PAI Applauds the Adoption of the 2023 United Nations High-Level Political Declaration for Universal Health Coverage and Calls on Intensifying Action for Women, Youth and At-Risk Communities
On September 21, Member States — together with civil society, donors and public health leaders — assembled during the United Nations General Assembly for the high-level meeting (HLM): “Universal health coverage (UHC): moving together to build a healthier world.” Those in attendance reviewed the implementation of the 2019 political declaration of the HLM on UHC and spoke of the gaps, challenges and solutions to achieving progress toward UHC and a healthier world for all people.
World leaders committed to accelerating efforts toward UHC and approved the new political declaration: “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): expanding our ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world.” Progress toward UHC has stagnated since 2015 when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted. The HLM served as a rallying cry, that at the halfway point of the SDGs we must collectively meet our shared ambitions to ensure health for all through the right policies, systems, services and investments that meet the needs of people and support the enablers of UHC.
In the opening session, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on governments to deliver on the political commitments in the approved declaration.
“Ultimately UHC is a choice. A political choice. The political declaration you have approved today is a strong signal that you are making that choice,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus. “That choice is not just made on paper. It is made in budget decisions, it is made in policy decisions inside and outside the health sector and, most of all, it is made in investing in primary health care, which is the most inclusive, equitable and efficient path to universal health coverage.”
In addition, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group Amina Mohammed stated that governments “must ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services for girls and women, while focusing on the most vulnerable populations.”
PAI and members of civil society who attended the HLM are steadfast in ensuring that these political commitments are delivered upon. In addition, PAI supports the urgent focus on meeting the health needs of women, youth, children and at-risk communities as they experience the greatest health disparities and inequities worldwide.
“I am encouraged by the political commitments that were made at the HLM for universal health coverage, and the recognition that sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are essential to achieving the ambitions of UHC,” said Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, president and CEO of PAI. “At the same time, as civil society, we must ensure that commitments are delivered upon, funding and policies from bilateral and multilateral institutions do no harm and that we keep the needs of communities at the forefront by investing in and sustaining people-led movements as the enablers of health equity and progress for all.”
The governments of Argentina, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States were among those that spoke in support of ensuring SRHR be core to UHC. In addition, the governments of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Pakistan and Senegal were among those that emphasized the importance of maternal and child health. Ingvild Kjerkol, Norway’s minister of health, was the first plenary speaker to emphasize that without SRHR there can be no real UHC and stated that “universal access also means access for girls, youth, LGBTQI persons and marginalized groups.”
By adopting the political declaration, governments have agreed to a set of commitments, including point 62 that states:
“Ensure, by 2030, universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for
family planning, information and education and the integration of reproductive health into
national strategies and programmes, and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive
health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the
International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action
and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”
PAI fully endorses an integrated, comprehensive approach to achieving UHC. Just as we should leave no one behind when providing health care services, we should leave no health needs behind. Global SRHR remain threatened, and we are far from meeting the reproductive health needs and desires of communities around the world.
“Health systems and health financing must meet the needs and preferences of communities and address the barriers that women, youth and at-risk communities face in realizing the right to health, agency and autonomy,” said Dr. Adebiyi Adesina, PAI’s director of health financing and health systems strengthening. “In addition, we must ensure that commitments made to SRHR remain a core component of health systems transformation and health financing. If access is not delivered, progress toward other SDGs — including poverty reduction, gender equality, health equity and climate resilience — will fall far short of the goals our global community agreed to meet.”
As we approach the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, PAI and its civil society partners in over 30 countries will continue to champion health and rights for even the most forgotten members of society. H.E. Mr. Dennis Francis, president of the 78th session of the General Assembly, called on the greater global health community to “work together to radically transform our health systems and create a world where health and well-being are no longer a privilege for a few but a respected right for all.” PAI and our partners will work collectively and collaboratively with each other and across sectors to ensure these ambitions are achieved.
PAI is a leading civil society advocacy organization dedicated to advancing universal access to SRHR across the globe. For nearly 60 years, PAI has served as a credible source of information, a strong ally to in-country partners and an unrelenting advocate for improved and expanded SRHR at the national, regional and global levels. PAI works to advance its mission by propelling evidence-informed advocacy strategies in the United States and globally and supporting in-country CSO partners across nearly 40 low- and middle-income countries to advocate for increased access to sexual and reproductive health services and expand SRHR for all. To learn more, visit pai.org.