Australia is home to many organisations with world leading expertise in blindness prevention and vision care. In 2012 the Global Committee continued to bring this expertise together to ensure that the sector strengthens its influence with government and other stakeholders, speaking with a unified and strong voice about the challenges that lie ahead and the possible solutions.
In 2012, the Global Committee has been successful in advocating and securing funding for programs in East Asia (Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) through AusAID’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative; has been active in providing submissions to the AusAID Development for All strategy mid-term review; took part in successful World Sight Day activities; has continued to develop close relationship with AusAID departmental staff; has developed advocacy kits to distribute to in-country member and partner agencies to ensure more unified advocacy; and has begun work on a Global Strategy to guide future policy and programming.
Following on from the successful development and implementation of A Plan to Eliminate Blindness and Vision Impairment in our Region (Regional Plan), the Global Committee earlier this year agreed that it is now time to develop a Global Strategy. This strategy will guide efforts of the sector to maximise its contributions to improving eye health and vision care in Asia and the Pacific over the next five years. In particular it will provide direction on advocacy, funding, programming and planning and it will be accompanied by an annual implementation plan highlighting activities, tasks, timeframes and responsibilities.
The focus of the Global Strategy will be applied in the first phase to activities that will result in the sustainable development of eye health and vision care in developing countries of Asia and the Pacific, based to some extent on the World Health Organisation (WHO) regions of Western Pacific and South-East Asia. The aim is to achieve a cohesive strategic plan informed by government and national country plans, examples of best practice and relevant data. To deliver this project a consultant has been engaged by Vision 2020 Australia, funded by the IAPB Western Pacific Region.
To achieve our goal there are challenges that will need to be met. All current Global Consortium programs will be completed by the end of March 2013 and with a lack of ongoing funding for Pacific programs and the modest level of funding for Global Consortium programs in East Asia in the last Avoidable Blindness Initiative allocation, more funding is needed. Alternative funding sources need to be secured to ensure the long term viability of the Global Consortium and for it to achieve its objectives.
The Foreign Minister has committed to supporting the cause of avoidable blindness and will be taking on an international advocacy role to influence policy and deliver resources. This is a tremendous step forward and a great opportunity for Australia to continue to lead the way.
In another exciting development, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has announced it will focus on three causes of blindness—trachoma, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. The Trust in Australia will be launched on 11 February 2013 and aims to raise funds from February to June to benefit all peoples of the Commonwealth.