Adopting Consensus Text, General Assembly Encourages Member States to Plan, Pursue Transition of National Health Care Systems towards Universal Coverage

12 December 2012
GA/11326

Adopting Consensus Text, General Assembly Encourages Member States to Plan, Pursue Transition of National Health Care Systems towards Universal Coverage

12 December 2012
General Assembly
GA/11326
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Plenary

53rd Meeting (AM)

Adopting Consensus Text, General Assembly Encourages Member States to Plan, Pursue

Transition of National Health Care Systems towards Universal Coverage

 

Separate Texts Adopted on Combating Illicit Trade in Cultural Property,

Addressing Socioeconomic Dimensions of Autism; Cooperation with Regional Groups

Recognizing the intrinsic role of health in achieving international development goals, the General Assembly today – through the unanimous adoption of a resolution on global health and foreign policy – encouraged Governments to plan or pursue the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality health-care services.

By that text, the Assembly, calling for more attention to health as an important cross-cutting policy issue, urged Member States, civil society and international organizations to incorporate universal health coverage in the international development agenda and in the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

The Assembly also recognized that improving social protection towards universal coverage “is an investment in people that empowers them to adjust to changes in the economy and the labour market and helps support a transition to a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy”.  As such, while planning or pursuing the transition towards universal coverage, Member States were encouraged to continue investing in health-delivery systems to increase and safeguard the range and quality of services and meet the health needs of their populations.

Further, Member States were encouraged to recognize the links between the promotion of universal health coverage and other foreign policy issues, such as the social dimension of globalization, inclusive and equitable growth and sustainable development.

The delegate of Mexico was among those who welcomed the text’s recognition that health was “an intrinsic element of sustainable development”.  A greater investment in health was needed at the national level, she said, adding that such an investment was “one of the most profitable investments that could be made in our future”.  As Mexico’s social health protection system provided universal coverage to many people, she said the challenge was to ensure its funding.  It was therefore critical for countries to share best practices.  The issue should be among top priorities in the post-2015 development agenda, she added.

Zambia’s speaker said that her Government treated health care as “a fundamental human right” for its citizens, but that attaining complete universal access to quality health care remained a large challenge for developing countries like her own.

The representative of Singapore stressed the need for a system that ensured that the sick and poor would not be denied good quality healthcare regardless of their ability to pay, be affordable to both present and future generations, and encourage patients and doctors to choose effective care that addressed their needs.

Japan’s delegate said that his country had attained high marks in good health and longevity thanks to its universal health coverage.  In Japan, all people could access high-quality medical services regardless of their occupation or income, and patients could go to the medical institution of their choice for the same cost.  He also said Japan had conducted a study with the World Bank on universal health coverage financing and looked forward to sharing the results of the research with Member States and other interested parties in the near future.

In a related discussion, the Assembly addressed the socio-economic needs related to autism and developmental disorders by adopting a relevant resolution without a vote.  By the text, the Assembly called on all States to enable persons with autism, developmental disorders and associated disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community.

Speaking before action on the text, the representative of Bangladesh said that Mozart, Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, misunderstood as children, had been on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum.  Yet, all of those icons had achieved great success in later life.  Their minds worked differently than a traditional learner, but because they had been able to find their places in the society, they had engaged their strengths and they had enriched the world.  “We have a whole population whose talents go undiscovered and whose gifts go unshared, with their place in the world having only been carved out in niches,” he said.

He went on to urge all Member States to cosponsor the resolution, saying:  “We urgently need to remove the stigma that is associated with disabilities in general and neuro-developmental disorders specifically, and empower parents so that they can be partners in the treatment process and informed advocates for their loved ones.”

The delegate of the United States said “autism is no longer hidden”, noting that, as recently as the 1990s, researchers had believed that the condition was rare.  A recent big step forward in the United States had developed the new Affordable Care Act, which required insurance companies to cover autism screenings, and disallowed companies from denying care because of “existing preconditions”.

In other business, the Assembly also addressed the topic on international cooperation in combating the illicit trade in cultural property by adopting, without a vote, a relevant draft resolution on the return and restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.

By the text, the Assembly deplored damage to world cultural heritage sites, particularly in recent conflict and crisis situations, and called for an immediate end to such acts, reminding States Parties to the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of their obligations.

