SPC DG Statement to UNGA73 on Non-Communicable Diseases

New York

Check Against Delivery

Statement to UNGA73  HLM3 on NCDs

Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director General, Pacific Community


Honourable Leaders, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour to present this statement on behalf of the Pacific Community (SPC)

I speak to you today as a representative from a region that is in the midst of a health crisis. Non-Communicable diseases are at record or near record rates in all 22 of our member nations. Indeed, the Pacific is now often given the unenvious title of ‘NCD capital of the world’.

Strong leadership is critical to addressing the NCD crisis, and I am pleased to report that Pacific leaders have committed to addressing this challenge and have made significant progress in many areas. I would like to share with you just a few of the highlights of our regions work.

At the meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders held in Nauru earlier this month, our leaders committed to strengthening work on NCD prevention and control. This commitment was backed by a promise to allocate additional resources for the work from the already thin budgets of Pacific nations.

Our key regional strategy is the Pacific NCD Roadmap, which was endorsed by the Joint Ministers of Finance and Health Meeting in 2014, and developed with the assistance of SPC, WHO, World Bank and the Governments of Australia and NZ.

The Roadmap is our navigation chart.  It sets out a simple set of prioritised and proven cost-effective interventions based on the WHO ‘best buys’.  SPC is encouraging and supporting all our Members to implement the Roadmap priorities, and to do so with urgency.

The Roadmap is proving its value: Since being introduced in 2014, 16 nations have increased taxes on tobacco, 14 have increased taxes on alcohol, 12 have increased taxes on SSBs and two have removed all taxes on fresh fruit and vegetables.

The impact of this work is already being felt. For countries that have completed two or more STEPwise approach to Surveillance surveys, results show positive changes including increases in vegetable consumption and physical activity as well as decreases in smoking rates and alcohol consumption. That we are seeing a decline in smoking rates in a region where tobacco use is among the highest in the world is very encouraging.

Pacific nations have also developed and endorsed the Pacific Monitoring Alliance for NCD Action, or MANA.  MANA is a collaborative alliance of all Pacific nations, networks and agencies, working to improve monitoring and surveillance of NCDs across the Pacific region

This is our independent accountability tool. 19 of 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories have endorsed the MANA Dashboard and findings have been shared at the annual Heads of Health meetings and the biennial meetings of Pacific Health Ministers.  Accountability is critical in our efforts to address NCDs and we welcome a new global independent accountability mechanism to assess progress on SDG 3.4, perhaps building on the NCD Countdown 2030 published last week in The Lancet.

In addition to the ongoing efforts, we are constantly investigating new ways to make our work more effective. As I speak, our region is considering the establishment of a Pacific Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, and other potential game changing interventions are under active consideration.

None of these efforts would be possible without strong support and we are grateful for the financial assistance from the governments of Australia, New Zealand, France and USA for our efforts to address NCDs. We also appreciate the strong partnerships and productive collaborations with other implementing agencies including WHO, World Bank, UNDP, Pacific Islands Health Officers Association (PIHOA) and Fiji National University.

However, while my notes today have focused on our regions progress, there remain significant challenges in resources and funding that, if left unaddressed, will keep the Pacific burdened by the weight of NCDs and held back from reaching its full potential.

It is time to move beyond the inspiring Declarations, supportive statements and expressions of solidarity. What the nations of our region need today are practical tools to fight this ‘war’ on NCDs. 

  • Comprehensive data gathering and knowledge programs to allow us to accurately measure the impact of our efforts and adjust our strategies for taxation, trade and health policy.
  • Technical assistance to further build our capacity and ensure that the staff on the front line of this NCD crisis are armed with the tools they need.
  • And yes, funding and resources which will be critical if we are to have any hope of properly managing NCDs in the region.

The Pacific is one of the world greatest resources. We feed the world through our tuna fisheries, we have untapped mineral resources, and a long history of cultural treasures and traditions which are a central part of the human tapestry. The potential of our people and our region is limitless. But today, NCD’s are threatening to slow our development and steal the prosperity of future generations.

Together, we can bring an end to the NCD crisis in the Pacific. But concerted, accelerated and sustained action and support is needed, and needed now.

Thank you very much, merci beaucoup, vinaka etc etc