Considerable progress has been made in the measures against pandemics, particularly against AIDS and malaria. What role does the advocacy of NGOs play in this action?
The advocacy of NGOs in both developed and emerging countries has three major roles: education, pressure and collaboration. The main goal of NGOs is to educate the media and decision makers on the devastating effects of these pandemics and the specific conditions in the countries where they occur the most. HIV/AIDS is ravaging the African continent, where access to treatment is still very difficult.
NGOs also needed to put pressure on international decision makers to create effective financial instruments, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria–a G7 decision from 2001–and allocate the necessary funds. Since then, huge advances have been made. Between 2000 and 2015, AIDS-related deaths decreased by 33%, those related to tuberculosis by 32% and those related to malaria by 50%. Few public policies have achieved that level of progress. Everyone should be aware that there are solutions that could enable the international community to eradicate these pandemics.
Collaboration is the third component of our advocacy. This involves working with the pharmaceutical sector, the private market and the affected governments to encourage them to develop, purchase and distribute vaccines adapted to the needs of developing countries.
In what other ways are NGOs involved in this action? How are local stakeholders getting involved?
This advocacy only makes sense when accompanied by world health campaigns carried out by NGOs in the field. Without this work, sometimes accomplished in very remote areas, NGOs could never have provided treatment for so many patients. The bridge between advocacy NGOs and NGOs in the field is crucial. In the early 2000s, only a few thousand people were on antiretroviral treatment. Now, 21 million patients benefit from this treatment, which is enormous progress.
On a broader level, what does it take for topics such as the fight against poverty and pandemics to find their way into an extremely full global agenda?
It’s very difficult. This is why it is so important for us to work with the media to raise awareness of the fact that AIDS is still devastating populations throughout the world. The goal is to hold decision makers accountable for the financial promises made at summits like G7. The money released must make its way to the field in order to have the desired effects. The G7 summit to be held in Biarritz in August 2019, chaired by France, will provide an opportunity to put this issue back at the heart of the agenda. France will also host the 6th Global Fund Replenishment Conference in October in Lyon. NGOs are hoping that States will mobilize $14 billion through this event. The private and non-governmental sector must also remain active. Sustainable Development Goal 3 (health and well-being for all) is ambitious, but not impossible. Advocacy NGOs must encourage policy makers to think big, since the time frame is 2030.
Is increased gender equality a means to fight pandemics and poverty?
This is a very important aspect, but it often goes unnoticed. In Africa today, three-quarters of adolescents who are infected by HIV are young girls. Because they do not have the same access to education, health services and economic opportunities and are often forced to get married… They are on the front lines of these pandemics. At the same time, they are the agents of change. In a society where women and girls are responsible for caring for children, parents and the family in general, making them our target has a multiplier effect in treating and eradicating diseases. 85% of support should be allocated to promoting gender equality. We advocate that 20% of public assistance for international development be dedicated specifically to girls and women. These objectives are set by the European civil society, but the European Union itself has already set the same objectives in the past concerning new projects implemented before 2020.
In your opinion, what are the priorities of NGOs in terms of advocacy over the next few years?
We ask that States of developed countries and the European Union truly allocate 0.7% of their budget to official development assistance. They have committed to this for several years, but still few are actually doing it. This would make it possible to adopt a comprehensive approach (health, education, society) to eradicating poverty and reaching Sustainable Development Goals.
How can you get involved?
Citizen pressure remains an effective way to show decision makers that people care for international issues such as development. We encourage citizens, those who have elected our decision makers, to get involved by going to see their legislators, representatives and local media figures, purchasing responsibly and organizing events. This is one of our key advocacy messages: everyone can take action and each action results in consequences that matter, even in the area of health.
The opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of their institutions or of AFD.