“Cultural heritage is the mirror of a country’s history, thus lying within the very core of its existence, since it represents, not only specific values and traditions, but also a unique way a people perceives the world,” said the representative of Greece, who introduced the draft resolution.  Whether it was a Makonde Mask, an Etruscan vase or a Parthenon frieze, they all were a testimony of a nation’s path into time.  But in order for them to continue to serve their artistic, aesthetic and social raison d’être, they must be protected against illicit acts and, in such cases, be restored and returned in their natural environment, outside of which they could no longer inspire the collective conscience of humanity, he said.

The delegate of Cyprus said while many of his country’s artefacts could be viewed in museums throughout the world, many more had been illicitly trafficked from the territory of the island under Turkish occupation since 1974.  Churches, chapels, monasteries, cemeteries, libraries, museums, and private collections of religious art and antiquities had been destroyed and pillaged.  However, among recent court cases, a 2010 decision had opened the way for repatriation to Cyprus of artefacts looted from Kanakaria and other churches and monasteries.  He went on to stress that international cooperation was at the heart of strategies to address the issue.

The Assembly also adopted by consensus two draft resolutions on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations, respectively, the Council of Europe and the League of Arab States.  The first text was introduced by the delegate of Albania.

The representatives of Argentina, Italy and Turkey also spoke on the issue of restoration of cultural property.

Also participating in the debate on global health and foreign policy were delegates of the United States, Indonesia and Israel.  The representative of France presented the relevant draft resolution.

The representative of Saudi Arabia and Israel also spoke on autism.  The delegate of Bangladesh introduced the relevant draft resolution.

The Assembly postponed consideration of a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the International Organization of la Francophonie (A/67/L.30) to a later date.  It also extended the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to Thursday, 20 December 2012, and thus put off the date of the plenary’s recess to Friday, 21 December 2012.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m., 13 December, to discuss ways to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations.

Background

The Assembly had before it today two notes by the Secretary-General.  By the first (document A/67/219), he transmitted the report of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 64/78 (2009), which detailed that body’s activities since the last report, also in 2009.  The report covers such matters as new country ratifications of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property — which brought the total number of States parties to 122 — and the development of new legal and practical tools in that field.

The UNESCO report also describes emergency activities undertaken during the reporting period to protect cultural heritage in Haiti, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Mali, in response to natural disasters or conflict situations in those States, and describes measures undertaken to mobilize extrabudgetary resources to strengthen the secretariat of the Convention, among other things.  It also contains a number of recommendations.

The second Secretary-General’s note (document A/67/377) transmits the report of the Director-General of the World Health Organization on the interlinkages between health and the environment and health and natural disasters, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 66/115 (2011).  That report elaborates on the challenges inherent in those issues and provides examples of action at the national and international levels. 

In consultation with Member States, it examines universal health coverage, in particular in response to challenges posed by climate change and natural disasters, and stresses the importance of universal access to health coverage in sustaining health gains, building resilient societies and protecting individuals from impoverishment when they are sick.  The report also states that the participants in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) had examined ways to address development challenges beyond the Millennium Development Goals, and that they had recognized health as an intrinsic element of any such development.

The Assembly also had before it several draft resolutions.  By the terms of the first, entitled Global Health and Foreign Policy (document A/67/L.36), it would call, among other things, for more attention to health as an important cross-cutting policy issue in the international agenda.  Recognizing the responsibility of Governments to urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality health-care services, it would urge States, civil society organizations and international organizations to promote the inclusion of universal health coverage as an important element in the international development agenda and in the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Goals.

By the terms of the second draft resolution, on addressing the socioeconomic needs of individuals, families and societies affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD), developmental disorders and associated disabilities (document A/67/L.33), the Assembly would encourage Member States to enhance access to appropriate services and equal opportunities for inclusion and participation in society for people with ASD and DD.  It would also call, among other things, for all States to ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning, as well as to promote vocational training and skills development programmes for persons with autism, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other local, national and regional policies.

