23 January 2019

Reflections on the partnership’s first year

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” – Ryunosuke Satoro

Less than a year ago the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy (GPZL) consisted of a steering committee and an outline of a new organization that, it was hoped, could engage the leprosy community in the same solidarity and joint purpose that had been achieved by other neglected tropical diseases groups. To do so, said Leadership Team Chair Bill Simmons, would require faith, honesty, personal commitment and an abundance of goodwill. It would also require putting aside longstanding challenges and disparate approaches, and an acceptance that all the organizations that comprised the Leadership Team had an equal and important voice.

GPZL Leadership Team in Brussels, October 2018

During their first year, the engaged and committed members of the leadership team have volunteered countless hours to envision and establish the partnership. They have overseen the establishment of a transparent and efficient governance structure that includes a charter, weekly updates and monthly teleconferences, with meeting notes available to the public on our website.  Their discussions and guidance on a long-term strategy  resulted in an Action Framework that clearly and concisely outlines the shared long-term goal and objectives of the partnership.

More than 140 scientists participated in the development of an aligned Research Agenda that will be used to seek funding for priority research beginning in 2019.  More than 180 policy-makers, persons affected and national program directors are participating in an Operational Excellence Working Group to develop a template for a national visioning and assessment plan for Zero Leprosy.  This plan, along with a toolkit, technical assistance and funding, will be tested in 2-3 countries this year with scale-up to others planned for 2020 onward. Communications efforts including a website, newsletter, strong social media presence and others, have linked the partnership’s 400+ members, including individuals and organizations.

Again and again during this year we saw leadership team members and those from their organizations who freely gave their advice, time and talents in support of the community as a whole. Their vision, and the vision of the hundreds offering guidance on the  Research Agenda and Operational Excellence Working Group, is humbling and inspirational.  Working together, this group of individuals is transforming the leprosy world. Their positivity and resilience, their hard work and creativity, their dedication and optimism, are what make this community great. From the Secretariat, we thank each one of you for the expertise you contributed in 2018. We look forward to continuing this important journey toward Zero Leprosy in 2019.

-Courtenay Dusenbury, Secretariat Director, Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy