Civil Society Representatives Contribute Significantly Towards the Reinforcement of Evidence-based Alcohol Policies in Southern Africa.
By Torunn Saether, Programme Coordinator Blue Cross Norway.
Blue Cross Norway, FORUT and The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance held the first-ever Southern African Alcohol Policy Forum from 6 to 8 November 2012 in Johannesburg, South-Africa. Around 45 representatives from civil society organisations from the region, as well as observers and speakers from around the globe gathered to discuss a critical challenge to Africa (and the world): Alcohol and its policies.
In Southern Africa, one witnesses a growing alcohol consumption which is largely due to aggressive marketing strategies of a well executed and money driven global alcohol industry. As a corollary of this growing and often harmful alcohol consumption, the burden of non-communicable diseases increases; the likelihood of men and women to have unprotected sexual relationships also increases, which, in turn, influences the incidence of HIV/AIDS; and evidence shows that domestic violence, work absenteeism, and poverty are often linked to alcohol misuse.
By bringing together key personnel working against this development, the Forum aimed at promoting and strengthening knowledge on evidence-based alcohol policies, both from a global and regional perspective. At the same time, it offered to participants a unique opportunity to share experiences and, importantly, to explore avenues for increased regional cooperation.
As an immediate result of the Forum, a new board with a new Preident, Savera Kalideen from South- Africa, was elected to the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) which was untill now interim and is henceforth a permanent Alliance. The new board represents all countries that were represented at the forum and several civil society organisations including Blue Cross Norway.
Blue Cross Norway was extremely pleased to see that many of the Forum’s participants were representatives of national Blue Cross Organisations. The International Blue Cross’s General Secretary, Anne Babb from Finland, was also present. For the Blue Cross as a global movement, Anne’s presence was crucial and highly valued. It represented a further step towards the active involvement of the Blue Cross worldwide into the promotion of public health focused and evidence based alcohol policies.