By the terms of a third draft, return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin  (document A/67/L.34), the Assembly, expressing deep concernabout the continuing illicit traffic in cultural property and its damage to the cultural heritage of nations, among other things, would call onall relevant bodies, agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system and other relevant intergovernmental organizations to address the issue of return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.

It would also urge Member States Member States to introduce effective national and international measures to prevent and combat illicit trafficking in cultural property, including publicizing legislation and offering special training for police, customs and border services and to consider such trafficking a serious crime.

The Assembly also had before it two draft resolutions related to Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations, entitled cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe (document A/67/L.14/Rev.1) and cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States (document A/67/L.35).

Restitution of Cultural Heritage

ANASTASSIS MITSIALIS (Greece), introducing a draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (A/67/L.34), said that major steps undertaken in that area recently had included the convening in June of the second meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and the adoption of the Rules of Procedure of that meeting, which contained important decisions, such as the creation of a Subsidiary Committee tasked with promoting the purposes of the Convention.

Despite concerted international efforts to tackle the problem, illicit traffic in cultural property continued to pose a serious threat to cultural heritage of States, he said.  That threat was higher in situations of crisis and conflict, when cultural objects were often smuggled outside their countries of origin.  The draft resolution under consideration today condemned recent attacks to world cultural heritage sites and called for an immediate end to such acts, by reminding States Parties to the Convention of their obligations. 

Awareness raising and capacity building were critical in that regard, he continued.  As the text highlighted, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), along with INTERPOL, International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) and other stakeholders, continued to drive a systematic campaign to increase the visibility of the available tools and organize joint action for the effective protection of cultural heritage. 

He said that the draft welcomed the presentation of model legislative provisions on undiscovered cultural objects as another important step in combating the phenomenon of illegal excavations and ensuring the property of unearthed archaeological objects.  Interaction with the international art market proved to be of paramount importance, and fostering international cooperation lay at the heart of a solution.  The restitution of 21,000 coins, jewels and other artefacts from Canada to Bulgaria and the restitution of the Boğazköy Sphinx to Turkey were clear examples of successful use of available tools, whether legal instruments or bilateral agreements.

“Cultural heritage is the mirror of a country’s history, thus lying within the very core of its existence, since it represents, not only specific values and traditions, but also a unique way a people perceives the world,” he said.  Whether it was a Makonde Mask, an Etruscan vase or a Parthenon frieze, they all were a testimony of a nation’s path into time.  But in order for them to continue to serve their artistic, aesthetic and social raison d’être, they must be protected against illicit acts and use and, in such cases, be restored and returned in their natural environment, outside of which they could no longer inspire the collective conscience of humanity.  This was precisely the reason for which the objectives of that resolution should leave no State indifferent. 

MATEO ESTREME ( Argentina) said that his country had committed to combating the unlawful trafficking of cultural property.  It was a party to the 1970 Convention prohibiting trafficking in cultural property - a valuable international instrument that had been in force for 40 years.  Argentina also hoped, in 2013, to join the recently created committee for follow-up to the Convention, with the intention to implement initiatives aimed at the stronger and more effective application of its norms.  Mechanisms had also been established at the national level to those ends, he added, including an inter-ministerial committee to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property.  Argentina had established standards related to the oversight of the purchase and sale of cultural property, and their lawfulness.

He drew attention to the return of archeological property to Peru earlier this year under the bilateral convention on the subject, among other examples of recent relevant international cooperation by Argentina.  Indeed, his delegation felt that the unlawful trafficking of cultural property was a serious problem that took more sophisticated forms in today’s world, and there were complicated networks of contraband and sales.  Cooperation between States for the return of cultural property should therefore be encouraged.  The active involvement of States in the world of UNESCO was also critical.

NICHOLAS EMILIOU ( Cyprus) said that the return or the restitution of cultural property to countries of origin put international relations to a “noble test” where cooperation among State and non-State actors could “positively affect the lofty goal of protecting the cultural heritage of mankind”.  Combating illicit trafficking in cultural property was a task that required perseverance and multifaceted collaborative efforts.  International documentation for recording data of cultural property and the dissemination of information in recovery was a major area in such efforts.

