The United Nations is more than a bully pulpit, but don’t underestimate how powerful that function is. This week, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) held a high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that because there was almost as much publicity about AMR last week as about Angelina Jolie’s divorce filing.
Yes, the UN has the power to raise money from member states and set targets to which member states commit. It can build administrative bodies (like UNAIDS) to distribute resources and monitor progress. But the heavy lifting—particularly in the case of AMR, where individual behavior is so important—has to be done through thousands upon thousands of individual and collective actions.
Governments, education and healthcare systems, corporations and civil society organizations all have roles to play. Governments can regulate—and they can quickly take one concrete widely-supported action, which is to ban antibiotics in animal feed to promote growth. Corporations that make these infection-fighting drugs can make good quality products and use their sales forces to educate health professionals and the public. A variety of organizations—especially schools—can spread the message about appropriate antimicrobial use. No one should leave medical or veterinary school without a full understanding of appropriate antibiotic use—in fact, no one should leave elementary school without knowing when to take an antibiotic and when not to. Schoolchildren can be a powerful force, as we’ve seen in the anti-tobacco movement.
It’s obvious that setting 7 billion minds straight about antimicrobials will involve not only every government in the world, but many organizations, in every country. Who will make sure that all of them are on track and making progress toward the hard goals that will be set? Who will help identify problems and make linkages between problems and solutions? One proposed official mechanism is a High-Level Coordinating Mechanism under the UN Secretary General, similar to UNAIDS. Even if that proposal is acted on, such a high-level group will not be able to monitor everything, everywhere.
Enter the Conscience of Antimicrobial Accountability—CARA—as one more mechanism to keep the momentum going.
CARA is an alliance of a broad representation of organizations from all interests and disciplines. It has just been formed and is seeking partners all over the world, from industry, from academia, from the non-profit sector, and from student groups—inclusive of human health, animal health and environmental concerns. These are the stated goals:
- monitoring progress toward the agreed upon goals of access to effective antimicrobials for everyone across the globe,
- identifying obstacles to progress and bringing them to light,
- working to offer solutions to problems in all sectors, and
- identifying, publicizing, and celebrating successes.
The early partners in CARA, including CDDEP, will be creating an organizational structure and participatory membership in the months to come. See CARA’s founding document and application form here: http://www.forumonantibiotics.org/alliance/
We will never have a better opportunity to join forces to maintain effective antibiotics for everyone in the world. Please join us.
Hellen Gelband is the Associate Director for Policy at CDDEP.
Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.