The impact of WDF's advocacy work

The global agenda on diabetes and NCDs has come a long way since WDF’s inception in 2002. From very limited acknowledgment of the emerging NCD burden in the early days, to diabetes and NCDs now being anchored in international frameworks and agreements. The past two decades reveal an evolution in the global recognition of and attention to NCDs - slowly but surely paving a path for diabetes and NCDs in policymaking at global, regional, and national levels. Scroll, read, and click to read about the impact of our advocacy efforts since 2002.


The founder of WDF, former CEO of Novo Nordisk A/S Lars Rebien Sørensen, visiting partners in the field. Photo courtesy of CNN Principal Voices

WDF is established

The World Diabetes Foundation was founded in 2002 as an independent foundation by Novo Nordisk A/S, and today is a leading global funder of diabetes prevention and care projects in low- and middle-income countries.

To date, WDF has supported 605 projects in 120 countries. 97 of these are ongoing projects. The projects are inclusive, locally owned and formulated to meet specific needs. The purpose is to provide focused, scalable, and sustainable solutions with the potential to prevent NCDs like diabetes and improve the lives of people living with such conditions.

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Our projects tell their own story of change

From Asia to Africa, and Latin America to Europe, our projects are making a difference in the lives of people affected by diabetes

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Partnerships are the foundation of WDF’s work. Our engagement is facilitated through projects that are not only initiated but also implemented and sustained by local partners in low- and middle-income countries. These partnerships often involve multiple sectors and stakeholders, ranging from grassroots organisations to entities at the national, regional, and global levels.

WDF’s financial and technical support has extended over several years, often starting with small-scale, local initiatives and expanding into comprehensive country-level programmes and larger-scale national health responses. We place immense importance on meeting partners and project participants in their local settings, listening and providing technical sparring and exchange.

Diabetes Action Now booklet

The first WDF support to World Health Organization (WHO)  

In 2002, WDF provided its first support towards WHO’s work on diabetes at a global level. The project called ‘Diabetes Action Now’ sought to improve the delivery of diabetes care by raising awareness of diabetes globally through increased advocacy and action. It was a collaboration between the International Diabetes Federation and WHO and WDF’s grant went to the International Diabetes Federation.

The initiative represented a significant part of the WHO diabetes programme and included two temporary staff positions focusing on diabetes at WHO, Geneva. The project sought to devise and implement a global strategy for improving diabetes awareness and to implement awareness and training activities in low- and middle-income countries. 

At the time, there was significant lack of awareness and recognition among the international community of the emerging burden of diabetes and other NCDs in low- and middle-income countries. In addition, there were wide misconceptions about diabetes, such as type 2 diabetes being a mild form of diabetes. The project was a first global step to respond to this situation and get the international community and low- and middle-income countries into action.



WDF launches the Global Diabetes Walk on World Diabetes Day

The Global Diabetes Walk (GDW) campaign was embarked on by WDF in 2004. It sought to boost the International Diabetes Federation’s World Diabetes Day campaign, which at the time was still relatively new. The GDW campaign was launched under the slogan ‘taking steps to prevent diabetes’ and was developed as a low-cost and practical tool for raising awareness about diabetes around the world.  

Since the inception of the GDW campaign, more than 6 million people have joined the campaign to increase awareness of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent diabetes and other NCDs. Over the years, Walk organisers have managed to organise thousands of Walk events across the world – ranging from small local gatherings to mass campaigns mobilising thousands of participants. 2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the GDW. 


  • Mobilisation of more than 6.5 million people in 90 countries since 2004

  • Increased awareness and visibility of diabetes in local communities across the globe.


WDF supports International Diabetes Federation’s ‘Unite for Diabetes’ Campaign 

In 2006, WDF was among the first to financially support the International Diabetes Federation-led Unite for Diabetes campaign aimed at placing diabetes on the global agenda. More specifically, the campaign aimed to:

  • increase awareness of diabetes and patient education,

  • address poverty as a main obstacle to access to quality healthcare and insulin;

  • and ultimately pass a UN Resolution on Diabetes, that called on governments to create national plans for prevention and treatment diabetes.