He urged States to ensure that customs and border control officials were fully trained in their duties in order to apply the rules set out by the 1970 UNESCO Convention.  With 9,000 years of recorded civilization, Cyprus had an immense cultural heritage, with an obligation to protect and bequeath that heritage to future generations.  However, while many of his country’s artefacts could be viewed in museums throughout the world, many more had been illicitly trafficked from the territory of the island under Turkish occupation since 1974.  Churches, chapels, monasteries, cemeteries, libraries, museums, and private collections of religious art and antiquities had been destroyed and pillaged. 

However, he noted that, among recent court cases, a 2010 decision had opened the way for repatriation to Cyprus of artefacts looted from Kanakaria and other churches and monasteries.  Concluding, he stressed that international cooperation was at the heart of strategies to address the issue.  Cyprus was committed to use the necessary legal and political means to repatriate its looted cultural treasures and to pursue the return of every illegally removed object of its cultural heritage to the rightful owners.  He called to the international community to extend its solidarity and support in such efforts in protecting an invaluable part of the cultural heritage of humanity.

CESARE RAGAGLINI ( Italy), one of the traditional co-sponsors of the resolution on the restitution of cultural property, said that his country had 47 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and was home to a large share of the planet’s cultural, artistic and landscape heritage.  “The safeguarding, promoting and appreciation of cultural and artistic heritage has a universal value,” he said, adding, “there can be no common progress and no mutual respect between peoples” without a profound understanding of the spiritual process associated with artistic heritage.  “There is an unbreakable bond – both local and universal – between cultural properties and their place of conception and origin,” he stressed in that regard.

UNESCO and UNIDROIT were driving forces in that common effort, he said.  It was with renewed energy that the international community must continue initiatives to develop legal, practical and awareness-raising tools to improve implementation of the universal and legal framework and international cooperation with Governmental and non-governmental organizations, the art market, cultural and educational institutions, museums and civil society.

“The General Assembly’s consensus adoption of this resolution will send a clear message that protection of cultural assets and their return to their States of origin must remain high on the United Nations agenda,” he said in that regard.  He was pleased to see new language in the text that considered trafficking and illicitly exported cultural properties as a “serious crime”.  He went on to describe national efforts to develop good practices for the recovery of illicitly acquired cultural properties, as well as efforts to share those experiences with the international community.

GIZEM SUCUOĞLU ( Turkey) expressed her delegation’s full support for the draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.  Despite increasing awareness about the need for such efforts and enhanced capacity building in that regard, the problem continued.  The risk of illegal trade in cultural property was higher in crisis and conflict situations. 

Such practices, which fell into the same category of illicit arms trade and drug trafficking, required active involvement of various stakeholders, including international organizations, Governments, museums and civil society.  The draft resolution called for the need to enhance international cooperation.  For that reason, Turkey supported all efforts in that regard and thus endorsed the resolution.

Following those statements, the draft resolution on restoration of cultural heritage (documentA/67/L.34) was adopted without a vote.

Global Health Issues

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) introduced the draft on global health and foreign policy (document A/67/L.36), saying that since 2007, the Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative had aimed to strengthen the role of health and global health issues in foreign policy making.  Toward that purpose, each year a relevant draft resolution addressing new issues was presented to the Assembly.

Despite progress in the area, he said, much more needed to be done to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  One billion people worldwide did not have access to health care, thus undermining efforts to improve global health.  In that regard, universal health coverage was a comprehensive, dynamic and inclusive goal.  It helped improve access to health services for mothers and children, reproductive health services, HIV/AIDS, malaria and prevention of non-communicable diseases.

Further, he said, the strategy was cross-cutting, offering both horizontal and vertical systems that addressed multifaceted challenges.  Implementing universal health coverage also contributed to equity and poverty reduction.  It was estimated that approximately 100 million people would fall beneath poverty levels because of health issues.  There should be access to health care without the risk of poverty.  However, the resolution did not offer specific ways to address that issue since establishing a financing system depended on each country’s circumstance. 

He went on to say that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) had recognized health was a key indicator of the Millennium Goals and the three dimensions of sustainable development.  The resolution contained follow-up actions for the post-2015 agenda.  Noting that the resolution was the fifth such text since 2008, he urged States to incorporate health issues into their foreign policies.

ERIKA MARTÍNEZ LIEVANO ( Mexico) said that the resolution before the Assembly today reflected the desire of Member States to ensure universal health coverage.  Both the report and the resolution contributed a step forward in that regard.  He welcomed the recognition that health was an intrinsic element of sustainable development.  In April, the country had hosted a Ministerial Forum on “Sustainability of Universal Coverage” with the participation of Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the representatives of 21 countries.  At that meeting, delegations had drawn attention to the need to deliver a shared message of strengthening universal health coverage and addressing continuing sustainable development issues.

A greater investment in health was needed on the national level, she stressed, adding that such an investment was “one of the most profitable investments that could be made in our future”.  In Mexico, the establishment of a social health protection system had provided universal coverage to many people.  The challenge was to ensure its continuity, she said, and it was therefore critical for countries to share best practices with regard to health coverage funding, among other important matters.  The issue should be among top priorities in the post-2015 development agenda, and Mexico was determined to continue to work to identify shared views with regards to international policy.

JOAN PRINCE (United States) said that the expansion of health-care coverage had been at the forefront of her country’s national policy, and that it was time for the issue to come to the forefront of international policy, as well.  The issue was “fundamentally about all people having equal access to care”, she stressed, noting that it was a top priority for President Barack Obama.  In that regard, the new Affordable Care Act contained numerous provisions to keep relevant costs low and, among other things, expand coverage to 30 million Americans currently living without coverage.  As health issues were a “national-level concern”, she added, it was up to Governments to take on the challenge of moving towards universal coverage.  That was particularly true as many low-income countries would become middle-income nations by 2030.

Recognizing the relevance of the topic, the United States was pleased to have co-sponsored the resolution, she said.  However, the delegation also recognized that countries had a wide array of policies related to health, including with regard to access to medicines.  The United States did not recognize the creation of any new right which had not been previously recognized, or changes in international treaties or other laws.  She went on to say that global health was an important issue in foreign policy, and that the United States was committed to partnering with countries to help improve health outcomes.  Its development assistance helped countries lay the foundations for universal health coverage by strengthening and increasing human health resources, improving the quality and efficient purchasing of medicines and strengthening intuitional capacities, among other things.  “The need is plain, and the challenge is real for our Governments, both nationally and internationally,” she concluded, noting that the resolution confirmed the centrality of that challenge.

JUN YAMAZAKI ( Japan) said many societies were rapidly aging.  As populations got older, the burden on aged people, their families and their societies was expected to increase rapidly, including because of the rise in the number of elderly persons with non-communicable diseases and mental disorders.  Japan was experiencing an ageing society ahead of other nations.  In order to prepare for the unprecedented situation, the Government had introduced various measures such as long-term care insurance and comprehensive health programmes, partnering with relevant entities.  As a result, Japan had been able to attain high marks in good health and longevity.

A major contributor to that success was universal health coverage, he noted, adding that Japan had established a public health insurance system nationwide 50 years ago.  Under the system, all people could access high-quality medical services regardless of their occupation or income.  For the same cost, patients could go to the medical institution of their choice.  The Government controlled the total medical expenses.  To share its experience, Japan had collaborated with the World Bank on research regarding methods for financing health insurance for universal coverage and looked forward to sharing the results of the research with Member States and other interested parties in the near future.

Noting global challenges in maternal health and water sanitation, he said universal health coverage would be crucial for attaining Millennium Development Goals.  Japan would continue to support polio-eradication efforts.  The Government was also aware that the value of health had been increasing in modern-day society, where situations changed rapidly.  It was useful to tackle health issues from the viewpoint of “human security”, which called for people-centred, comprehensive, context-specific and prevention-oriented responses that strengthened the protection and empowerment of all people and all communities. 

YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) said that in light of continued global health challenges, such as avian influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria and SARS, he supported the need for the Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative to redouble its efforts.  However, priorities needed to be determined in strengthening global health in the post-2015 agenda.  In that regard, some elements of the Oslo Declaration should be incorporated into that agenda, including, among others, availability and affordability of basic services, ensuring services in emergency situations and making a link between global health and the environment.

