Global Parliamentarians meet in New York to garner political will to end TB

Members of the Global TB Caucus, a group of more than 2,300 parliamentarians from 132 countries committed to ending tuberculosis (TB), met in New York this week and called on world leaders to attend the first UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB later this year and to make meaningful commitments to address TB.  

More than 40 MPs from 32 countries came together for the Caucus meeting alongside TB survivors, civil society and partners of the Caucus – including The Union, a founding partner of the Global TB Caucus at the 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona in 2014.

In the statement issued by Caucus members at the meeting, they urge world leaders to use the HLM to:

  • commit to a renewed effort to prevent, diagnose and treat TB
  • ensure that the global response is equitable, rights-based and people-centred
  • boost investment in the full spectrum of TB research to bring about urgently needed new tools including drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

H.E. Mr Koro Bessho, Permanent Representative of Japan (co-sponsor of the HLM) to the United Nations, said, “It is truly encouraging that we see the momentum already building up by parliamentarian leaders whose role is critical to ending TB."

Dr Aubrey Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda (a co-sponsor of the TB HLM) to the United Nations said: “Any disease that claims the lives of millions of people deserves our immediate attention. My country is committed to wellness and healthcare in our achievement of the 2030 agenda.”

The Rt Hon Nick Herbert CBE MP from the United Kingdom, who co-chairs the Global TB Caucus along with South Africa’s Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsolaedi, said: “The HLM is a unique opportunity to raise the profile of an issue which until now simply hasn’t commanded adequate attention from global leaders.

“TB needs this focus at the top level - it’s the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing more people every year than AIDS and malaria combined. Action to tackle this global catastrophe is long overdue.”

Speaking at the Caucus meeting, The Union’s Executive Director José Luis Castro drew attention to the urgent need for an integrated and indivisible approach to health, with emphasis on the links between non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and TB.

He said: “September 2018 is a golden opportunity for this particular agenda, with both an NCD and TB UN High-Level Meeting scheduled back to back in New York.  

“Our collaboration needs to go deeper than promoting integration in our respective HLMs. Our HLMs are taking place at a time when health is not seen as a political priority for many governments, and when health systems are crippling under the pressure of competing and urgent priorities.

“At the end of the day, we are seeking the same outcomes from both HLMs: high-level and sustained political leadership, more robust efforts to address the social determinants and risk factors, stronger and more resilient health systems that can respond to all conditions, rather than just some, and better data and monitoring.”

The MPs went on to spend a day meeting at the UN urging action on the commitments needed for the TB HLM to be a success. 

Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is a target of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Unless world leaders agree on urgent actions to accelerate the current rate of progress against TB, the Sustainable Development Goal target could be missed by more than 100 years at a cost of over a trillion dollars in lost economic output and countless millions of lives.