High-Level Meetings for High-Level Results: The UNHLMs on Health 2023

21. Februar 2023 I  Politics  I von : Sabrina Rupprecht

Three UN High-Level Meetings on health are planned in 2023: On Tuberculosis, on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response and on Universal Health Coverage. We encourage our members to participate in a small survey on your expectations towards these meetings.


The UN High-Level Meetings in general

This year marks the halfway point of the United Nations' 2015 deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time, three UN High-Level Meetings (UNHLMs) on health are planned in 2023: The UNHLM on Tuberculosis (TB), the UNHLM on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (PPR) and the UNHLM on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The topic of health is firmly anchored in the SDGs. Not only does SDG 3 "Good Health and Well-Being" refer to health. "No Poverty" (SDG 1), "Zero Hunger" (SDG 2) or "Quality Education" (SDG 4) are just a few examples that show how present health is in the SDGs. United Nations High-Level Meetings (UN HLMs) are initiated by the main decision-making body of the United Nations, namely the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Here, the 193 UN member states discuss various global issues with the goal of determining cooperation and finding solutions between heads of state and government. UN HLMs can also be held on specific topics – such as health.

The previous UNHLM on Universal Health Coverage

What is meant by UHC, according to the SDGs? "Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It covers the full continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care". When the SDGs, respectively the so-called Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, were signed, all UN member states committed themselves to strive for UHC by the year 2030.

The need for strong health systems was highlighted by the COVID 19 pandemic, which brought their deficiencies into the global spotlight. The pandemic exacerbated inequitable access to health care and exposed the negative health consequences of underinvestment in UHC. Underfunded health systems had serious effects for people, governments, and the global economy. For this reason, concrete action is urgently needed to ensure equitable, resilient, and all-inclusive access to health for all.

The upcoming HLM on UHC provides an opportunity to take stock of progress made since the first HLM on UHC in September 2019. Under the title "Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World," heads of state and government from around the world signed the first political declaration on UHC, which is considered "the most ambitious and comprehensive political declaration on health in history”. In this declaration, they pledged to "to progressively reach one billion additional people by 2023 with quality essential health services and affordable essential medicines. They also committed to stop the rise and reverse the trend of catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditure and eliminate impoverishment due to health-related expenses by 2030".

Nevertheless, according to the latest global monitoring report on universal health coverage, the efforts made so far are not enough. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the achievement of the 2023 targets set out in the political declaration. Despite these political commitments, UHC has not yet been fully implemented. Approximately half of the world's population still lacks access to basic health services. In addition, 100 million people end up in extreme poverty each year due to health expenditures.

The next UNHLM on Universal Health Coverage

The second UN HLM on UHC is scheduled for September 2023. The goal of the meeting is to identify how to advance UHC policy to achieve access to health for all. For example, the meeting will be used to advance prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) along with other health priorities. An inclusive multistakeholder Task Force has drafted an Action Agenda from the UHC Movement. The Task Force is composed of twenty representatives from UHC2030 constituencies and beyond. Building on the 2019 Key Asks and 2019 Political Declaration commitment areas on UHC, the Action Agenda is based on latest data and recent literature, including the State of UHC Commitment Review to address current global health challenges. The Action Agenda will entail action-oriented policy recommendations and will be presented to the President of the General Assembly ahead of the 2023 UHC political declaration negotiation.

The UNHLM on Tuberculosis

Two key principles of the UHC approach are to strengthen equity and to ensure that no one is left behind. The High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (UNHLM on TB), which will probably take place during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Week, provides a critical opportunity to implement the principles. At the 2018 UNHLM on TB, world leaders committed to hold a “comprehensive review by Heads of State and Government at a high-level meeting in 2023” in the Political Declaration on TB which was agreed at the meeting. In a joint statement, the WHO Director-General and the WHO’s Civil Society Task Force on Tuberculosis (CSTF-TB) commit to:

  • Foster partnerships and synergies between WHO, United Nations agencies, partners, donors and other stakeholders for strengthened multisectoral engagement at the 2023 UNHLM on TB, as well as for ambitious priority-setting in countries
  • Support preparations for the 2023 UN High Level Meeting on TB through WHO’s multisectoral and multistakeholder taskforce on ending TB in close partnership with CSTF-TB, to facilitate more meaningful engagement of civil society and TB-affected communities in the meeting
  • Support the rapid adoption of WHO guidelines at country level to increase access to the best evidence-based interventions for people and communities affected by TB, including prevention, detection and treatment of people with TB and related comorbidities, with the involvement of civil society and affected communities.

The UNHLM on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response

The UNHLM on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPR) will take place no later than the end of September 2023. Given the devastating impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the existential threat that other pandemics pose to the achievement of the SDGs, the UNHLM on PPR is urgent and long overdue. The UNHLM on PPR program is currently in the planning stages. The Pandemic Action Network, the platform for ACT-A, civil society and community representatives, and over 55 partners have called upon leaders to implement the following actions:

  • International action on pandemic preparedness to move beyond the health sector to become a priority for government and society as a whole
  • Long-term ownership and accountability for the PPR agenda to be advanced
  • The involvement of civil society and multiple stakeholders to be prioritised as early as possible.

The organization of the UN High-Level Meetings is still ongoing. The Global Health Hub Germany will keep you posted!

Do you want to be part of the UNHLMs on health? There are many ways to engage in the run-up:

The Global Health Hub would like to accompany the UNHLMs with a strong voice of non-state actors in Germany and will therefore encourage its members to take part in a small survey on their expectations towards the UNHLMs (in German only):

Participate in the survey!

Are you specifically interested in the UNHLM on UHC? Then the following might be interesting for you:

Join the first briefing session on March 2, 2023, ahead of the multi-stakeholder hearing for the health-related United Nation High-Level Meetings

FAQs on UNHLM on UHC2023 

Watch the Virtual information session on the UHC Action Agenda

Subscribe to the UHC2030 Newsletter

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