Recalling the Rio+20 outcome that had affirmed the importance of universal health coverage for the attainment of sustainable development, he pointed out that poverty continued to be the main driver of health problems.  Poverty alleviation was closely linked to public health interventions.  Therefore, universal access to quality health services must be attained, including the provision of preventive measures, care, treatment and medical products that did not impose a huge cost burden on people.  To achieve that objective, the robust implementation of the 10 priorities in the Oslo Declaration and continued outreach programs to countries not part of the Initiative was necessary.

Turning to the resolution on autism, he said that the increase of the incidence of autism was worrying.  With 15 to 20 children out of every 10,000 births born with the disorder, dealing with the situation for developing countries was still “very complicated”.  Some structural difficulties had been identified in addressing autism in his country, such as lack of professional personnel, the public view on the disability, costly treatment, lack of insurance coverage for autistic children and problems at school. 

However, he said, Indonesia continued to carry out necessary efforts, including collaboration with civil society organizations and foundations and training teachers and parents, among others.  On World Autism Day, in April of this year, the Ministry of Health with the organization, Cabinet Ministers’ Wives had organized jointly a “Walk for Autism and Autism Expo 2012”.  Concluding, he said that through coordinated and multi-pronged global responses to autism, particularly in funding and capacity building, the well-being of the millions of individuals and families living with autism would be greatly advanced.

LEE BOON BENG ( Singapore) said that the issue of universal health coverage had gained increasing traction in the international community, with both developed and developing countries agreeing that such coverage brought benefits to society and the economy.  As well, the WHO had been actively promoting universal health coverage.  The resolution before the Assembly, therefore, was a “timely endeavour”.  However, because there had been no universal formula, achieving such coverage had been a complex process.  In that regard, Member States should adopt different solutions that catered to their unique circumstances.  “Just as every sovereign State embarks on its own path of development, every sovereign state should tailor its own approach to achieving universal health coverage,” he said.

Universal health coverage not only needed to be accessible and effective, but also sustainable, he pointed out.  It should ensure that the sick and poor would not be denied good quality healthcare regardless of their ability to pay, be affordable to both present and future generations, and encourage patients and doctors to choose effective care that addressed their needs. 

On a national level, he said that Singapore had been implementing a sustainable health financing system over the years.  Acutely aware of the dangers of borrowing against the future of the country’s children to finance present needs, the Medical Savings Accounts (Medisave), introduced in the 1980s, ensured long-term sustainability of universally available Government subsidies in public hospitals.  In light of a rapidly ageing society, that scheme would enable those who could to set aside sufficient resources for themselves, thus freeing up subsidies to those who most deserved it.  Concluding, he said that although his country’s system was not perfect, Singapore had achieved good outcomes on providing universal health coverage to its citizens and was committed to evolving its system as healthcare needs changed.

MWABA P. KASESE-BOTA ( Zambia) said that her country was aware of its primary responsibility to ensuring the health of its people.  It had therefore established its vision of a “nation of healthy and productive people”, and the Government was working to advance the implementation of policies and programmes aiming to provide equity of access to quality and cost-effective health services “as close to the family as possible”.  However, attaining a complete universality of access to quality health care still remained a large challenge.

Zambia’s health care financing policy treated health care as a fundamental human right for its citizens.  The policy assumed the ideal existence of a well defined and systematically implemented Basic Health Care Package, “although this is far from being realized”.  To ensure sustainable financing of the health sector, she said, the Government had been steadily increasing the budget allocation to health from domestic resources.  Public Private Partnerships were also integral to the country’s health financing strategy.  However, external financing remained an equally important factor in Zambia’s resource mobilization.

“Universal health coverage goes beyond Member States’ capacity to enrol the entire citizenry in health care programmes”, she went on.  It spoke to both quantitative and qualitative services which were universally provided when and where required.  Universal health coverage therefore demanded investment in infrastructure development, and capacity building at all levels for service provision.  In addition, she warned that foreign financing mechanisms which spelled out “stove piped conditions of disease specificity have resulted in the rigid compartmentalization of the human body by health personnel,” despite the interconnectedness and the wholeness of the person.  Global health care financing should therefore strive to work within the host country’s existing structure in order to improve effectiveness and to reduce overhead costs and duplication of efforts.

