The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for all people to have equal access to health services, and agreeing to hold a high-level meeting on universal health coverage in 2019.
Another General Assembly resolution establishes 12 December as Universal Health Coverage Day.
The Government of Japan is contributing US$2.9 billion towards universal health coverage in developing countries.
14 December 2017: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution calling for all people to have equal access to health services, and agreeing to hold a high-level meeting on universal health coverage in 2019. Another UNGA resolution establishes 12 December as ‘Universal Health Coverage Day.’ Meanwhile, the Government of Japan is contributing US$2.9 billion towards the promotion of universal healthcare in developing countries, and a high-level forum in Tokyo, Japan, on 14 December highlighted human security concerns related to health and well-being, including the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula.
In the resolution titled, ‘Global health and foreign policy: addressing the health of the most vulnerable for an inclusive society’ (A/72/L.28), UNGA reaffirms the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and several other international goals and agreements, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) promoting access to medicines for all. The resolution highlights the potential for global health goals to be achieved through foreign policy, including humanitarian aid, sustainable financing for health research into emerging problems such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), preparedness and prevention of global health crises, and protection of medical personnel and medical facilities in conflict zones. In the resolution, Member States agree that a high-level meeting on universal health coverage will take place in 2019, and request the UN Secretary-General and Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) to report to the next session of UNGA on steps taken towards improving international coordination and cooperation on the SDGs.
In the General Assembly debate, several countries expressed reservations about the resolution. The US expressed regret over “unacceptable language” in international agreements on TRIPS, stating that the strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights incentivizes the creation and distribution of life-saving medicines. The US and the Holy See stressed that the right to abortion is not part of access to health.
The General Assembly also adopted a resolution (A/72/L.27) that established 12 December as Universal Health Coverage Day. The resolution invites all concerned to observe the Day annually to raise awareness of the need for strong and resilient health systems, and for universal health coverage.
On 14 December, a high-level forum on universal health coverage took place in Tokyo, Japan, jointly organized by the Government of Japan, the World Bank, WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) 2030 partnership. Ministerial discussions, side events, and civil society events took place around the high-level forum that was held from 12-15 December. Speaking at the forum, UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed Japan’s contribution of US$2.9 billion for universal health coverage programmes in developing countries, and noted the positive link between health spending and economic growth. He commended Japan’s role in promoting human security, saying this reflects his own focus on prevention and sustainable development. He warned against the possibility that the UN Security Council could “sleepwalk into a war” on the Korean peninsula, and called for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and all other countries to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions.
The goal of universal health coverage was first set out in the Declaration of Alma-Ata, made at the International Conference on Primary Health Care in September 1978 at Alma-Ata in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). [UN Press Release on Adoption of Resolutions] [UNGA Resolution on Global Health and Foreign Policy] [UN Press Release on International Universal Health Coverage Day] [UNGA Resolution on International Universal Health Coverage Day] [UN Press Release on Guterres’ Remarks at Tokyo High-Level Forum] [UHC 2030 Forum Website] [Alma-Ata Declaration]