His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and Patron of the Global NCDA Forum, today opened the most influential gathering of experts and decision makers in the field of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at the second Global NCD Alliance Forum – taking place from 9-11 December at Sharjah’s Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
Having held the highly successful inaugural edition and influenced global agendas on NCDs in 2015, Sharjah-based Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) will welcome more than 350 delegates and 80 expert speakers to the including scientists, medical pioneers, support groups, NGOs and civil societies from 68 countries across five continents such as Kenya, Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Brazil, Jordon, India, Zanzibar and many others.
At the opening ceremony, His Highness told the audience that among the leading causes of cancers were smoking, alcohol and obesity and that Sharjah had been taking positive steps to curb this for many years: We have implemented a ban on smoking in many public places which has led to a decrease in smoking deaths and for 32 years, Sharjah has once again taken the lead in the prohibition of alcohol – which is responsible for 10% of all cancer deaths – in any place within the emirate. As for obesity, Sharjah has forged ahead, supplying walkways in many locations so that people can go walking and jogging and lead a healthier lifestyle. We will also have one of the best air-conditioned walkways where even during the five hot months of the year, people can still exercise.”
Speaking of the forum itself, His Highness said that it is more than an event, it is a catalyst for change: “People thought that this forum may have been somewhere where speeches were given and plans were made, then everything was forgotten – this is not the case. This is a place of practical action. It is a credit to you all that you have stimulated us to take action and initiate many projects.
“We will continue to take action – it is a responsibility and you are our guiding light. Future results will be even better. We will implement your recommendations and we thank you for your guidance. We are here to support you and will fulfil our promise that you will see the results of your guidance when we meet here next year. ”
The opening was also attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, President-Elect of the Union for International Cancer Control; His Excellency Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Community Protection, UAE; Dr. Khaled Al Saleh, Secretary General of the Gulf Union for Cancer Control; His Excellency José Luis Castro, President of the Alliance of Non-communicable Diseases; Sir George Alini, Honorary Director of the Pan American Health Organization, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Alliance of Non-Communicable Diseases in America; Katie Dean, Executive Director, Alliance of Non-communicable Diseases Organizations
A short video was show to the audience of the three day forum on the unwavering commitment and support from Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Patron of the Global NCD Alliance, Founder and Patron of FoCP and International Ambassador for the World Cancer Declaration of the Union for International Cancer Control, International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer and Patron of the Global NCDA Forum.
The NCD Alliance has chosen Sharjah to host the first two editions of the event, where the most respected NCD health experts from around the world strategise on how reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases – responsible for more than 40 million deaths globally each year.
Chairperson of the Friends of Cancer Patients Board of Directors HE Sawsan Jafar commented on the progress made from the inaugural NCD Alliance Forum.
“Today’s convention is a significant stride towards perpetuating the achievements of the forum’s first one held in Sharjah in 2015, which culminated in the ‘Sharjah Declaration for Non-Communicable Diseases’, emphasising the importance of supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030. The 2015 forum also resulted in a series of recommendations for governments, UN organisations, the business community, and local and international media corporations. These recommendations collectively call for catalysing and facilitating the adoption of measures to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.
“The proceedings of the first NCD Forum in Sharjah included recommendations for endorsing the ‘Global Targets for NCDs 2025’, and the ‘Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020’ prepared by the World Health Organisation.”
HE Sawsan Jafar added that the theme ‘Stepping up the Pace for NCDs: Making 2018 count’, reaffirms the forum’s commitment to put intentions into action, telling the speakers and dignitaries: “All these endeavours, efforts, and action plans present us with opportunities for creating a difference. Your presence today at the forum in its second edition affirms that our cooperation does indeed create impact, and confirms that the impact of our unity is significant. .Determined to continue this journey to raise awareness of non-communicable diseases, and improve the lives of patients, we aim to leverage partnerships and alliances and maximise efforts for the development of innovative and effective strategies.”
In his address to the attendees of the opening ceremony, Mr José Luis Castro, President of the NCD Alliance thanked His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi.
“I thank you for your continued commitment, energy, and passion to cancer and NCDs. We are deeply grateful for all that you do, and for your patronage of this Global NCD Alliance Forum. And thank you to Friends of Cancer Patients, the local host organisation, for your tireless work in the months of preparation leading up to the Forum.”
Mr Castro added: “Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental and neurological disorders are the global health tsunami of the 21st century. These diseases and conditions are devastating communities, crippling health systems, and thwarting economies, through widespread sickness, disability, and untimely and often avoidable deaths. No country is immune, and no country has this tidal wave under control.
“The data speaks volumes. If the world continues down the current path of ‘business as usual’, by 2025 one third of the world’s population will be living with obesity… and more children and adolescents will be obese than simply overweight; the total number of people living with diabetes will be close to 500 million; over 320 million people will have died from an NCD; that is equivalent to the entire population of the United States – over 120 million of those deaths will have been preventable. And the amount it will have cost developing countries alone since 2011 will be $7 trillion dollars, equivalent to the combined GDP of France, India, and Brazil last year.”