SHULAMIT DAVIDOVICH ( Israel) stressed the links between health, prosperity, environmental sustainability and security, saying that healthy people were more likely to see higher levels of education, to be financially independent and to contribute positively to the societies in which they lived.  The resolution under consideration today had a specific focus on the importance of universal health coverage.  Strong, well-designed health delivery systems, based on universal health coverage, not only protected individuals from illness, but also contributed to the resilience of societies.  When the State of Israel had been established in 1948, a significant national health infrastructure was already in place.  Israel had developed innovative and effective solutions to meet the needs of its diverse population facing a range of health challenges.  Israel had pioneered the practice of universal health care and its system had been used as a model for many other countries.

She also noted that Israel was closely engaged in reducing child mortality and improving maternal health around the world.  Just over a year ago, its Agency for Development Cooperation had sent an obstetrics and genecology expert, Dr. Hanna Shapira, along with a medical crew to Vanuatu in response to high stillbirth and maternal death rates in the small island nation.  Although the team’s mission had ended after four months, Dr. Shapira had continued her work until now, moving between the islands on a light plane and small motor boat equipped with a portable, battery-operated ultrasound machine.  Furthermore, for more than 50 years, Israel had sponsored eye clinics in countries where health facilities were inadequate.  Israel was a proud sponsor of the resolution under review.

Following those statements, the draft text on global health and foreign policy (A/67/L.36) was adopted without a vote.

Next, MD. TAUHEDUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) took the floor to introduce the resolution on addressing the socioeconomic needs of individuals, families and societies affected by autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders (document A/67/L.33), and made a number of oral corrections to the text.  Through that resolution, Member States would express concern about discrimination against any person with a disability - which was contrary to international human rights law - and about discrimination against those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and developmental disorders in particular.

Also through the text, the Assembly would opine that, in order to implement sustainable and feasible intervention programmes, an integrated coordinated approach would benefit from, among others, increasing public and professional awareness of ASD and development disorders; a focus on training researchers and specialists; and an emphasis on the unique needs of those with ASD and development disorders, among others things.  It also made mention of the High-Level event on disability to be held in September 2013.  Finally, he called on States to co-sponsor the “overwhelmingly consensus draft” before them today.

JOAN PRINCE ( United States) said that there was today more support for Americans with autism than ever before.  “Autism is no longer hidden,” she stressed, noting that, as recently as the 1990s, researchers had believed that the condition was rare.  A recent big step forward in the United States had come with the new Affordable Care Act, which required insurance companies to cover autism screenings, and, among other things, disallowed companies from denying care because of “existing preconditions”.  The United States was working to address key questions and to provide quality support and services to all families affected by autism.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closely tracked autism in communities across the nation, helping to better understand who was at risk and promote early detection.

The United States had also established international cooperation in the area of autism spectrum disorders with countries around the world.  It was pleased to be able to join consensus on the draft resolution currently before the Assembly.  However, she noted that stigma and exclusion were far too common for people with disabilities.  The United States was therefore concerned that resolutions focused on one disability might lead to such targeted responses “that opportunities are missed” to assist broader populations.  She instead called for “disability-themed resolutions”.  Furthermore, it was necessary to be fully mindful of the language used to ensure the full respect of persons with disabilities, she said, calling on delegations to use language that embodied a human rights-based approach to disability.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI ( Saudi Arabia) said that the number of people diagnosed with autism was increasing dramatically, and thus, presenting an “acute problem” for developing countries that had neither the resources nor the expertise to address the disability.  Further, individuals and their families continued to suffer isolation due to lack of public understanding and awareness, as well as lack of opportunities to integrate into mainstream society. 

As is evident in the resolution before the Assembly, those suffering from autism and development disorders needed dedicated and professional support services, and robust public and professional awareness programmes that enabled integration into society.  This would require a coherent framework for international cooperation, awareness raising programmes and provision of adequate funding.

Autism in the Arab world was a growing concern, he continued, explaining that the situation was impacted by the limited number of specialists and experts available to deal with such disorders, as well as lack of adequate funding for relevant programmes.  His country was actively engaged in addressing autism and its socio-economic repercussions, with several initiatives, including the formation of the Charitable Society for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, as well as the establishment of the first Saudi Assembly that dealt with the needs of such individuals and their families. 

