At the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, the UN will conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation of the political declaration titled, “Universal health coverage: moving together to build a healthier world” on September 21. It is an opportunity for countries and stakeholders to renew efforts and accelerate progress toward achieving health for all. This will form the basis for implementing policies and ensuring responsibility for strengthening health systems for the future, building on the 2019 Political Declaration.
The UN General Assembly is convening three High-Level Meetings on health during its 78th session (UNGA 78) in New York in September 2023. The first meeting, focusing on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPPR), was held on September 20. During the meeting, the global leaders showed commitment to strengthen the international cooperation, coordination, governance and investment needed to prevent a repeat of the devastating health and socioeconomic impact caused by COVID-19.
The meeting’s purpose was to allow Member States to enhance political momentum, emphasizing a multisectoral approach due to the multifaceted impacts of pandemics. It also aimed to enhance global preparedness for future pandemics and to reinvigorate progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
“I welcome this commitment by world leaders to provide the political support and direction needed so that WHO, governments and all involved can protect people’s health and take concrete steps towards investing in local capacities, ensuring equity and supporting the global emergency health architecture that the world needs,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Dr. Tedros highlighted the need to understand how to enhance community protection, engagement, information, and empowerment to address challenges effectively. He stressed the importance of strengthening clinical care systems to save lives. This involves taking concrete actions to ensure equitable access to medical countermeasures, sustainable and adequate financing, empowered and engaged communities, and well-trained and equipped health workers.
Dr. Tedros further noted that governments and multilateral partners are laying the groundwork for a safer world through initiatives such as the Pandemic Fund, the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, the WHO BioHub for sharing biological materials, and the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.
Among numerous measures required, the political declaration recognized the need for Member States to adhere to the following:
– Continue the work to make targeted amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) by May 2024
– Ensure the sustainable, affordable, fair, equitable, effective, efficient and timely access to medical countermeasures, including vaccines, diagnostics
– Invest in ensuring WHO is strengthened to the level needed to play its role in responding to pandemic threats
– Scale up health system capacities to address pandemic threats in low- and lower-middle income countries, especially across Africa
The Director-General Dr. Tedros urged countries to act on the commitments in the UNGA declaration by supporting the Member State-led processes to deliver a strong Pandemic Accord and amend the International Health Regulations.
On September 22, the UNGA will hold the second high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis on 22 September 2023. The theme of the meeting is: “Advancing science, finance and innovation, and their benefits, to urgently end the global tuberculosis epidemic, in particular, by ensuring equitable access to prevention, testing, treatment and care.” The goal is to review progress on the 2018 TB targets, identify gaps and find solutions to speed up progress to end the TB epidemic by 2030.