10 February 2014
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

General Assembly Weighs Progress in Controlling Non-Communicable Diseases

Ahead of Comprehensive Review


Delegations Note Jamaica’s Appointment to Committee on Conferences

While significant efforts had been made since 2011 to realize pledges to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, progress had been “insufficient” and “highly uneven”, delegates told the General Assembly today, as they weighed priority issues to consider during a comprehensive review of the global situation later this year.

During their short debate, delegates recalled that, in September 2011, world leaders had gathered for the first time to address the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, adopting a Political Declaration that placed those illnesses squarely on the development agenda.  A pledge to the world’s poor for a life free from the avoidable disease burden, the Declaration held great potential for spurring collective action for faster results, they said. A comprehensive review of progress would be held later this year, an event that New Zealand’s delegate urged should be in the format of a ministerial meeting with civil society participation.  Her country was open to the option of a negotiated outcome document, which would build on the Political Declaration and focus on implementation gaps.

Fulfilling the 2011 commitments must remain a priority, delegates agreed, stressing that non-communicable diseases were among the major development challenges of the twenty-first century, accounting for an estimated 60 per cent of premature deaths in developing countries.  Speaking for the Caribbean Community, Suriname’s delegate said that by 2030, non-communicable diseases would account for an estimated 86 per cent of all deaths in the subregion.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, diabetes health care costs alone were an estimated 2 to 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).  There was an urgent need to help build national capacity to reach goals for prevention and control.

On that point, Indonesia’s delegate said his Government had facilitated the Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on global health and foreign policy, which focused on partnerships.  Acknowledging that each country faced different challenges, he called for establishing country-specific indicators and targets.  “Not only should each country be able to determine indicators that are easy to monitor and achieve, but they also should reflect each country’s specific circumstance,” he said.

Broadly agreeing, Iraq’s delegate said a more strategic and systematic approach at the country level was needed to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.  He called on States to develop a global framework for such action, to be adopted during the Assembly’s review of non-communicable diseases.

In other business, the Assembly took note of the appointment of Jamaica to the Committee on Conferences for a term of office beginning on 10 February 2014 and ending on 31 December 2016.  Assembly President John Ashe recalled that two seats from the Latin American and Caribbean States — one for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2014, and another for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2015 — had been vacant since the sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions, respectively.  He urged the Group to submit their candidatures as soon as possible.

The Assembly also took note that Kyrgyzstan had made the payment necessary to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter.  [Article 19 outlines that a Member State in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly.  An exception is allowed if the Member State can show that conditions beyond its control contributed to this inability to pay.]

Also speaking today were the representatives of the Russian Federation and the United States, as was a representative of the European Union Delegation.


The General Assembly met today to appoint members of the Committee on Conferences, as well as consider the follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit.  For their respective discussions, delegates had before them a note by the Secretary-General (document A/68/91) and a second transmitting the report of the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (document A/68/650).

Statements — Millennium Summit Outcome

Henry Leonard  Mac-Donald (Suriname), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recalled that, in 2011, world leaders had gathered for the first time to address the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, adopting a Political Declaration that placed non-communicable diseases squarely on the development agenda.  The Caribbean was being ravaged by non-communicable diseases, which accounted for 60 per cent of all deaths in the subregion.  By 2030, communicable diseases would be responsible for an estimated 86 per cent of all deaths.

The WHO report detailed significant progress in efforts to realize the Political Declaration, he said, including:  the World Health Assembly’s endorsement of the WHO Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2020; the development of nine action plan indicators to inform reporting on progress; and the establishment of a United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force.  It also outlined the urgent need to assist developing countries in building national capacity to achieve desired goals for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  Responding to those opposed to tackling prevention, such as the tobacco, food and beverage industries, should be addressed, as should the trade policies of exporting countries, as those could impede national efforts to reduce risk.

JAN PIROUZ POULSEN, European UnionDelegation, welcomed the 2013-2020 action plan and adoption of a global monitoring framework.  The Union felt the monitoring process should include targets and indicators based on national conditions.  With progress “insufficient and highly uneven”, he urged swift agreement by the Economic and Social Council on the terms of reference for the inter-agency task force, which must be endorsed by the World Health Assembly.  He called for a time-limited mandate for the coordination mechanism, which should be part of the WHO secretariat and accountable to its governing bodies.  Its tasks must be defined precisely, but standard and norm-setting were beyond its scope.  He lamented the lack of a framework for engaging with the private sector and urged agreement on organization-wide principles.  Non-communicable diseases should be a priority in the post-2015 development agenda.

YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) called for a “unified front” to turn the tide on non-communicable diseases.  To that end, Indonesia had facilitated the Assembly resolution on Global Health and Foreign Policy, which focused on global health partnerships.  “Let’s meet commitments in the 2011 Political Declaration,” he said, urging support for State efforts to strengthen health systems and prioritize health issues in the post-2015 development agenda.  As national challenges differed, he called for establishing country-specific indicators and targets, pointing out that Indonesia had scaled up prevention and control efforts by establishing five-year national action plans.  “NCDs (non-communicable diseases) need to be addressed through a multi-stakeholder response,” he said.

DMITRY MAKSIMYCHEV ( Russian Federation) said it was important the United Nations consider the issues on non-communicable diseases, as the fight against them required multilateral cooperation.  The United Nations resolutions and political declaration on this topic had provided “clear drivers” for reforming national health systems.  Developing health systems was a fundamental priority for his country, and over the past 10 years, State financing in that area had increased six-fold.  Monitoring progress and mainstreaming such a mechanism were also important.  The Russian Federation would chair the Group of Eight this year and put a priority on health.  The most optimal format for a comprehensive review would be a high-level General Assembly meeting, he added.

JILL DERDERIAN ( United States) stressed the importance of the 2011 Political Declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and the urgency with which the international community must address premature deaths caused by such diseases.  She said the global community had work in place under the World Health Organization to underpin actions at all levels.  She pointed to a set of voluntary global targets to be attained by 2025, which included reducing premature mortality by 25 per cent.  With WHO’s leadership and technical support, countries now had access to tools and cost effective measures to turn the tide.  Her delegation looked forward to an agreement on a global coordination mechanism at the upcoming World Health Assembly and a comprehensive review later this year on progress.

STEPHANIE LEE ( New Zealand), speaking also for Australia, said the 2011 Political Declaration recognized that the knowledge and expertise, as well as the political will, existed to prevent deaths and disability from non-communicable diseases.  However, progress had not met expectations and required concerted action.  New Zealand looked forward to the comprehensive review called for in the Declaration, favouring a high-level meeting during the current Assembly session,

perhaps in July.  Her Government did not believe a renegotiation of the Political Declaration was warranted or desirable; a ministerial-level meeting with civil society participation would be most appropriate.  New Zealand was open to the option of a negotiated outcome document to build on the Political Declaration and focus on implementation gaps.

ALI ALDABAG (Iraq) urged a more strategic and systematic approach at the country level to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, and called for the development of a global framework for country-level action, to be adopted during the General Assembly Review of non-communicable diseases later this year.  Negotiations for such a framework would be a historic opportunity, he said, calling for “decisive steps” to reverse the non-communicable disease epidemic.  A framework for national actions should be discussed during consultations in New York on an outcome document for the review of non-communicable diseases.

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For information media • not an official record