23 September 2019

Secretary-General Welcomes ‘Most Comprehensive Agreement Ever’ on Global Health, Advocating Universal Coverage by 2030, during General Assembly Meeting

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, in New York today:

Welcome to this high-level meeting.  We are here today to champion a cause that is connected to all our development objectives:  health for all.

Everyone, everywhere, has the right to accessible, high-quality, affordable care that promotes physical and mental health, and addresses the needs of women and men, girls and boys, including during conflict and humanitarian crises.

Shockingly, half the world’s people are still waiting to exercise that right, with serious consequences for us all.  Every year, some 100 million people around the world are impoverished by catastrophic health‑care expenses.

Even when health care is available, it often fails to cover the full spectrum of human suffering.  Mental health conditions cause enormous anguish to individuals and their loved ones.  They have been neglected and stigmatized for too long.  This has to stop.

And weak health‑care systems pose a risk that goes far beyond national borders.

Health for all is an investment in humanity and in well-being and prosperity for everyone.  Universal health coverage has proven to be a catalyst for economic growth that benefits individuals, families, communities, businesses and economies.  Good health is both an outcome and a driver of economic and social progress.

That is why universal health coverage is at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, inseparable from all our work on sustainable development, from climate change to gender equality, from sustainable financing to zero hunger.

The 2030 Agenda is a generational opportunity to address the social drivers that lead to good health and well‑being.  It will help prevent illness through sustainable food systems, improved diets and access to safe water and sanitation.

It is a global call for transport policies that reduce pollution, and for strengthened governance that enables the efficient delivery of health services to people.  We must seize this chance.

Today is an important landmark on our journey to health for all.  The Political Declaration in front of us is the most comprehensive agreement ever reached on global health — a vision for universal health coverage by 2030.  I congratulate all Member States, and particularly the co-facilitators, Georgia and Thailand, for their efforts to reach consensus.

This is a significant achievement that will drive progress over the next decade on communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while addressing non-communicable disease and antimicrobial resistance through robust and resilient primary health‑care systems.  I saw first-hand the vital need for such systems when I met health workers and patients affected by the Ebola outbreak during my recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Political Declaration also states the need to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services and reproductive rights.  It is essential to protect the well‑being and dignity of women and girls.

Many countries are on the path towards achieving health for all by 2030.  Others will need to accelerate their efforts so that no country, community or person is left behind.  We urgently need to change the financing paradigm and step up the pace of investment in health for all.

Through joint efforts including the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All and Every Woman Every Child, the United Nations is ready to support you with our convening power, knowledge and expertise.  Multi-stakeholder partnerships and innovative cross-sectoral investments will be essential to success.

But, making universal health coverage a reality by 2030 depends first and foremost on bold national leadership.  Your presence here today confirms your commitment to this cause.  Let us all be champions of health for all.

For information media. Not an official record.