Moore og Pubudu med flagget - 1200p
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Drinking causes three million deaths per year, alcohol is the seventh leading cause of death and disability, and the leading cause for young people ages 15 to 49. (Global Burden of Disease figures)

GAPC2017 closed in Melbourne - Sri Lanka next in 2019

Handing over of the GAPC flag from the Australian co-hosts to the next host country Sri Lanka marked the official closing of the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Melbourne Friday. 331 delegates from 40 countries attended this year’s GAPC.

In his summary at the closing of the GAPC2017 Professor David Jernigan, chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, could report the following facts about the conference: 331 delegates, 40 countries were represented, three thematic pre-conferences, nine plenary sessions, 20 concurrent sessions and 12 workshops. Altogether the participants had been offered a menu of 120 oral presentations.

The conference sessions and presentations covered a wide range of topics, but some topics were more focused than others: Experiences, victories and failures from national alcohol policy development, examples of aggressive marketing and political lobbying by vested interests, non-communicable diseases, the Sustainable Development Goals, gender-based violence and other gender perspectives on alcohol, alcohol taxation and lessons learned from tobacco advocacy, to mention a few.

Begge holder flagget - 1200p.jpgIn recent years the Global Alcohol Policy Conferences (GAPC) have been held every second year, in different countries and regions. Next conference will be held in Sri Lanka in 2019. This was marked by a symbolic hand-over of the GAPC flag from Michael Moore representing the Australian co-hosts to Mr. Pubudu Sumanasekera from Sri Lanka. He read a welcome statement on behalf of the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena. The President reported that he had made alcohol prevention a personal priority issue for his term in office. Mr. Sumanasekera informed the conference participants that the current Sri Lankan President is a former minister of health and knows the many aspects of alcohol harm and alcohol policy very well.

Also this year the task of summarizing the many aspects of the GAPC was given to Professor David Jernigan. He started out by highlighting two key words from the conference deliberations; hope and evidence. He said that even if the statistics presented at the conference did not show too many positive developments in the alcohol field, he felt that the growing body of evidence on alcohol harm and effective interventions gives good reason for hope and optimism.

The conference declaration starts out by pointing at the growing alcohol harm in the world. Drinking causes three million deaths per year, alcohol is the seventh leading cause of death and disability, and the leading cause for young people ages 15 to 49. The Global Burden of Disease figures document an increase of 25 per cent in years of life lost to death and disability caused by alcohol since 1990.

Professor Jernigan pointed at the importance of the work of the World Health Organization and at the same time made an appeal for increased resources to WHO’s work with alcohol to bring it to levels commensurate with alcohol’s role in the global burden of disease.

“There are new possibilities for coalition-building across the key risk actors in non-communicable diseases, particularly since all face corporate drivers of ill-health, and corporate takeover of global governance and democratic processes at the national level”, reads the conference declaration from GAPC 2017.

David med deklarasjonen  - 1200p.jpgProfessor Jernigan (picture right) also made reference to the Sustainable Development Goals that had been discussed in depth in several sessions of the GAPC. He said that the these goals provide important opportunities to make apparent that implementation of effective alcohol policies will contribute towards better results on many of the SDGs.

On the other hand, the global trade treaties had been identified during the conference as potential great threats to the implementation of evidence-based alcohol policies. Therefore the conference declaration calls for trade agreements to permit and facilitate such policies.

In several of the conference sessions, the need for stronger international frameworks as support for national alcohol policies had been discussed, and many references had been made to the role and importance of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The GAPC2017 declaration therefore calls for a global binding, legal framework on alcohol harm, accompanied by global civil society monitoring mechanisms sufficiently skilled and resourced to hold Members States to their commitments.

Many words of appreciation were expressed to the responsible hosts and organizers of the 2017 GAPC,in the picture below represented by (from left) Michael Moore, Sally Casswell, Julia Stafford, Michael Thorn and David Jernigan. The organizers had secured smooth running of every aspect of the conference, both on the practical and on the thematic side.

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Local co-hosts for GAPC2017 were The Public Health Association Australia, Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education and National Alliance for Action on Alcohol.

The following board members of The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) were present at the conferanse and at a follow-up board meeting: Behind from the left are Paula Jones (Brazil), Sven-Olov Carlsson (Sweden), Kumnuan Ungchusak (Thailand), Charles Parry (South Africa), Øystein Bakke  (Norway) and David Jernigan (USA). Front row from the left: Isidore Obot (Nigeria), the GAPA chair Sally Casswell (New Zealand) and Pham Hoang Anh (Vietnam). On the screen logged on from the UK: Derek Rutherford.

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