On Day 1 of the Ministerial Conference (November 16, 2017), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General (DG) of WHO, met with about 100 civil society participants and spoke about his commitment to establish a regular engagement mechanism with civil society and TB advocates to work together to end TB with emphasis on universal health coverage (UHC), primary health quality care and advancing research for better tools.
Civil Society Representatives
After his talk, Dr Tedros specifically requested to meet six civil society representatives covering multiple continents to discuss how we can work together to engage civil society in the lead up to the HLM. The 6 civil society represtatives who were selected were GCTA CEO Blessina Kumar (India), Alexander Chuykov (Russia), Zied Mhirsi (Tunisia), Mandy Slutsker (USA), Khairunisa Suleiman (Kenya) and Ezio Tavora (Brazil).
Community Demands Raised
Dr Tedros informally met these representatives the following day and a wide range of issues were discussed – ranging broadly from ensuring community engagement and participation at all levels of policy and programme implementation to more specifically working together with civil society organizations, frontline community health workers and affected communities to embrace their perspectives in the TB response.
Issues such as access to integrated quality care, including linking patients to social support and financial protection schemes and synergising advocacy and activism efforts were also discussed. The group requested national commitments and investments to end TB, irrespective of the size and rate of the TB burden in the respective countries.
The group also requested the Director-General of the WHO to address stigma, discrimination and criminalisation of TB and to assist in generating data on these to inform the development and implementation of appropriate measures at global and national levels.
Strengthening treatment literacy and prevention among the general public as well as garnering public support to end TB were also important points of discussion during the interaction.
The group further appealed to the WHO to ensure that their own policies and guidelines are ambitious and robust enough to match the global TB problem and are also taken up promptly by national governments and implemented. Their impact also should be measured to see results.
Community Demands Raised
Before the conclusion of the meeting, a statement endorsed by 86 civil society representatives was presented to the DG asking for his advocacy support with key issues such as ensuring global and country level targets to find and provide quality treatment to all people with TB as well as global and country level targets to finance R&D., recognising human rights and community leadership/engagement as key principles to ending TB and the establishment of an independent, impartial, politically-relevant accountability framework reporting to UNGA.
The DG, in turn, reiterated his commitment to continue engaging with civil society representatives for the TB HLM 2018 and beyond.
It was also agreed to use the existing platform of the WHO Civil Society Task Force of the Global TB Programme which will be reviewed and reconstituted to enable further systematic consultation and engagement of WHO and the DG with the TB civil society on a regular basis.