Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

At the United Nations General Assembly this year, world leaders endorsed the political declaration on universal health coverage (UHC), the most comprehensive international health commitment in history.

Building on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Declaration of Astana on primary health care, the political declaration on UHC represents unprecedented commitment from all 193 UN Member States to a world in which no one misses out on essential health services simply because they cannot access or afford them.

Realising this vision, of course, will be no easy task. The latest edition of the Global Monitoring Report on UHC shows that on current trends, up to 5 billion people will lack access to essential health services by 2030. And every year, about 930 million people are exposed to catastrophic health spending.

Reversing these trends will require a relentless focus on people-centred primary health care, with an emphasis on promoting health and preventing disease. It will also require robust partnership. There are now many more international actors in global health than there were when the World Health Organization was founded in 1948. This creates complexities and challenges, but it also represents a unique opportunity to leverage our collective strength to accelerate progress towards the health-related SDG targets.

At the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Germany and President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, 12 multilateral health agencies have come together to launch the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All, to enhance our collaboration and turbocharge our impact. The initial commitment towards the Global Action Plan was launched at the World Health Summit in 2018 and the plan itself at the UN General Assembly in September 2019.

Together, we have committed to engage with countries to identify priorities, to accelerate progress through joint action in seven programmatic areas, to align our operational and financial strategies and policies, and to account for the results we deliver.

The 12 organizations that are signatories to the Action Plan are deeply aware that we cannot achieve its ambitions by ourselves. We need countries, communities and civil society, the private sector, academia, and other stakeholders and development partners to accelerate progress and increase the impact of our joint work through the next “decade of delivery” on the SDGs.

Now our focus must be on working together to implement the plan in countries.  Accordingly, the 12 agencies are focusing on identifying what countries want and how the agencies can work even more closely together to support countries, leading to accelerated impact on the health-related SDGs. 

WHO also recognizes that we need to change to ensure we deliver the results the world expects of us. As part of our current transformation project, we have developed a new strategy, new operating model, new business processes, new culture and a new approach to partnership.

WHO is delighted to strengthen its collaboration with the World Health Summit, which is now one of the foremost gatherings in global health. It brings together heads of state, ministers from different sectors, Nobel prize winners, leading CEOs, academics, foundations and civil society. It recognizes the voices of youth and women and aims to increase the diversity that successful global health action requires.

I am proud to be a founding member of the World Health Summit steering committee, and am delighted to see the way it has grown in size and stature since 2009. I am equally proud, together with Chancellor Merkel, President Macron and President Juncker, to be its patron.