Speaking on the importance of the event, Mr Castro added: “The Forum provides us, NCD civil society, with a platform to discuss, meet, and strategise on our collective advocacy priorities and campaign goals as we prepare for the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting. Nearly 350 NCD civil society advocates from 68 nations will share ideas, experiences, and explore solutions to our common challenges. It is my sincere hope that you take advantage of the incredible amount of knowledge and shared experiences gathered here over the course of the next three days at the largest convening of NCD civil society.”
Some of the most respected experts in the field of NCDs speaking at the event include: HRH Princess Dina Mired, President-Elect of the Union for International Cancer Control, who was the first Arab and non-medical professional to have been elected in such a prestigious global post; Sir George Alleyne, a medical graduate of the University of the West Indies who worked under Professor John Waterlow in the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit at UWI; Katie Dain, Chief Executive Officer of the NCD Alliance, who has been a part of the team since its founding in 2009; Dr. Tom Frieden, one of the world’s leading public health experts and President and Chief Executive Officer of ‘Resolve to Save Lives’, a $225 million, 5-year initiative housed at Vital Strategies; and Dr. Sania Nishtar, a Pakistani physician and former federal minister of the Government of Pakistan who has strong civil society credentials as founder of Heartfile. Dr. Nishtar is also co-Chair of WHO High-Level Global Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases.
In keeping with the commitment to provide practical resources, a key focus of this year’s forum, organised by the NCD Alliance, a civil society alliance uniting 2,000 organisations across the world is to mobilise high-level political leadership to address NCDs, 80% of which occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Following the ceremony, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah also attended the opening plenary, ‘The Global NCD Response: Taking Stock, Reviewing Progress and Looking Ahead to the 2018 UN High-level Meeting’, which called for action on four crucial pillars: human rights and social justice; prevention; treatment, care, and support; and meaningful involvement.
The panellists were Dr. Colin Tukuitonga, Director General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, New Caledonia; Dr. Kibachio Joseph Mwangi, Head of Division on NCDs, Ministry of Health, Kenya; Ms Abish Romero, National Advisor on Health Systems and Services, PAHO; Princess Dina Mired, President-elect, Union for International Cancer Control, Jordan; and Dr Jacob Gayle, President, Medtronic Foundation, USA.
Chair of the panel, Sir George Alleyne told the delegates: “This is not just about future years, this is about 2018 – we are just not running fast enough. I don’t want to be pessimistic, I want to see our strengths and see how we can catch up and get to the pace we need to be
“We need to make sure 2018 is a watershed year for tackling NCDs and I would like to thank HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi for his wonderful understanding at a ruler’s level what should be done.”
As part of her keynote speech, Dr. Sania Nishtar added: “The UAE is at the forefront of change and innovation and we have a chance through the fourth industrial revolution to join the dots, but we will need new experts, new thinking, new regulations and new human resources.
“But let us remember that we have come a long way; governments have committed to change, Heads of State have committed. The civil society plays the role of a moral compass, but you are the ones who will put the wind into the sails of the high-level summit and progress.”
The first plenary session on Sunday, the second day of the Forum begins at 9am with the plenary ‘Uniting the NCD Movement for 2018: Framing the Narrative, Advocating for Action and Amplifying Voices’, followed at 10.45am with the workshops ‘Making a Case for Investment and Financing for NCD Prevention and Control’, ‘Improving NCD Access and Achieving Universal Health Coverage for All’, ‘Joining Forces to Tackle the Determinants of NCDs’, ‘Promoting the Meaningful Involvement of People Living With NCDs’, ‘Driving National Planning on NCDs’.
The second plenary beginning at 1.30pm is titled ‘Breaking down Silos, Building Synergies: Accelerating NCDs in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’.
At 3.15pm, delegates can attend workshops on ‘Integrating Efforts for NCDs and Women’s and Children’s Health’, ‘Addressing NCDs as a Barrier to Poverty Reduction and Development’, ‘Using the Law to Safeguard Health and Reduce NCDs’, ‘Human and Planetary Health: At the Intersection of NCDs, Urbanisation and Climate Change’, and ‘Ensuring Sustainable Healthy Diets for All’, which brings the end of day two to a close at 5pm.
On the third and final day, an invitation only breakfast takes place from 7 – 8.30am, with doors opening for the plenary session ‘Growing the Movement: Equipping Civil Society to Fulfil its Roles in the NCD Response’ at 9am.
At 11am, workshops include ‘Through the Magnifying Glass: Leveraging Accountability Efforts in NCDs’, ‘Using Research to Advance Evidence-based Advocacy and Policymaking’, ‘Promoting the Best Buys for NCDs: Making the Case’, ‘For the Long Haul: Ensuring the Sustainability of NCD Alliances’ and ‘Promoting a Multi-sectoral Approach to NCDs through Workplace Wellness’.
A final session, ‘National and Regional Advocacy to Maximise the UN 2018 HLM on NCDs’ takes place from 2.15pm – 3.15pm, followed by the closing ceremony of the second Global NCD Alliance Forum which will take place between 3.30pm and 4.15pm.