Even though diabetes and NCDs represented a significant proportion of the global burden of disease, only limited global action had happened by 2006. The Unite for Diabetes campaign and the passage of the UN Resolution on Diabetes marked an important turning point in viewing diabetes and NCDs as global health priorities.  


  • Increased awareness of the growing burden of diabetes within the UN and among its member states.

  • The declaration of a UN Resolution on Diabetes on World Diabetes Day in 2007.

“The launch of the ‘Unite for Diabetes’ campaign was instrumental in elevating attention to diabetes and other non-communicable diseases among the UN and its member states

2006 - 2010

Prof. Pierre Lefèbvre at the Diabetes Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Regional Diabetes Summits in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to put NCDs on the agenda 

Over the span of a few years WDF co-organised regional ‘diabetes summits’ in three different continents, in Asia with a meeting held in Hanoi Vietnam (2006), in Africa with a meeting held in Nairobi Kenya (2008) and in Latin America with a meeting held in Salvador de Bahia Brazil (2010). On all three occasions, the meeting included national health authorities and international agencies, and civil society with around 250-300 delegates attending. 

The regional meetings brought together key stakeholders in diabetes and NCDs and served the purpose of raising the profile of diabetes as a health and development challenge in the given regions and countries. At the same time the meetings helped WDF build its network of partners in the regions and engage into many new projects in all three continents. Hence, the meetings were a critical part in establishing WDF as a known partner and funder in its first decade of growth.  


  • With the regional diabetes summits, national and regional awareness of and attention to the growing burden of diabetes and its consequences was elevated, both among policy makers, civil society, and international agencies.

  • With the regional diabetes summits, WDF manifested itself as a new funding agency within the diabetes and health area, whereby new projects and partnerships could be developed across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

  • With the regional diabetes summits, WDF built a stronger network at country level in many countries based on which WDF’s portfolio could grow and the WDF brand become more known.


Speakers at "The Emerging Burden of Chronic Diseases and its Impact on Developing Countries" conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. From left to right: Mads Øvlisen, Paul Stuckler, Lise Kingo, Jean-Claude Mbanya, Paul Fife

WDF co-hosts the conference ‘The Emerging Burden of Chronic Diseases and its Impact on Developing Countries’ in Copenhagen, Denmark

In the early 2000’s, few development partners realised or recognised the emerging burden of NCDs, happening alongside the already challenging burden of infectious diseases in many low- and middle-income countries. To address this, in 2010, WDF and the Government of Denmark gathered 140 leading public health and development assistance professionals and high-ranking government representatives from across the globe for the ‘International Conference on The Emerging Burden of Chronic Diseases and its Impact on Developing Countries’. With participation of WHO and the World Bank, the conference aimed to underscore the development challenges posed by NCDs in low- and middle-income countries.

The conference presented evidence, experiences, and facts on NCDs and their impact in low- and middle-income countries, stimulating a timely discussion and reflection on the issues presented to bridge the reality-perception gap. The conference further worked to enhance the process of partnership development and create advocacy to address NCDs urgently and appropriately in development policy, programming, and financing.


  • The conference was an important piece in the global movement leading towards the First UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in 2011. The conference contributed to the progress of global health thinking and around NCDs as an integral part of health and development, at the time still not broadly recognised.


WDF organises first UN Expert Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and NCDs

Recognising that indigenous peoples are often adversely affected by NCDs, in 2012, WDF and International Diabetes Federation co-hosted an Expert Meeting on Indigenous People and NCDs. The meeting provided a forum for interaction between stakeholders to share perspectives and best practice while pursuing the realisation of the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Expert Meeting played an integral part of the process leading up to the 12th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, as one of the outcomes of the Expert Meeting was a Call to Action that addressed specific areas of intervention to improve access to diabetes prevention and care for indigenous peoples.


  • The meeting played a key role in ensuring that the health of indigenous peoples and especially in relation to NCDs was recognised in global health and development. Accordingly, when the WHO Global Action Plan on NCDs was launched in 2013, it included indigenous peoples’ particular exposure to NCDs.

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From the left: Bent Lautrup-Nielsen, Hanne Strandgaard and Anders Dejgaard attending the Pacific NCD Summit in 2016 in Tonga.

