Comm Eye Health Vol. 11 No. 28 1998 pp 56 - 57. Published online 01 December 1998.

The Global Initiative: Launch of VISION 2020

Rev Christian Garms

Executive Director, Christoffel Blindenmission, Nibelungenstrasse 124, D-64625 Bensheim, Germany

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‘VISION 2020: The Right To Sight’ is designed to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The programme will enable all parties and individuals involved in combating blindness to work in a focused and coordinated way to achieve the common goal of eliminating preventable and treatable blindness. VISION 2020, in conjunction with the World Health Organization, will take on the following responsibilities:

  • Increase awareness of blindness as a major public health issue
  • Control the major causes of blindness
  • Train ophthalmologists and other personnel to provide appropriate eye care
  • Create an infrastructure to manage the problem
  • Develop appropriate technology.
  • VISION 2020 involves the active participation of UN agencies, governments, eye care organisations, health professionals, philanthropic institutions and individuals working together in global partnership to accomplish this goal by the year 2020.

In order to communicate effectively the key messages of VISION 2020 to the general public, the programme will be officially announced via an international launch press conference. This launch event is planned for Thursday, February 18, 1999, from the Geneva Press Club in Switzerland, in conjunction with the meeting of the WHO Advisory Group for the Prevention of Blindness. It is envisaged that the WHO Director General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, will lead this event together with staff from the World Health Organization and founding members of the VISION 2020 programme. An international gathering of spokespersons will jointly introduce VISION 2020 at this meeting.

The different speakers will discuss the importance of making blindness a major public health initiative, past programmes designed to help manage the problem and how VISION 2020 programming can help to eliminate avoidable blindness in the world by the year 2020. Following the closure of the WHO meeting by Dr Brundtland, she will participate in a press conference which will be organised at the International Press Club in Geneva. On this occasion a message and proclamation of ‘VISION 2020’ will be announced. In view of this launch a promotional brochure (see illustration) has been produced which can be obtained from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, IAPB Secretariat, Grosvenor Hall, Bolnore Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 4BX, United Kingdom.

Media from other regions of the world will have the opportunity to listen to the press conference, including the following World Health Organization regions:

  • Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Washington DC, USA
  • New Delhi, India
  • Alexandria, Egypt
  • Manila, Philippines

Appropriate spokespersons from each of these regions will be identified by WHO and by founding members of the VISION 2020 programme. These spokespersons will respond to media inquiries generated from each particular region.

The press conference will also serve as a platform for the announcement of a declaration of support, acknowledging avoidable blindness as a major public health issue. During the months following the press conference, the Avoidable Blindness Declaration of Support will be circulated to every country greatly affected by the impact of blindness. This demonstrates evidence of and builds global support for blindness as a major public health problem. Other important events in support of the Launch of ‘VISION 2020’ will take place in Cairo (Egypt), Hyderabad (India), New York (USA) and particularly in Beijing (China), on the occasion of the Sixth General Assembly of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness in September 1999.

Founding members of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight are as follows:

  • World Health Organization
  • International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
  • Christian Blind Mission International
  • Helen Keller International
  • ORBIS International
  • Sight Savers International

Support members of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight are as follows:

  • Al Noor Foundation
  • Asian Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness
  • Foundation Dark & Light
  • The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • The International Centre for Eye Health
  • The International Eye Foundation
  • The Lighthouse Inc.
  • Nadi Al Bassar: North African Center for Sight and Visual Science
  • Operation Eyesight Universal
  • OPC: Organisation pour la Prévention de la Cécité
  • Perkins School for the Blind
  • SEVA Foundation
  • World Blind Union

Blindness has profound human and socio-economic consequences in all societies. Needless blindness can be eliminated from the face of the earth only if people worldwide have access to preventive measures and sight-saving medical and surgical techniques. All members of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight look forward to a productive and successful launch in February 1999, in order to communicate the importance of these issues. The launch is indeed an important milestone to all supporters of the campaign. Equally important as the launch, however, is the continuous work that must be done beyond the launch to ensure the success of the programme.

All members believe that the successful implementation of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight will prevent an additional 100 million people from going blind by the year 2020. The launch will begin to help this dream become a reality.