CBM Plays Active Role in First World Hearing Forum General Assembly at WHO

Group of people stand in front of a World Hearing Forum banner

CBM’s EHC representation at the World Hearing Forum, 4-5 December 2019 Left to right: Diego Santana, Global Advisor (IO); Norberto Martinez, Regional Advisor (Philippines); Uta Fröschl, co-worker/regional advisor (Ethiopia); Sally Harvest, Educator/EHC advisor (IO); and Isaac Macharia, Regional Advisor (Kenya).

At the first General Assembly of the World Hearing Forum (WHF), which took place on 4-5 December, CBM played a prominent role as member of the forum’s steering committee and co-chair of one of four working groups. The theme of the meeting, which took place in Geneva, was Alliance - Advocacy - Action.

The WHF, which was created in July 2018 when it was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a global network of stakeholders promoting Ear and Hearing Care (EHC), whose aim is to promote and support the implementation of the 2017 World Health Assembly resolution on prevention of deafness and hearing loss. This resolution calls for intensified collaboration and for further developing multi-stakeholder action to reduce the occurrence of hearing loss.

CBM was represented by technical Ear and Hearing Care (EHC) advisors working at global, regional and country levels at the meeting. Acknowledging CBM’s vast experience and long-lasting work on EHC, our Global Advisor for EHC was introduced as member of the WHF steering committee, co-chair of the WHF working group on the Resolution WHA70.13 and World Report on Hearing; as well as member of the WHF Resource Mobilisation working group.

With such a large number and variety of stakeholders, and a focus on creating and strengthening alliances, aligning advocacy efforts and agreeing on priority actions, the assembly was a unique opportunity for CBM to increase its visibility and continue working towards a more inclusive world.

Possible collaborative efforts were discussed with such stakeholders as the World Federation of the Deaf, Governmental agencies (i.e. Ministry of Health of Chile), and regional EHC platforms, among many others. Some of the stakeholders CBM interacted with were already familiar to CBM, others were new. Among the newly made contacts, preliminary talks took place, to explore collaboration opportunities with WHF members based in, or working in, CBM priority countries.

Areas for possible collaboration were identified and ranged from knowledge exchange and technical advice to procurement, training of trainers and community field-testing of EHC resources. Follow up communications will take place with the relevant CBM office for each individual member.

This first WHF membership assembly was a very intense and productive meeting, which emphasizes the positive influence that CBM’s work in EHC has had sacross the world. It also encourages us to see that we are on the right path for contributing towards a more inclusive society for all.

More about the World Hearing Foundation

The WHF fills a critical gap by bringing a collective vision to advocacy and collaboration in this field. The purpose of the Forum is to promote action for EHC through global advocacy. It provides a platform where all stakeholders within the area can work together in a cohesive manner to achieve the goal of accessible EHC for all.

Since its establishment in July 2018, WHO has worked to set up the membership and identified concrete advocacy actions to be taken through this Forum. This has been done in consultation with internal and external stakeholders. Groups within the Forum will work on actions that align with resolution WHA70.13. These include: (1) Make Listening Safe; (2) World Hearing Day; (3) World Report on Hearing; and (4) Fostering role models and champions in the field of hearing care.

To date, the WHF has 134 members and 45 observers, which were represented by over 200 delegates at this meeting. This included representatives of WHO’s HQ, regional and country offices, Member States, intergovernmental organisations, nongovernmental organisations, private sector entities, international business associations, philanthropic foundations, academic institutions and others.

CBM’s long history of working with the WHO on EHC

Although this was the first WHF membership assembly, CBM’s partnership with WHO in the area of EHC has a history of fruitful collaboration which goes back several decades. In fact, CBM International was fundamental in the initiation of the advocacy process among WHO Member States and non-State actors, which eventually led to the unanimous approval of the resolution WHA70.13 on 30 May 2017. This included CBM’s participation at WHO Executive Board meetings, in its capacity as non-State actor in official relations with WHO since 1989, as well as an official statement in support of the resolution, delivered by CBM’s Senior Advisor for EHC at the WHA. That same year, WHO invited CBM to become a Founding Committee member of what would later develop into the World Hearing Forum. CBM is one of the ten members who review and evaluate the WHF membership application requests received, alongside WHO-HQ.