UNGA 2018 pulls together world leaders, and I was there.
United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) is the annual gathering of world leaders, advocates, companies, and philanthropists that are all united to make the world a better place than it already is. It’s the time of year when New York City is officially the center of the world. Everyone is referring to the SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) and holding up numbers from 1 through 17 that align with the cause they are working to improve.
This year I was grateful to be very involved with UNGA and attend many sessions, events, and private meetings. The week itself is a maddening flurry of activities which require comfortable shoes. And the impact of all those activities to me was inspiration. Through the non-profit I founded and now run as the CEO, HERHealthEQ, this year was especially pertinent to the work we do.
Two of the four large themes this year were related to health. The first one is to eliminate Tuberculosis (TB) and the second was related to eliminate Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs). As TB is a communicable disease, it is not pertinent to HERHealthEQ’s mission. BUT the elimination of NCDs is perfectly aligned with HERHealthEQ’s mission of health equity for women around the world. And one of the main themes of the NCD focus was cervical cancer elimination, the exact program we have just launched in Tanzania.
I attended several high-level meetings, discussions, and forums discussing thoughts and ideas on how to eliminate NCDs and specifically cervical cancer. I attended several breakout sessions to discuss it in detail. And I had several high-level private meetings with officials and high-ranking executives including the CEO’s of 2 large organizations and the First Lady of an African nation. The one thing I noticed as a through line was the amount of talking being done.
Talking about the issues and bringing awareness is a great step. As is detection of the problem (and it is a big problem given that there is a 38% prevalence rate of cervical cancer in all of sub-Sahara Africa as compared to a 2.4% prevalence rate in the US). But what I saw lacking in most of the meetings were specific steps of action for elimination.
We are now at a place where we need to take action. UNGA is a great place to discuss, and the time to act is now. Detection of an issue is irrelevant without a treatment plan. Slowly, the community is starting to act, but not fast enough to eradicate this issue by 2030, as the SDG’s have set out to do. There are limited coordinated efforts being undertaken, each organization and country are working independently. If private sector corporations operated like the nonprofit community, we wouldn’t have the level of innovation and tech we do today. We all need to band together and create sustainable solutions for this issue and all of the SDGs.
Governments and nonprofits can’t do it alone. The private sector and corporations need to play their part either through resources, capital, outreach, and/or advocacy. They are the resources with significant capital and should partner with nonprofits and governments to make a truly sustainable solution to make a change in this world.
It is through collaboration, community, and bold action that we can truly change the world. Resources need to be deployed and action needs to be taken. The world changes through action. Who will join me?