UN General Assembly adopts third resolution on global health and foreign policy

10 December 2010

On Thursday, 9 December the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/65/L.27 on the issue of global health and foreign policy. The resolution was passed following presentations by Brazil, representing the group of countries who comprise the initiative of global health and foreign policy (Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, South Africa, and Thailand), Belgium, representing the EU, India, representing the Asian countries, Vietnam, speaking on behalf of the ASEAN member states, Switzerland, the USA, Japan, Australia, and the Holy See. The text of the resolution can be accessed at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/65/L.27

Member state commentary on the resolution can be found below


As the Assembly turned to the next item on its agenda today, REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) introduced the draft text on global health and foreign policy (document A/65/L.27) on behalf of the seven founding members of the same-titled Initiative, which also included Norway, South Africa, Thailand, France, Senegal and Indonesia. The Initiative was created by a commitment to applying the health lens to foreign policy processes and actions, and examined ways in which policy could support global health outcomes. Links between those areas suggested the need for more understanding with a view to "making globalization work for all".

The resolution paid tribute to international efforts related to health and welcomed conferences to be held next year, such as the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health and the Conference on Human Resources for Health, Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Diseases. The first chapter of its operative section, on "Health-related Millennium Development Goals", seized momentum generated at the Assembly's High-Level Plenary Meeting in September on the Goals. The second chapter, on "Governance for Global Health", acknowledged the need to make the global health architecture more effective, efficient and responsive. Follow-up actions encouraged States to consider health in the formulation of foreign policy and development cooperation. In sum, the text had the merit of consolidating international initiatives that impacted health and requested continued support.

PIERRE CHARLIER (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that at last year's debate, his delegation had highlighted that discussions on health and foreign policy cut across two core areas which formed the foundation of the United Nations system: the fight against poverty and the pursuit of peace and human security. The European Union welcomed the latest Secretary-General's report prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) with its focus on strengthening global health and foreign policy coordination and coherence. It believed that the international community should continue to enhance its collective understanding of how health outcomes were affected by different aspects of foreign policy, including efforts to tackle climate change, regional responses to food insecurity and others. The cross-cutting aspects of health for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals should be well understood.

The European Union believed that a strong political leadership would remain crucial going forward if the world was to achieve improved health outcomes, especially in women's health and tackling gender inequality. He also believed that broader partnerships such as those with civil society and the private sector were important in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Finally, he said, the delegations believed that discussions on global health and foreign policy in New York must continue to build on and effectively come together with the substance and technical expertise handled in Geneva.

M.S. PURI (India), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, stated that making progress on health-related Millennium Goals would entail a multisectoral approach that placed equal emphasis on the attainment of all the other goals, ranging from poverty and hunger eradication, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women to promoting global partnership and achieving environmental sustainability, including in the areas of safe water and sanitation. In that regard, the Asian Group supported the "Sustainable Sanitation Five Year Drive" initiated by the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. It also welcomed the introduction of the Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health and expected that strategy to be implemented by a wide range of partners in a well-harmonized and integrated manner.

He noted that substantial gaps persisted in the realization of the right of every person to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Hence, the role of foreign policy and international cooperation could not be overemphasized, in particular ODA-related commitments, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, among others. Global health must be a priority consideration when dealing with trade issues, he continued. The Asian Group supported the General Assembly's continued engagement in global health concerns and looked forward to participating actively with high-level meetings currently being planned on the issue of non-communicable diseases as well as the United Nations Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Review in 2011.

Speaking in his national capacity on India's progress in the field of health, he noted that in 2005 the Government had launched its flagship National Rural Health Mission, which continued to be one of the biggest interventions of its kind in the health sector in the world. India was presently spending over $3.5 billion each year on health services. The delegation called on all countries to provide technical assistance to other countries to support, rather than hinder or create barriers to, such legitimate efforts.

LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), in his statement on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said collective cooperation in health issues had been, and was considered to be, one of the main components of the process of building the ASEAN community, such that ASEAN Ministers of Health at their meeting in Singapore last July endorsed the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Health and Development (2010-2015) to guide the regional grouping's health cooperation activities to achieve strategic objectives enshrined in its sociocultural community blueprint. Since the adoption in Indonesia in 2000 of the vision of "Healthy ASEAN 2020", serious efforts had been made to meet the commitment of placing health "at the centre of development", and strengthening ASEAN cooperation in health to ensure that all the region's peoples were mentally and physically healthy, and living in harmony in safe surroundings.