Support to global policy initiatives that transform the landscape of NCDs 

WDF engaged in several regional advocacy events and initiatives to highlight key elements of diabetes and NCDs vis-à-vis other global health areas. Since its inception, WDF has been driving interventions on underprioritised health agendas for diabetes and NCD care and prevention. We have been a reliable funder and a trusted partner in creating visibility and supporting action to improve the health of the people we serve.  

In 2015, WDF co-organised with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO Regional Office for the Americas) a conference held in Lima Peru on diabetes in pregnancy.  

In 2016, together with The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), WDF co-organised a summit held in Bali Indonesia on tuberculosis-diabetes co-morbidity. The same year, WDF co-organised the ‘Pacific NCD Summit’ held in Tonga together with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, focusing on the challenge of NCDs across Small Island Development States. Further in 2016, WDF co-organised with the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) a regional conference on diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome in pregnancy held in Colombo Sri Lanka.  

In 2017, WDF co-organised with the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) a conference held in Jordan on diabetes among refugee populations.    

All five regional and thematic advocacy events contributed importantly to the global health agenda progress within their respective fields which subsequently have seen further consolidation at global policy level. The Small Island Development States (SIDS) and the NCDs and humanitarian settings agendas have grown significantly since then, like the entire thinking around NCDs and integration with other disease areas (e.g. maternal care and infectious diseases).  


The five regional and thematic events all led to the release of an outcome document, declaration, and conference report, with the following highlights: 


The World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Dialogue on Partnerships for Sustainable Financing of Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Prevention and Control, held from 9 to 11 April 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Jesper Westley

WDF supports the global conference on ‘Partnerships for Sustainable Financing of NCD Prevention and Control’ in Copenhagen, Denmark  

In 2018, WDF supported the first ever global meeting specifically on NCDs and financing. The meeting was co-hosted by WHO and Government of Denmark, gathering more than 250 delegates from WHO Member States, development agencies, UN agencies, NGOs, academia, philanthropic organisations, and business associations to explore new ways to address the critical gap in financing for national NCD responses. 

The WHO Global Dialogue was part of the process leading up to the third UN High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs in 2018. As an input to the High-Level Meeting, the Global Dialogue highlighted the urgent need for governments, development partners, UN system organisations and all relevant stakeholders to prioritise NCDs as an essential pillar of sustainable development and an integral part of countries’ efforts towards universal health coverage. 


  • The Global Dialogue consolidated the position of NCDs in the global health and development agenda from a financing perspective.

  • The Global Dialogue has become a reference point for the NCD agenda and has led to the preparation of a Second Global Dialogue on NCDs and financing to be held in 2024, as part of the official policy process towards the 2025 4th UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs.


Sanne Frost Helt speaking at the "Leadership, governance and sustainable financing" panel at the "Global High-level Meeting on NCDs in Humanitarian Settings". Photo by Jesper Westley.

Support to the ‘Global High-level Meeting on NCDs in Humanitarian Settings’ in Copenhagen, Denmark 

In 2024, WHO and UNHCR co-organised the Global High-Level Technical Meeting on NCDs in Humanitarian Settings, with the Government of Denmark as host and Government of Jordan and Kenya as co-chairs. WDF supported the meeting and was invited to speak in some of the panels. The purpose of the meeting was to raise global awareness of the need to consider NCDs as part of emergency preparedness and response, protracted crisis relief and national health system resilience, and to forge relationships between the NCD, humanitarian, refugee, and health systems communities in advance of the UN High-Level meeting on NCDs in 2025. 

The meeting served as an opportunity to move forward the dialogue on how best to support Members States in delivering NCD prevention and control services as part of humanitarian responses. The outputs of the meeting feed into recommendations made as part of the 2024 progress report to the UN Secretary-General and will inform the policy process towards the 4th UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in 2025. 


  • The meeting gathered more than 300 delegates from more than 100 countries at the UN City in Copenhagen and with several hundred online participants.

  • For the first time ever NCDs was discussed at global policy level in the context of humanitarian settings broadly understood, ranging from acute emergencies to protracted refugee contexts to national health system preparedness.