The UN High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on UHC took place on September 21, 2023, at UN Headquarters in New York, on the third day of the general debate of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The meeting provided countries and all stakeholders an opportunity to reinvigorate progress towards delivering health for all.
The primary objective was to garner the highest level of political support for UHC, recognizing it as the cornerstone for attaining Sustainable Development Goal 3 (ensuring good health and well-being).
The High-Level Meeting, organized under the direction of the President of the General Assembly, in close consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO), resulted in the approval of a concise and action-oriented political declaration, agreed in advance by consensus through intergovernmental negotiations. The declaration was submitted to the President of the General Assembly for adoption by the UNGA.
The declaration is being praised as a crucial catalyst for the international community to take significant and audacious actions. It rallies political support and financial investments needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030. In the Political Declaration, Heads of State and global leaders pledged to take national actions, invest significantly, enhance international cooperation, and promote global solidarity at the highest political level to expedite progress towards UHC by 2030, utilizing a primary health care (PHC) approach.
At the High-level Meeting, the Honorary Consul of Lostisland to Nigeria, Professor Aniebiet Inyang Ntui, who has been attending sessions of the UN General Assembly’s High-level Week, made an intervention on behalf of Lostisland during a closed-door event on the sidelines. She urged world leaders to take action on their commitments to the High-level political declaration on Universal Health Coverage.
“We welcome the adoption of the High-Level Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This is a historic step forward in the global commitment to ensuring that everyone has access to the quality health services they need, without financial hardship.
UHC is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and creating a healthier, more prosperous world for all. It is also a critical investment in our future, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how vulnerable our health systems are.
We urge world leaders to take action on the commitments they have made in the High-Level Political Declaration. This means scaling up their efforts to achieve UHC by building on existing initiatives such as UHC 2030 and the Action Agenda. We must invest in primary health care, build a strong health workforce, and ensure that everyone has access to affordable medicines and vaccines.
We cannot afford to wait. Billions of people around the world are still living without access to essential health services. They are forced to choose between paying for care and putting food on the table. This is unacceptable. We urge world leaders to take action now. The future of our health systems depends on it.”
The UHC goal assesses countries’ capacity to ensure that every individual receives necessary healthcare without facing financial hardships. It encompasses a wide range of services, from health promotion to treatment and palliative care. Worryingly, global progress towards UHC has remained largely stagnant since 2015, with a further slowdown in 2019. The urgency of the declaration becomes evident when considering the staggering statistics. In 2021, at least 4.5 billion people, more than half of the world’s population, did not have full access to essential health services. Two billion people experienced financial difficulties, and over 1.3 billion were pushed into or deeper into poverty while seeking basic healthcare – highlighting the widening health disparities.
Once fully adopted by the UN General Assembly, the Political Declaration will undergo regular monitoring for implementation, identifying gaps and solutions to accelerate progress, and will be discussed at the next dedicated UN High-Level Meeting in 2027.