Health On The Margins As G20 Leaders Meet

As world leaders attending this year’s Group of 20 (G20) Summit face off on thorny issues of trade, migration and climate change – health was likely to remain on the margins of the maelstrom, observers said. The two-day Summit of the 20 largest global economies opened today in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

G20 Health Ministerial Meeting in Mar del Plata, 4 October

Yesterday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, called upon global leaders to recognize health as a Summit priority.

“I look forward to taking the #HealthForAll message to world leaders at the #G20Summit”, tweeted Dr. Tedros, upon his arrival in Buenos Aires.

In a Declaration on 4 October after their meeting in Mar del Plata, Argentina, G20 Health Ministers had called out four key health challenges: childhood malnutrition; health systems strengthening; health systems response to disasters and pandemics; and battling anti-microbial resistance, including through more sustainable agriculture, as top priorities for Summit leaders.

It is unclear how the health ministers’ declaration will be reflected in the leaders’ summit this week.

Health references in any final statement emerging from the world leaders would most likely be couched in statements around agriculture and gender equality, observers at the summit said. Gender equality has been a cross-cutting theme of this year’s summit, hosted by the Argentinian presidency.

“Health may be referenced in the framework of the sustainable agriculture pillar or in the context of gender equity and health,” said one source, but it’s not clear yet if it will be anywhere else.”

This year’s gathering is expected to be one of the most important since G20 heads of state held their first summit in 2008, to devise a response to the global economic downturn.

Health has had a recognized role in summit dialogues since 2016, when the G20 agreed on the creation of a Health Working Group (HWG), under the German presidency with Argentina as co-chair.

Over the course of 2018, the Health Working Group met three times in Argentina, culminating in the G20 Health Ministers’ declaration.

“The Health Working Group has been an excellent opportunity to continue to address global health policies at the G20 level. It has enabled Argentina to bring perspectives to the table from Latin America and the Caribbean, and add a developing country dimension to the discussions,” states the G20 website. Health is one of a dozen workstreams in the Summit, with others including topics such as trade, finance and employment, but also agriculture, education, climate sustainability and the energy transition.


Image Credits: G20 Argentina.

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