Melbourne, Australia
August 30 – September 1, 2010

The 63rd Annual UN DPI / NGO Conference with the theme of Advance Global Health was held in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Victoria Australia from Monday 30 August to Wednesday 1 September 2010. The conference was held just few weeks before the world leaders meet in New York to push for greater progress on the MDGs.

Global health cannot be separated from the MDGs. Meeting the commitments on health, especially of women and children,  is central to meeting all of the MDGs. Achieving global health means achieving MDGS number 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (improve maternal health) and 6 (combat HIV/Aids, Malaria and other diseases), which cannot be achieved without achieving the MDGs number 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – because of poverty), 2 (achieve universal primary education), 3 (promote gender equity and empower women), 7 (ensure environmental sustainability) and 8 (develop a global partnership for development). Moreover global health cannot be separated from human rights since to be in good health is one of the human rights.

The conference highlighted effective ways in which civil society, in partnership with other actors, may contribute to fostering  global health; not just managing disease. The global health encompasses multifaceted challenges of transnational health issues, determinants and solutions, involves many disciplines, within and beyond the health sciences, and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration.

There were three roundtables in the conference. They were:

  • The role of the NGOs and civil society in helping achieve the MDGs;
  • Equity, rights and progress towards the MDGs;
  • Strengthening an integrated and system approach to achieving the health MDGs;
  • Achieving the MDGs in our changing world.

Although the conference sessions emphasized the need for more integration of health programs, methods to generate outcome data, cost effective delivery, sustainability, and emphasize prevention, to achieve equity in global health, the discussions were more on the role of NGOs and civil societies in helping achieve the MDGs (the theme of the first roundtable).

The Growing Issues

From the roundtable discussions and also from the workshops, I conclude that the issues we need to pay attention in achieving the global health (and  MDGs) are:

  • There are a lot of people who are aware and not well informed about global health and because of that they do not get involved in the process of achieving it. Global health and MDGs are not the commitments and responsibility of leader of countries but everybody’s commitments and responsibility.

  • The language of public health and MDGs are too sophisticated and not down to the earth so that people may misinterpret it. The targets are so ambitious that people may become desperate and feel that what they are doing is not worthy enough since the target will not be achieved.

  • Education plays a very important role in achieving global health and MDGs. The more educated the people, the more easily to involve them in the process of it. The level of education in several countries is still very low. The governments do not see the importance of education that they only allocate very small part of their budget for education. Poor people also do not pay much attention to their and their children’s education because they are very busy with their work to buy food. As long as the basic needs (food, clothing and residence) are not fulfilled it is quite difficult to ask them to pay more attention to education.

  • The politics and business could be unforeseen actors behind these problems. NGOs may have been working very hard in promoting and documenting the efforts to achieve global health. However there have been instances of their work being questioned, neglected, refused and even being  interfered when its results are politically or economically uncomfortable for the government and powerful business players.

  • There are also lacks of commitments and responsibility of the nations. As it has been said that global health and MDGs are everybody’s commitments and responsibility, it means that every nation should have the commitment and do their responsibility to achieve the global health and MDGs. It is not only the task of the developing countries. Achieving  global health and MDGs is not only the obligation of developing countries but it involves the fulfillment of the promises of developed countries. It needs global solidarity.

  • Human rights are closely linked with the global health and MDGs. As long as human rights are abused, global health and MDGs will not be achieved. It means to achieve global health and MDGs we need to apply a human rights approach.

  • The needs of cooperation between international (transnational) NGOs and local grass-root NGOs. The grass-root NGOs know about what people need because they work with them. They provide the data needed by international NGOs in giving consultation and responses to UN and respective countries.

  • Poor people are not the object of the projects of global health and MDGs but they are the subject. They have to be involved in the process.

  • Youth needs to be involved in the process of achieving global health and MDGs. They, with their high spirit, could be agents of change.

  • Media also plays a very important role in achieving global health and MDGs. They have horizontal and vertical roles, they brings the information among the people, and from the people to the leaders and from the leaders to the people. Media also plays in spreading the data collected by NGOs so that the data may be known and used by the people and by other NGOs. It needs not only freedom in press but also responsibility.

  • The achievement of global health and MDGs is very affected by the reality the governments in the world spend a lot money (more than 40% of their budgets) on military expenses (the money for achieving MDGs is only less than 10% of the budget). It seems that the governments of the world prefer to choosing the culture of death (the military expense is mostly for buying weapons used to kill people) to the culture of life (the achievement of global health and MDGs is for people’s lives).

  • The projects and the methodology of achieving global health and MDGs should be flexible, in action, analysis and in reporting.

  • Equity is very important. Everybody, whoever they are, whatever they are doing and wherever they are have the same rights and obligations. Indigenous and migrants have the same right and the same opportunity to access health facilities and to develop themselves.

  • The need of faith (and hope) in doing these NGO works. There were some angry NGO workers attending the conference. They were producing skeptical statements since they are desperate with the condition. They felt that they had worked very hard to achieve the MDGs but they did not think that they would manage that. They strongly condemned governments, UN and NGOs for being not serious in doing their work.

What We Can Do-- Some Suggestions

There are a lot of things that  we can do as an international NGO which consists of religious and places its foundation on Carmelite spirituality and charisms. Here are some that I suggest:

  • Cooperate with local grass-root NGOs in different areas of work and different locations. We can do these through consolidating the Carmelites working on JPIC in the Order.

  • Continue and increase the distribution of Carmelite NGO Day of Prayer and if possible develop also a new one which is spiritually broader and does not only relate to certain religion.

  • Enlarge the vision and the knowledge of our Carmelite sisters and brothers on global health and MDGs so that they may become the agent of change and the agent of transferring this information to others. This can be done through Carmelite NGO bulletin, CITOC and if possible, a letter of the Prior General of the Order.

  • Support the reflection on our prophetic vocation and disseminate the reflection towards the Carmelite family and faithful people.

  • Develop educational system, curriculum and methodology so that the students are educated about human rights.

  • Hold seminars, workshops and events where people may learn about MDGs.

Hariawan Adji, O. Carm.