Eduardo Pisani& Aron Cramer, Guest Columnists
This week at the United Nations in New York, the Jamaican Government will gather with other governments from around the world to review for the last time the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - goals set by United Nations (UN) member states to accelerate development in the poorest countries.
With less than 800 days before the deadline for the MDGs, it's time to take stock of the milestones achieved and think about what needs to change in order to meet the new goals we will set for post-2015.
The Declaration of Panama, signed earlier this month by governments and international institutions from the Caribbean and Latin America, demonstrates commitment towards ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035. It also shows that health-related MDGs are still as relevant and indispensable today as they were in 2000 when they were created.
The declaration also recognises the importance of increasing public-private-sector collaboration in order to achieve these goals. Leveraging lessons from ongoing partnerships that are delivering results, the governments meeting in New York this week should plan for optimal cross-sector collaborations that will drive their achievement.
With the health-related MDGs, much has been accomplished, including a decrease in maternal and young child mortality, declining HIV infections, and an increased proportion of births attended by skilled health workers.
deadline in danger
However, it's clear that not all the MDGs will be met, particularly those targeting children's health in the poorest and most rural areas of the world. When it comes to immunisations, for example, vaccines fail to reach nearly 20 million children per year, most of whom are living in Africa.
Closing this gap, and achieving the other global health goals, requires new thinking and fresh commitments from across all sectors - including industry, governments, multilaterals, NGOs, and other organisations - to cross-sector partnerships that drive systemwide change.
Since the MDGs' launch in 2000, the number of cross-sector partnerships aimed at advancing health-related goals and involving the pharmaceutical industry has increased dramatically. By bringing together a broad set of stakeholders from the private sector and beyond, pharmaceutical companies initiated and contributed to partnerships tackling many of the barriers that have blocked progress on health goals.
Last year, Business Social Responsibility (BSR) analysed more than 200 global health partnerships, and the one common denominator for successful outcomes was a cross-sector approach - with strong commitments from all parties. These types of partnerships addressed challenges such as disease awareness and diagnosis, funding deficits, health-care worker knowledge and training, supply-chain issues, and gaps in innovation and distribution.
Until recently, most of these cross-sector partnerships aligned with the health-related MDGs, which focus on neglected tropical diseases, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases. While those initiatives remain critical, we must do more, with a specific focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cancer, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Today, 80 per cent of deaths caused by NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries, and the post-2015 goals will need to rally support to meet those challenges.
no clear map
The original MDGs were conceived without a clear road map for how the private sector could contribute. More than 10 years later, it's clear from the examples above and hundreds of others that industry plays a critical role in the cross-sector partnerships that are essential to achieving global health goals. But we can drive more progress if we plan for these collaborations up front.
Avenues for collaboration are many and have been enshrined in the Guiding Principles on Access to Health Care - a call to action and a framework for driving progress that was shaped by BSR and signed by 13 pharmaceutical CEOs earlier this year.
As we prepare once again to answer the UN's call for "the engagement of responsible business and civil society" to achieve sustainable and inclusive development, we ask decision-makers and other potential contributors - from all sectors - to engage in multi-stakeholder dialogues together with the pharmaceutical industry. Together, we can set viable goals and plan in advance for the cross-sector partnerships that will drive their achievement.
Eduardo Pisani is director general, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations. Aron Cramer is president and CEO, BSR. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.