17 January 2018 | Geneva: Civil society representatives met with WHO leadership in Geneva, on 15-16 January 2018, with the aim of strengthening collaboration to end TB. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme, opened the meeting, and Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director-General, Dr Ren Minghui, Assistant Director General for the Cluster for Communicable Diseases, Dr Berhard Schwartlander, Chef de Cabinet, and Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership all expressed support for a much closer working relationship.
“It is inspiring to meet with TB civil society representatives at WHO,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We all need to work as one if we are to end TB. I am solidly committed to this cause with my strong leadership team and in collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership.”
The effort to strengthen civil society engagement comes on the heels of increased political attention, with the First WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB held in Moscow last November, as well as other high level meetings which highlighted TB in their communiques including the BRICS and G20. 2018 is seen as a critical year with the upcoming UN General Assembly High Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB, which will bring together Heads of State.
During the Geneva meeting, Ms Blessi Kumar from the Global Coalition of TB Activists stated, “Never before in the history of WHO has meaningful engagement with civil society and communities been taken so seriously. I feel a lot of hope for the End TB response moving forward and would like to thank Dr Tedros and Dr Tereza for their openness to listen and engage. This will be critical not only in the lead up to the UNHLM on TB, but also beyond.”
Building on a decade of collaboration of WHO with TB civil society, discussions revolved around the next phase of effective engagement in order to accelerate efforts to end TB, as well as in preparations towards the UNHLM on TB. Key asks were formulated for the WHO Director-General, including support in ensuring meaningful engagement of civil society at regional and country levels through WHO Regional and Country Offices, and through interactions with Ministers of Health.
“Civil Society engagement is invaluable to efforts to end TB and reach the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole,” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme. “Their voice and actions will enable no one to be left behind. Together we are stronger.”
Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership added, “We have 12 years to end TB and only together can we achieve this. At Stop TB Partnership, we are thrilled with the new WHO leadership’s strategic vision to work together, hand in hand, with us and civil society and communities to end TB. We are committed to work as ONE team to achieve our objective and this is an inspirational way to start the new year!”
This meeting was Dr Tedros’ third major interaction with TB civil society as WHO Director-General. He met with civil society, in advance of the Ministerial Conference on Ending TB on 16 November. This was followed by a teleconference with civil society representatives in late December. The Geneva meeting is only the first of a series of meetings planned this year.