In my former role as Parliamentary Secretary for International Development in the Australian Federal Government I had the opportunity to see first-hand the work of the IAPB and its member agencies. The work I saw undertaken in the developing world was inspiring. I also had the opportunity to appreciate the importance of IAPB’s advocacy function. Without that advocacy the important Australian Avoidable Blindness Initiative, of which I am so proud, would never have been developed.
As President I regard competent and professional chairing of the Board, Council and the General Assembly as top priorities. I am firmly of the view that being a competent chair requires me to work closely with the Executive, CEO and Secretariat to ensure the business of IAPB is appropriately conducted.
It is essential for any well run organisation to recognise that organisations do not need two CEOs. The President’s role will vary in detail, depending upon the organisation and the skills and experience of the people involved. Overall, I see the role of a President as one essentially of leadership, advocacy, strategic guidance and trusteeship, together with efficient and even handed chairmanship. At times a president’s role involves crisis management. However, I hope that will not be necessary at IAPB.
High on my list of priorities will be the development of the new strategic plan. I will do my best to ensure the maximum involvement of the membership in the development of this fundamental platform for the future of the organisation. As soon as it is appropriate I intend to sit down with the Executive and the CEO to determine the most appropriate process for developing this plan.
I firmly believe that structure must follow function. Therefore, as we articulate our plan I believe we will also need to review our structures to ensure that they will most effectively deliver our goals.
An obvious area of focus in the coming year will be the development of a new Plan of Action for the Prevention of Blindness and Vision Impairment within the WHO. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you all in supporting the development of the Plan.
The agenda of the IAPB intersects with a number of major themes in the current international health and development debate. I welcome the efforts you have already made to ensure that vision and visual impairment are included in the discussions and plans around international challenges and opportunities. Over the next decade or so I expect the issue of disability and development to grow in significance. This is a great opportunity and challenge for the IAPB. At the same time the issue of NCDs will grow in importance. Positioning the organisation at the meeting point of these two trends will be a very important part of the role of the President as I see it.
I am inspired by the work of IAPB’s many members. Our purpose and aims seek historic positive change for people who are unacceptably living with avoidable blindness and vision impairment. I ask each of you to recommit to our ambitious goals and I look forward to joining you and being part of a group which aims for nothing less than to change history.