Policy & Advocacy

Volume 23, Number 2: February 2022

Jam-Packed January Starts with a Bang!

By Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD
IAHPC Senior Advocacy and Partnerships Director

January started off with a bang, as if everyone couldn’t wait to return to work after the holiday. The IAHPC Advocacy Program added five new Advocacy Focal Points (AFPs): Dr. Mataa Moses Mataa, in Zambia, who replaced Dr. Mwate Joseph Chaila and who will work with Dr. Abidan Chansa; Dr. Martin Lankoandé, in Burkina Faso; Lic. Victoria Diehl in Costa Rica; Dr. Ednin Hamzah, Chair of the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network and CEO of Hospis Malaysia; and Ms. Smriti Rana, Policy, Strategic Partnerships, and Community Engagement Director at Pallium India. Ms. Smriti will work with Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar, President of the Indian Association of Palliative Care. Please join me in welcoming them to our very active cohort of Advocacy Focal Points from around the world.

Pre-meeting workshops & 150th Meeting of the WHO Executive Board
Dr. Catalina Devandas Aguilar of Costa Rica

On January 17, IAHPC co-convened a meeting with the Geneva Global Health Hub titled “Are global civil society organizations still relevant at UN organizations?” immediately prior to the 150th meeting of the World Health Organization Executive Board. Panelists were Her Excellency Dr. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Costa Rica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organizations, and Dr. Raffaele Marchetti, a political scientist and scholar of civil society at Luiss University in Rome. I introduced Dr. Aguilar and highlighted the fact that Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that provides palliative care as a public good to its people, along with stipends to family caregivers. Dr. Aguilar said, “The provision of health services, including high-quality palliative care, is fundamental. It is core to what we do—what we call our DNA… It is a fundamental right that people have their end-of-life processes with dignity, free of pain, and with the support of those they need.” She conceded that Costa Rica can do better to bring services closer to people, especially remote areas, and emphasized that “palliative care should not be considered optional.” We couldn’t agree more.

The well-attended workshop, the recording of which is available here, produced collective action that included a letter to Dr. Patric Amoth, Chair of the WHO EB, endorsed by hundreds of civil society organizations around the world. The letter requests, among other things, that the World Health Organization “[e]nsure an open and meaningful participation of nonstate actors, not merely delivering statements, which may include timely information-sharing, access to meetings and draft documents, and meaningful engagement opportunities with Member States while decisions are being considered.”

IAHPC’s registered delegation included our AFPs from Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, and the Russian Federation. Our three one-minute statements were posted on the WHO Extranet for member states to review. Ms. Monica Do Coutto Monni gave a statement on pandemic preparedness and response. The other two statements were on palliative care as part of the “Triple Billion” framework, and role of nonstate actors.

Among member state delegates, only Burkina Faso mentioned palliative care at the EB after meeting with IAHPC’s Advocacy Focal Point.

In other WHO EB news, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, who engaged in two 90-minute dialogues in 2020 and 2021 with palliative care providers around the world, and who wrote to all heads of state to encourage them to integrate PC into their health care systems, was re-elected unopposed to the position of Director General. Prior to being acclaimed, he gave this presentation.

Most discussion between member states at the EB focused on governance of pandemic preparedness and response. The only member state that mentioned palliative care as an essential part of pandemic preparedness and response was the delegate from Burkina Faso, who had met with Dr. Lankoandé the week before and listened to our AFPs presentation of the situation in his country. Apart from that, only other nonstate actors mentioned palliative care in their one-minute statements.

Access to essential controlled medicines

I am delighted to announce the release of Module 3 of IAHPC’s members-only Advocacy Course, which is actually the second part of the module on Access to Essential Controlled Medicines. All modules, including a free-access Introduction, can be accessed here.

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC), with IAHPC member Heloisa Broggiato, convened a Webinar on controlled medicines on January 27. Panelists included Mark Mwsega, Executive Director of then Palliative Care Association of Uganda, and Advocacy Focal Point Smriti Rana of Pallium India. I gave closing remarks. You can access a YouTube video of the Webinar here.

Your opportunity to ask a question

VNGOC is arranging informal dialogues with highly placed members of international organizations that make global policies about controlled medicines. Organizations—including IAHPC—are allowed one question per dialogue. If you have a burning question, email it to me at [email protected]. The deadline for us to submit our questions is February 16, so get your question to me as soon as possible. The dialogues are scheduled to take place in March at the 65th Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Do you have any comments or questions about this piece or our advocacy program?

Contact Dr. Katherine Pettus

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