25.09.2019 Political declaration adopted at the first high-level universal health coverage meeting

Michael Herbst stands in front of the UN General Assembly building in New York, U.S.A.
“It’s time now for the UN General Assembly to realise the global commitment to ‘Leave No One Behind’ and to speed up efforts to better include persons with disabilities in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” said CBM Germany’s Head of Advocacy Michael Herbst in front of the UN headquarters in New York on 23 September 2019. ©CBM

The United Nations held the first ever high-level meeting on universal health coverage this week as part of the 74th General Assembly.

The aim of the meeting was to secure political commitments from Heads of State and Governments to accelerate achieving universal health coverage by 2030 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This includes financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

The outcome of the meeting was the formal approval of a pre-agreed political declaration on universal health coverage. You can read this political declaration here.

The declaration explicitly mentions neglected tropical diseases as part of inclusive eye health well as mental health, two important initiatives of CBM.

This is the first reference to eye health at the United Nations and an important step in comprehensive health coverage.

As for mental health and psychosocial disability, the declaration not only mentions mental health as an “essential component of universal health coverage,” but outlines more specific requirements. Scaling up services to reduce the treatment gap remains a priority, in addition to providing psychosocial support.  

The document also declares an increase access to health services for all persons with disabilities, declaring to “remove physical, attitudinal, social, structural, and financial barriers, provide quality standard of care and scale up efforts for their empowerment and inclusion, noting that persons with disabilities, representing 15% of the global population, continue to experience unmet health needs.”

CBM representatives were in New York advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in universal health coverage. CBM calls for faster and more consistent implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly when it comes to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in global sustainable development.

The 2030 Agenda was adopted four years ago, but the latest figures and reports suggest that the international community has failed in places, at least for some of the people and the Sustainable Development Goals will not be realised by 2030.

"When it comes to hunger, it looks even worse today than it did in 2015. Inequality remains massive. Some people are rich, earn a lot of money and have more opportunities in life; others do not. They usually have empty plates, no financial reserves and no opportunities," criticised Michael Herbst, Head of Advocacy at CBM Germany.

"The UN must turn now on the right path and finally accelerate, otherwise they will not even come close to the finish line until 2030."

More than ever, there is a need for programmes like those CBM supports for people who are particularly disadvantaged, including those with disabilities trapped in the cycle of poverty, to ensure they do not get left behind in community development and in humanitarian crises.