Noting that regional cooperation in response to communicable diseases and pandemics had proven to be effective and timely over the past years, particularly during the alarming spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza and H1N1 influenza, he pointed out that apart from such intra-organization cooperation, ASEAN attached great importance to strengthening cooperation with outside partners, especially with the United Nations specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNDP, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and UNICEF, and other international organizations like the World Animal Health Organization.

In that regard, ASEAN counted on the continued support and cooperation of the United Nations and the international community in addressing global and regional health issues and called for closer links between global health and foreign policy issues on the international agenda in a wide range of cooperation frameworks.

THOMAS GÜRBER ( Switzerland) said his country was committed to offering training in the fields of diplomacy and health. At the national level, it was working to implement the principles of coordination and coherence among health, development and foreign policy. At the international level, the question of governance for global health was equally urgent, with the emergence of a complex architecture in that field on one hand, and increased interdependence among various sectors of public policy on the other. It was a fact to bear in mind in the conduct of foreign policy, meaning there was a need to reflect on the coherence and effectiveness of the system and to ensure that health systems were strengthened.

In that context he welcomed the Secretary-General's Action Plan on Maternal and Child Health, saying Switzerland also wished to see the launch of a "process of reflection" on governance for global health. By "governance", he meant mechanisms to enable actors to manage problems related to global health jointly and coherently. "It is not a question of creating new structures, which would make the existing architecture even more cumbersome," he said, but rather of creating rules of the game that were mutually acceptable. Reflection should also take place within the World Health Organization, whose founding mandate must be adapted to current realities.

FREDERICK D. BARTON ( United States) said his delegation was pleased that the Assembly was unified in its promotion of global health and its links to foreign policy. Global health was central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and therefore it was necessary for world leaders to face related challenges. The global health initiative focused on many issues including HIV/AIDS, malaria, nutrition, health systems, and others.

Strengthening public health systems in the face of challenges was essential, and the rise of non-communicable diseases meant that cross-sectoral programmes would be critical in that regard, he said. While the World Health Organization was the essential United Nations leader in global health, new partnerships - including public-private partnerships - were also making strides. There was a need for all country-level actors to work together in these respects. In closing, he said that progress in global health required coherence in global foreign policy and health policies.

TAKESHI OSUGA ( Japan) described global health as one of the main pillars of his country's foreign policy and explained that health was an essential component for human security and prosperous society. The reality, however, was that achievement to date in reducing the mortality rate of infants and pregnant women was still far short of the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals, and additional, drastic efforts were thus needed. He recalled Japan's announced new contribution in the field of health whereby the country would provide $5 billion to the health sector over the course of the next five years, including an $800 million contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Japan hoped that with that contribution, announced by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at September's High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, and in cooperation with other partners, the lives of almost 700,000 mothers and more than 11 million children would be saved. Further, he called on developing countries, donors and international organizations to make concerted efforts in implementing optimal assistance measures in maternal and child health.

He said that Japan was convinced that the concept of human security contained in the outcome document of the High-Level Plenary Meeting was a relevant instrument in the endeavour to attain the Goals, in particular those related to health. Finally, he said that to follow up on commitments made at the High-Level Plenary Meeting, and thus lead efforts of the international community towards achieving the Goals, Japan proposed to convene an international conference next spring in Japan in order to strengthen the coordination among a broad range of stakeholders, including governments, international organizations and non-governmental groups, he added.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said global health had always been a priority for his Government. The World Health Organization (WHO) was among the most regionalized specialized agencies and Australia had had a long, productive collaboration in addressing non-communicable diseases, emerging infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness. In recent years, Australia had taken a "whole of Government" approach in its response to major policy challenges. Its foreign policy debate had been informed by HIV/AIDS and the influenza pandemic alike, recognizing that gains could be reversed by challenges to health systems. The Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health provided a crystallized view of progress to be made to reach Millennium Goals 4 (child health) and 5 (maternal health).

He hoped next September's meeting on non-communicable diseases and the challenges posed for developing countries would address multisectoral actions, like ensuring trade and agricultural policies supported healthy lifestyles. Australia was supporting its neighbours in addressing such diseases. On HIV/AIDS, he underscored the importance of policy coherence in that field, saying a policy lens must be applied to that issue, which was far more than simply a health problem. The pandemic was a social, political, economic and cultural issue requiring Governments to understand the drivers of their own epidemic, to share knowledge and generate funding to tackle it.







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