Gavi at the UNGA: diary of a public-private sector partnership

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A week at the United Nations General Assembly is a long time in global health, especially for Gavi. The annual New York event brings together most members of the Vaccine Alliance– UN agencies, donor governments, implementing countries, businesses, philanthropies and civil society - and this diary records Gavi’s day-by-day efforts to strengthen collaboration and build new partnerships.

18 September – health and education

Ahead of the start of the UNGA, Gavi leaders take time to meet with their counterparts at both the Global Partnership for Education, a multilateral group that directs donor funding to support building and sustaining education systems in developing countries, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Recognising the interdependence of health and education, the three organisations share ideas for breaking down siloes that often separate development sectors.

19 to 20 September – global health security

Dr. Berkley is a featured panelist on the topic of global epidemics, at the Concordia Summit (19 to 20 September), a two-day event that drew high-profile global business, government, and nonprofit leaders to seek opportunities for effective partnerships around a range of pressing development challenges – including migration, politics, education and health.

The Concordia Summit is one of a number of events on the sidelines of this year’s UNGA that offer especially rich opportunities for Gavi to engage with leaders of private sector companies and philanthropies about their involvement in global immunisation programme.

On the 19th, Gavi also participates in a programme convened by the Global Heath Security Agenda Private Sector Roundtable and PATH called Advancing Global Health Security: Driving Innovation through Partnership. The well-attended programme highlighted the importance of multisector partnerships to find and deliver innovative solutions to address the global health security challenges and achieve the global goals for health and development.

Along with Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director General and other leading public health experts, Dr. Berkley also offers remarks at an observance of the 100th anniversary of the first polio outbreak in New York City. Speaking about the campaign to finally wipe out polio, Dr. Berkley tells the gathering, “We will eradicate polio. We’re this close.”

20 September – anti-microbial resistance

Social Good Summit

From L to R: James Chau, Special Contributor, CCTV News; Gavi CEO, Dr Seth Berkley; Dr Keiji Fukuda, Special Representative for Microbial Resistance, WHO, during the Social Good Summit. Credit: Gavi/2016/Jeff Weintraub.

Following a one-day high-level meeting on anti-microbial resistance, or AMR, at the UN Headquarters, 193 member countries endorse a landmark UN political declaration citing the urgency of the growing threat of drug resistant infections. Gavi is due to play a prominent role in a number of events throughout UNGA week dedicated to the AMR threat, including today’s meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Threat to the Health and Economic Development of Nations.

At this event, hosted by the governments of South Africa, United Kingdom, Kenya, Australia and Argentina, Gavi CEO, Dr. Seth Berkley, acknowledges recent reports from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance , praising the journal for its recognition of the critical role vaccines can play in the fight against AMR. He reminds the participants that a lot more work is required to ensure equitable access to both vaccines and antimicrobial drugs, emphasising the critical need to educate populations about AMR in order to change the demand for antibiotics.

A day later, at an event called Working Together Across The Public And Private Sectors To Address Antimicrobial Resistance - Dr. Berkley discusses the need for scientific advances in the area of diagnostics and antibiotics, reminding participants that we must not be distracted from increasing access to the existing technologies and vaccines. The meeting is organised by UNAIDS, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and for Malaria.

Earlier in the week, on 18 September, Dr. Berkley had addressed the AMR topic in an appearance at the Social Good Summit alongside WHO’s special representative for AMR, Dr. Keiji Fukuda. At the session, Dr. Berkley pointed out that “greater use of vaccines can lower the number of people suffering from infectious diseases.” Gavi, he added, is increasingly engaging in the AMR dialogue both internationally and at a country level, and its Advance Purchase Commitment model could be adopted to incentivise drug companies to develop new classes of antibiotics.

21 September – new private sector partnership with Philips

Social Good Summit

Gavi and Philips partnership will help improve data quality and its collection in primary and community healthcare. Credit: Gavi/2013/Evelyn Hockstein.

Dr. Berkley joins Philips Executive Vice President Ronald de Jong to announce a new collaboration to develop scalable digital transformation plans aimed at improving the quality of immunisation data in in countries where Gavi works. The announcement takes place at a gathering of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, whose mission is to encourage and support more and better data collection around each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Berkley notes that there are still “1.5 million children under five dying of preventable diseases every year. We need to be able to reach every one of them. How do we do that? We need better quality data.”

In a separate 21 September event, a UN private sector forum draws CEOs from roughly 40 companies and high-level officials like Justin Trudeau, Stefan Löfven and Erna Solberg, the Prime Ministers of Canada, Sweden and Norway, respectively, as well as presidents from several implementing countries. David P. Abney, the CEO of UPS, speaks about how his company is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals by working with Gavi to improved supply chains around the world.

In addition to meetings with several sovereign donors and developing country officials, Gavi also participated during the week in events with representatives of other private sector companies. These were well represented at a luncheon sponsored by Every Woman Every Child (22 September) on innovations in global health and to a series of events with Africa business leaders and prominent global companies (including GE, EXXON/MOBIL, Credit Suisse and Black Rock) that are investing in Africa.

21 September – Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS

Gavi takes part in an event sponsored by the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), which highlights adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The first ladies express their support of greater sustainability of health programmes and of the growing need for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect young girls from cervical cancer.

Namibia’s First Lady, Monica Geingos, stresses the importance of the HPV vaccine asking African finance ministers to prioritise adolescent girls’ health. UNESCO’s Irina Bokova praises the First Ladies for raising their powerful voices to improve the lives of young girls in Africa.

22 September – award for GAVI CEO

As UNGA week draws to a close, HealthRight International, an organisation dedicated to delivering health care to marginalised communities around the world, honours Dr. Berkley, for his work in global health.

At the group’s annual Health & Human Rights Awards Dinner, Dr. Berkley accepts the award by pointing out that while Gavi and HealthRight are active in very different parts of the global health field, “we have the same values.” Both organisations, he notes are focused on promoting equal access to health care for all.


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