NOA FURMAN ( Israel) said that it was necessary to raise awareness about disabilities, particularly those not immediately visible, such as autism, which was often misunderstood or misdiagnosed.  Countries needed to educate their people about autism and provide resources for developmentally disabled children and adults so that they could fully participate in society.  On a national level, she said, Israel provided grants and subsidies to children with autism so that families could cope with the additional costs of raising such a child.  Within the educational system, those children received free education from the age of 3 to 21.  Their school week was six days and they attended class longer into the year. 

Further, she said, Israel’s civil society participated in advancing initiatives that addressed autism, such as the Israeli National Autism Association, which had launched many public awareness campaigns and had advocated for innovated public policies on the matter.  Currently, efforts were being made to enact an integrative autism law that would provide Government assistance for autistic individuals in all aspects of their lives, from infancy to old age.

More broadly, Israel had, she said, hosted an international conference, bringing together policymakers and scientists from around the world to discuss the latest research on autism.  Concluding, she said that autism awareness was a global issue, affecting people all over the world.  Many autistic children continued to go undiagnosed and faced tremendous stigmatization.  In that regard, the United Nations had a vital role to ensure that autistic people across the globe had the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said that as children, Mozart, Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking had been neglected because they were on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum.  Yet all of those icons had achieved great success in later life.  Their minds worked differently than a traditional learner, but because they had been able to find their place in the world, they had engaged their strengths and they had enriched the world.  “We have a whole population whose talents go undiscovered and whose gifts go unshared, with their place in the world having only been carved out in niches,” he said.

In the United States alone, autism was diagnosed in one out of every 88 children.  In a recent study in the Republic of Korea, the rate of occurrence had been found to be 2.6 per cent of school-age children.  Every 15 minutes, a person was diagnosed with autism and more children were diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition than they were with HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.  The most effective intervention was early detection followed by intensive and evidence-based behavioural therapy.  The challenge was to mitigate the health, social and economic impact of that global public heath crisis around the world, and alleviate the suffering of children, adults and families living with autism by implementing best practices in systematic, feasible and sustainable ways, especially in countries like Bangladesh, where resources were very limited.

He went on to urge all Member States to co-sponsor the resolution under review, saying:  “We need to continue to build capacity to provide care for those affected and we need more research to unearth the cause and cure it.”  The best approach would be multi-faceted, comprehensive and integrated with other community-based programmes.  “We urgently need to remove the stigma that is associated with disabilities in general and neuro-developmental disorders specifically, and empower parents so that they can be partners in the treatment process and informed advocates for their loved ones,” he said.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution on addressing the socioeconomic needs of individuals, families and societies affected by autism and other disorders (document A/67/L.33) by consensus.

Cooperation between United Nations and Regional Organizations

FERIT HOXHA ( Albania), introducing the draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe (document A/67/L.14/Rev.1), said that the last 12 annual resolutions adopted on the matter had reflected a trend of increasingly close cooperation with the Council.  The text before the Assembly today, enriched with several new paragraphs, recognized the ever-increasing role of the Council in the protection and strengthening of human rights and fundamental freedoms, promotion of democracy and upholding and strengthening the rule of law, among other critical areas.

He expressed his satisfaction at the consensus reached on new language regarding the international obligations of Member States, in particular those defined in the Rome Statute of the International Court of Justice.  “We consider it a sign of maturity and increased affirmation of the role of this institution” with regard to the application of the rule of law and fight against impunity at both the national and international level, he said.

The new draft reflected the fact that the Council now had a wider outreach “way beyond its Member States’ perimeter”, he said.  The Council of Europe had enhanced the promotion of dialogue and cooperation with the countries and regions in the vicinity of Europe that requested the Council’s assistance, based on the common values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as well as through its numerous legal instruments with a universal vocation.  Despite the new language, he regretted the absence of references in the text to several important issues, including the abolition of the death penalty.  That issue was a “mark of excellence” of the organization, as Europe was the only region in the world where that punishment was no longer applied.  Negotiations had been forced to sacrifice that language in order to reach consensus on the text, he said.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by consensus.

Delegations also adopted by consensus a text on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States (document A/67/L.35).

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.