Julia Dias and Daniela Rangel
Fiocruz formalized on July 17 a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa). The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Fiocruz’s President Nísia Trindade Lima and Unfpa’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem took place at the Unfpa headquarters in New York at the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development.
"The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding with an institution with such an important mandate as Unfpa represents a milestone for Fiocruz," said Nísia, in extolling the agreement which envisages the development of joint programs that aim at sustainable development, with opportunities for education and professional training.
"I am very pleased to welcome Fiocruz, who is one of the world's most important public institution on health research - here at Unfpa," said Natalia Kanem, who is also the Under-Secretary General of the UN and was at Fiocruz for an inaugural class at the beginning of the year.
Kanem mentioned the successful partnership already existing between the institutions in Brazil and highlighted the country's importance in the area of cooperation and Fiocruz's historical role in the development of the health system. “This document we signed is built on a solid foundation. This agreement will help us further leverage our strengths and benefit more people in Brazil, the region and the world”, she said.
Cooperation between Fiocruz and Unfpa has been ever closer since 2015, mainly through works on the response to the Zika epidemic in Brazil and technical cooperation to expand access to HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in Mexico.
The signing of the document paves the way for strengthening joint effort between the two institutions. Unfpa is the UN international development agency that addresses population issues, working on themes such as universal access to sexual and reproductive health, including exercising the right to safe childbirth, and the rights of youths. In addition, the agency supports countries in the production and use of population data to support decision-making in the field of public policies.
“This new cooperation agreement will enable all countries in which the Population Fund operates to share and benefit from the expertise offered by Fiocruz. This important institution contributes in many ways to the achievement of sustainable development by promoting sexual and reproductive health and helping to ensure that Unfpa's mandate is materialized, which may strengthen public policies and institutional capacities of countries by sharing good practices and knowledge”, celebrated the representative of the Population Fund in Brazil, Jaime Nadal.
The agreement comes as Fiocruz prepares for its 120th anniversary celebration in 2020. For the Foundation's president, the signing of the document and the following project will play a central role in the main project of this celebration, “A future vision on health”.
“In such a vision, the future needs to be imagined with greatness under the 2030 Agenda. It must have as its goal the effective inclusion of those who have not had their rights to democracy and citizenship respected. Other themes in essential human rights are added to the reproductive and sexual rights of women, such as working against violence based on gender, ethnicity, racism, and all forms of oppression”, said Fiocruz's president.
First steps and priority setting
After the signing of the MoU, Fiocruz and UNFPA professionals met at Fiocruz between 7 and 9 August to define the first actions to be taken and to prepare a document that will be presented in November, in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Summit about the International Conference on Population and Development. “We are here to translate the MoU into projects. The idea is that the agreement will benefit not only these two institutions, but the entire world”, explained Jaime Nadal, the Fund’s representative in Brazil.
Intensifying South-South cooperation by promoting health for children and the young, as well as maternal health, reproductive rights and fight against gender violence were the priorities identified for the beginning of the partnership.
Fiocruz President Nísia Trindade Lima highlighted the fact that the two institutions’ shared agendas justify the cooperation: “We must strengthen three points: education, research, and, first and foremost, advocacy, a tradition at the Foundation and at UNFPA”. The president also emphasized that there is a concern with doing both quantitative and qualitative researches, to generate data that can give an idea of the inequalities between the regions that will be benefitted by the MoU.
Data from African, Latin American and Caribbean countries were presented so that the participants could evaluate where the efforts should be allocated. Fiocruz professionals also presented the Foundation’s expertise in areas such as maternal health and in the development of the Fiocruz Virtual Campus education platform. “This is a technical agreement that concentrates mainly on social development, as it will be focused on poorer areas and countries in more need, justifying the higher sense of the South-South cooperation”, stated Paulo Buss, director of Fiocruz’s Global Health Center.
These convergence points between the nations involved were highlighted by all participants, especially some issues that have been raised in the past few years, such as the demographic transition of countries and the reappearance and strengthening of more conservative positions, which end up reflecting in health programs for young people and women. “The work related to the countries involved in the South-South cooperation has been going on for 40 years, but we must accelerate and think of innovative solutions”, said Bobby Olarte, senior advisor for the cooperation between UNFPA countries.
The road found by the parties for the development of the programs resulting from the MoU was the creation of a Reference Center that works with countries from Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, where they would develop actions focused in the priorities defined. The next steps of this first phase of the cooperation will aim to identify how the Center is going to be financed and which specific projects will be developed. “Fiocruz and UNFPA work for those who are more vulnerable and share the same world vision. Their partnership will lead to a universal health agenda where it is most needed”, concluded Jaime Nadal.