12 Agencies Launch Global Action Plan To Speed Work On 2030 SDG Health Goals

A sweeping collaboration among 12 major global health organizations launched today at the United Nations General Assembly, promising to elevate and speed up work to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being, by 2030. The event featured remarks by the leaders of Germany, Norway and Ghana, the original initiators of the project.

“The plan is a historic commitment by 12 partner agencies working together towards achieving the goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all,” Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo told an event with senior officials from the 12 agencies today.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo speaks at the launch of the Global Action Plan.

The Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All: Strengthening collaboration among multilateral organizations to accelerate country progress on the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, sets out a “joint approach pledged by 12 global health, development and humanitarian agencies to better support governments to deliver on their commitments to achieve healthy lives and well-being for all by 2030.”

The World Health Organization is coordinating the work of the 12 organizations including: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, the World Bank and the World Bank-supported Global Financing Facility, The Global Fund, UNAIDS, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Population Fund, UNICEF, Unitaid, UN Women, World Bank, and the World Food Programme.

“The plan launching today is designed to get us back on track,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. All of the partners have unique strengths and a shared commitment, he said, but added, “It’s all about country focus, country priorities.” A WHO press release on the launch is available here.

Norway’s Prime Minister Solberg, who fostered the plan together with Germany and Ghana, said that it is a vital tool for accelerating progress on SDG3,”  She said the plan would help speed cooperation and avoid duplication of efforts among the 12 agencies involved.

“The aim is to coordinate efforts to promote better health, achieve faster results, and enhance accountability,” said Solberg, who noted that much more can be achieved with existing resources if there is better coordination. She highlighted progress made so far on the SDGs but said, “We are not on track to meet the health-related SDGs,” and “there is an urgent need for action.”

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg speaks at the launch of the Global Action Plan at UN Headquarters.

Efforts to achieve SDG 3, which has nine ambitious targets for 2030, including dramatic reductions in the world’s leading causes of death and disease; universal health coverage; stronger healthcare systems; and healthier environments, must also be more multi-sectoral, she added.

“I believe a strong society invests in its citizens,” said Solberg. “The social, political and economic benefits are enormous.” Health-related SDGs should not only be on the agenda of health ministers, it should be on the agenda of all, for instance, it is related to tax systems, finance, and information, she said. “We must do it in coordination with national leadership. We must do more, we must do it differently, and we must do it together.”

‘We Have To Speed Up Progress’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the gathering that partly as a result of the Ebola outbreak in central Africa, Germany had become more focused on how WHO and other health-related UN agencies could work more efficiently together to advance health-related SDG goals. She, along with Akufo-Addo and Solberg, asked the UN agencies to work with other leading health partners on an action plan as to how the SDG3 goal could be attained.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, speaks at the launch of the Global Action Plan.

She said the 12 agencies have helped advance the SDGs, and that they have a total of $12.7 billion between them at their disposal, representing some two-thirds of international development assistance overall. With today’s launch, she said, “There is good news now, because the Global Action Plan is actually on track.” Now, Merkel said, “we have to speed up the process, get faster progress” in seven areas of opportunity for accelerated action on the SDGs that have been highlighted by the agencies’ work.

The  “7 accelerator themes” that are the focus include: primary health care; sustainable financing for health; community and civil society engagement; determinants of health; innovative programming in fragile and vulnerable settings and for disease outbreak responses; research and development, innovation and access; and data and digital health.

Across those themes, the plan commits the agencies to four overall goals: engage with countries to better identify priorities and implement; enhance accountability; accelerate progress in countries through joint actions; and align in support of countries by harmonizing operational and financial strategies and policies.

Representatives of many other organizations spoke in support of the action plan, some calling for greater attention to the people they represent such as youth, women, and those unable to afford health care. All committed to collaboration. The heads of UNICEF, Global Fund, Gavi, UNFPA, UNAIDS, and others were present and made supportive remarks.

Akufo-Addo said, “Good health is fundamental to all we do and hope to do. It is the reason why the right to health is enshrined in Ghana’s constitution.” He said a key challenge to achieving SDG3 is efficient use of resources, which is why he joined with the Norwegian and German leaders to urge the WHO to coordinate this initiative.

Merkel added that it is “very important” that all of these actions are not “one size fits all but are tailor-made” so each of these countries feels some ownership. “It is crucial that we take those countries along,” she said, if not it will not be successful.

“Once we have an intrinsically logical concept then we ought to help those countries understand,” Merkel said in translation from German. WHO will coordinate the various efforts by groups.  “And we need donors who give funding but we also need recipients of this funding who use it sensibly,” she said.

“Our task is not finished,” and Germany and Norway will remain committed, she continued. They already have 24 countries in on this, so that means “the acceptance among member states continues to increase,” and they need to have more, she said.

Global Action Plan launch at UN Headquarters in New York City.

The African Union in a statement on the GAP plan, said, “We believe universal health coverage is within reach, it is not impossible.” But the region will need help with the funding gap, and further work on alignment with international guidelines. Countries have shown they can mobilize some resources for health domestically, she said.

Dr Tedros highlighted that the organizations should work in alignment, not duplication, and that the plan would only bring change if implemented at the country level. Quoting an Ethiopian proverb, he said, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up the line,” but when they work individually, “our webs aren’t strong enough.”

Leaders of the 12 agencies that launched the Global Action Plan gather at the launch event.

Image Credits: Ben Hartschuh, Tom Gallo.

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