world.

About Cyril Abwoga


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Reflections on the 2017 NextGen Leaders Workshop: "Towards the 2018 UN High Level meeting--How can we hold our governmen
Reflections on the 2017 NextGen Leaders Workshop: "Towards the 2018 UN High Level meeting--How can we hold our governments accountable?"
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