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Non-communicable diseases are a significant problem facing Pacific people and a gathering of private sector representatives from across the region this week will look at the important role that business can play in addressing the issue.
Participants represent 14 Pacific Islands Forum members - Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Nauru, Niue, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
NCDs account for 70 per cent of all deaths in the Pacific before the age of 60, considered “premature deaths”. The 2014 Pacific NCDs Roadmap Report, prepared for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, says that NCDs also create a heavy burden of disability on individuals and families through strokes, diabetes (blindness and amputations) and kidney diseases.
The report identified three main arguments why the Pacific was facing a NCDs crisis – health, economic and a political argument. The health argument speaks of costs that the effects of NCDs places on a usually already overstretched national budget.
“The Pacific Cooperation Foundation is supporting the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation to have this meeting in recognition of the crucial role our workforces play in the development and progress of the private sector in our island economies,” PCF Chief Executive Officer Craig Strong said.
Speaking about the meeting from Apia, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Meg Taylor DBE said that while Forum Leaders have demonstrated strong leadership in calling for a concerted effort against NCDs, it was critical to bring into the conversation an informed perspective and an effective contribution from the private sector.
“The private sector comprises both manufacturers and retailers. Pacific leaders and their Governments need complementary effective action from this group of stakeholders to ensure a holistic approach as opposed to our tendency to react to the manifestations of NCDs,” Dame Meg said.
“This meeting will focus on solution-oriented discussions to ascertain issues are most important from the private sector perspective. To ensure thriving economies, which will drive our Blue Pacific development we need a robust and healthy workforce.”
The gathering will also hear country experiences. The first session on “Non-Communicable Diseases – why is it not just a health issue” will lend to a formal statement on NCDs from the private sector to the Pacific Forum Leaders in Nauru in September.
The meeting will also have sessions covering Accessibility of Climate Change and Disaster Risk Finance and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus Agreement.
The 2018 Private Sector Dialogue Preparatory Meeting is a collaborative initiative between the Forum Secretariat and the PCF, with support from the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation.
Non-Communicable Diseases in the Pacific
NCDs  are already causing a health crisis in the Pacific, with most of the trends and risk factors pointing to a substantial worsening of the situation. Several NCD related programs are already financially unsustainable. Overall NCD costs in the Pacific are expected to continue increasing.
Growing NCD burdens, combined with modest economic growth, will inevitably further squeeze Ministry of Health and national development budgets unless urgent action is taken now. Premature death and disability undermine national economic productivity.
Fortunately, many NCDs are often preventable. Proven, affordable, and cost-effective interventions are available. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have reached crises levels across our region with Governments now calling on partners and communities to support interventions to control the rise in fatalities and loss of life.
Public medical facilities, and systems at large, are overwhelmed and under resourced. Health authorities report overcrowded facilities. The private sector can play a valuable role by augmenting public services with patient education for instance, to assist patients make informed decisions about their care and treatment.
Private sector resources can be used to raise public awareness about the causes of NCDs and sponsor treatments for the elderly and for children. It is not in the interests of the private business sector to see workers (or consumers) going on sick leave, become disabled, or die prematurely due to (otherwise preventable) NCDs.
Civil society – in particular churches, the media, and university can play an important role. Regional agreements are important too, particularly for generating regional public goods and sharing knowledge.
This discussion will highlight the social and economic impacts of NCDs on pacific economies; provide an overview of the Pacific NCDs Roadmap and debate in detail, NCDs from a private sector perspective.
Accessibility of Climate Change and Disaster Risk Finance
Increases in the number of climatic occurrences in the region has seen a number of Governments at the receiving end of disaster response funds for recovery measures. The most recent example being the Government of Tonga which received USD7 million for relief efforts following Cyclone Gita with an additional USD3.5 million from the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Company (under PCRAFI), based on its insurance cover against tropical cyclones.
Disaster risk finance products including contingency funds by the WB and IMF available to Governments is currently limited to mitigation and post disaster recovery efforts. New instruments for insurance and risk transfer include micro credit and catastrophe bonds.
The Forum Economic and Finance Ministers Meeting (FEMM) in Palau this year, supported a call by the private sector for an economic risk assessment and recovery model for the business sector to better inform, plan and prepare business communities on loss and damage. Ministers also supported a recommendation for regulatory frameworks to support PPP in Disaster Risk Insurance Schemes.
This discussion will discuss the scale of disaster risk financing available in the region; examine the financing flows in-country post disaster; connectivity to the private sector, discuss key barriers that limit private sector engagement and explore innovative methodologies to improve private sector accessibility to disaster risk finance.
Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus Agreement
The PACER-Plus Agreement was signed in June 2016. To date, 12 signatory countries are progressing national processes and procedures towards ratification of the Agreement. Upon entry into force, the PACER-Plus is expected to reshape intra-regional movement of goods, services, capital, and labour. To fully exploit PACER-Plus benefits, cross border businesses would be looking to align their business processes to PACER-Plus trade and investment provisions.
Related issues that may be discussed include aspects of trade facilitation (such as Rules of Origin, Technical Barriers to Trade, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary) measures; trade in services and labor mobility and others.
The topic hopes to clarify for the private sector the potential implications of the PACER-Plus Agreement on their businesses.
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