Health is a human right. Political commitment and partnerships will be crucial in bringing it to life. Let us show the world that we are ready to bridge the gaps in health-care coverage worldwide and deliver health for all.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, World Health Day Message, New York, 2019
Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy (HALE) have both increased by over 8% globally between 2000 and 2016, with the biggest gains being reported in low-income countries. Despite these positive trends low-income and lower-middle-income countries continue to suffer from the poorest overall health outcomes, lagging far behind the global average. Only between one third and one half of the world’s population was able to obtain essential health services in 2017 (World health statistics 2020: monitoring health for the SDGs, sustainable development goals).
The United Nations system, including through the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), has been championing the importance of promoting universal health coverage and equitable access to quality health services for all with a view to building healthy societies and economies and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). CEB, recognizing the interlinked nature of the SDGs, has emphasized the need to address social, economic and environmental factors affecting health, and highlighted healthy societies as one of the prerequisites for achieving all of the SDGs.
“Over the course of 2020, the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, infected millions of people and upended the global economy. From the outset of the pandemic, the United Nations system mobilized early and comprehensively. It led on the global health response, provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, established instruments for rapid responses to the socio-economic impact and laid out a broad policy agenda for action on all fronts. It also provided logistics, common services and operational support to governments and other partners around the world on the front lines of the pandemic, as they mounted national responses to this new virus and unprecedented global challenge.”
- From the UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19: Saving Lives, Protecting Societies, Recovering Better, launched by the UN Secretary-General.
- For more information, please visit the United Nations COVID-19 Response webpage.
CEB deliberations in the context of COVID-19
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, key CEB focus areas – from tackling inequalities, to innovating UN data and statistics, to promoting climate action and utilizing nature-based solutions – have taken on added significance and constitute important contributions towards efforts to build back better.
CEB’s first regular session of 2020, held in an abbreviated virtual format, reflected on the positioning of the multilateral system in the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Principals recognized that deep-rooted and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities were being magnified by the pandemic, affirming the salience and urgency of HLCP’s renewed collective effort through its Inequalities Task Team, which, in October 2020, produced a short policy brief on “COVID-19, inequalities and building back better”.
CEB members further reflected on the role of the UN system in supporting Member States: (i) to unlock additional financing for the COVID-19 response while sustaining the ambition for the Decade of Action; and (ii) to align the response to COVID-19 within national economic policies and financial systems with the 2030 Agenda.
Recognizing that protecting nature will be critical to preventing future pandemics, the Board, in considering ways to reverse the current trajectory of biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, while rebuilding stronger and more resilient economies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw the need for a stronger focus on nature across the whole UN system.
The global drug problem, which affects approximately 275 million people, presents a complex global challenge that is closely interlinked with sustainable development, peace and security and human rights. Combatting the problem is therefore integral to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 3 - Good health and well-being. By adopting the outcome document of the 2016 special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem”, global leaders reaffirmed the need to address the key causes and consequences of the world drug problem in a coherent and coordinated manner.
In response to the call of Member States to United Nations system entities to strengthen inter-agency coordination and enhance coherence at all levels with regard to the world drug problem, CEB adopted a common position among United Nations system entities to support the implementation of international drug control policy through effective inter-agency collaboration, in November 2018. At its first regular session of 2023, when CEB took up the subject of international drug policy from a human rights perspective, inter alia, entities were urged to persist in pursuing an evolution towards a more human rights-based and health-based, including mental health, approach in drug policy. Additional information can be found on the Drug Policies topic page.
Within the context of CEB, Board members have been receiving updates on health emergencies, and, where appropriate, gave guidance on the UN system response, including the Western African Ebola virus epidemic 2013-2016 and more recently the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 2018-2020.
CEB members have long recognized the devastating consequences and impact of HIV/AIDS on people affected and for different sectors of the economy and the structures of society, including the educational systems of many countries. The fight against HIV/AIDS has been a recurring theme of CEB deliberations, with members emphasizing the need for continued prevention, treatment, care and support, as well as countering HIV-related stigma and discrimination.