On 27th January, Kate Finch, ACTION Project Manager and Project Associate Aparna Barua attended an inauguration of the European Parliament Working Group on Innovation, Access to Medicines and Poverty-Related Diseases in Brussels. The Working Group has been established to serve as a forum for Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and civil society, to discuss and work towards better integration of the European Union’s response on health related issues, specifically on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other neglected diseases, as well as to ensure coherent policies on these topics.
A European Parliamentary Working Group functions much the same way as an APPG does within Westminster, aiming to bring MEPs from different political parties and various committees together to raise the profile of a certain issue within the parliament. The Secretariat for this group will be shared between the MSF Access to Medicines Campaign and Global Health Advocates, who are one of the organisations in France that are partners in the ACTION project along with RESULTS UK.
The group is to be chaired by the Scottish MEP David Martin (which may be of particular interest to RESULTS grassroots supporters in Scotland!). The group’s vice chairs are Carl Schlyter (Sweden – Green), Eleni Theocharous (Cyprus – EPP), Niccolo Rinaldi (Italy – ALDE) and Kader Arif (France – S&D).
Under the overarching premise of Putting Patients’ Needs First, the group aim to focus on three main areas in 2010; EU trade policy that restrict access to essential medicines; promoting the need for investment in innovate research and development of new tools to fight these diseases; and highlighting the specific social determinants that lead to diseases of the poor.
This is an exciting opportunity for advocates working in the EU to raise the profile of poverty related diseases, including TB, and provides a formal structure through which parliamentary discussion and consultation can occur. It is hoped that over the next 12 months, members of this group will raise the issues of tuberculosis occurring both within the European region and beyond.
While in Brussels, Kate and Aparna also took the opportunity to meet with decision makers from various European Commission departments including development aid, research and health. Through an informal network of European advocates working on TB, Kate and Aparna will continue to pursue opportunities within the EU to raise the profile of diseases, such as TB, that have the greatest effect on the poorest people around the world.