[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Economic and Social Affairs]
Priority actions and recommendations for achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and ensuring progress in the areas of access to health care, health system strengthening, aid delivery and effectiveness are the focus of discussions during the High-level Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), taking place in Geneva from 6 to 9 July. [High-level Segment statements] [webcast]
More than 500 participants representing governments, multilateral organizations, aid agencies, civil society, private sector and academia will assess and recommend how the world, in the face of the global financial and economic crisis, can maintain and accelerate its commitments to global public health and ensure the MDGs are achieved.
In his most recent report to ECOSOC on the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the "current global financial crisis poses a new set of challenges to the achievement of health goals. As resources shrink, the pressure for national Governments and international partners to cut their resource allocations to the health sector will be high. In response, a special effort will need to be made to ensure that previous commitments are not abandoned, to seek new ways of financing health expenditures, and to find smarter ways of working with limited resources."
Under the overall theme of the 2009 AMR, "Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health", the Council will organize a series of panels and roundtable discussions. It will also provide an opportunity for eight countries (Bolivia, China, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Japan, Mali, Sri Lanka and Sudan) to report on the progress they have made in the implementation of the United Nations Development Agenda, with a specific focus on the health-related goals.
According to ECOSOC President Sylvie Lucas who delivered the opening remarks, "Accomplishing the health goals remains a daunting task for many countries as improving health outcomes is linked not only to the provision of health services but also to the active involvement of decision-makers in sectors like education, agriculture, finance and foreign affairs, to name just a few."
In his statement at the opening of the High-Level Segment, the Secretary-General launched the Millennium Development Goals Report 2009. The report warns that, despite many successes, overall progress has been too slow for most of the targets to be met by 2015.
"We cannot allow an unfavourable economic climate to undermine the commitments made in 2000," Mr. Ban urges in the foreword to the MDG Report. "The global community cannot turn its back on the poor and the vulnerable." The report shows that the goals are within reach, and even in the very poor countries, with strong political commitment and sufficient and sustained funding.
Other high-profile figures present at the opening of the High-level Segment were the President of the Swiss Confederation, Hans-Rudolf Merz; and Princess Muna al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
During the four-day segment, ECOSOC is holding its 2009 Innovation Fair, where Member States, civil society and UN system representatives will discover at first hand some of the innovative projects and products that can have a positive impact on the achievement of the health-related MDGs.
On 6 July, Mr. Ban opened the Innovation Fair and launched a series of six ECOSOC stamps on the theme of global public health, designed and produced by the United Nations Postal Administration. It is the first time that the Postal Administration has released stamps featuring the work of an intergovernmental body.
At the closing of the High-level Segment on 9 July, ECOSOC is expected to adopt a ministerial declaration, which will bring together concrete recommendations on how to accelerate progress on the global public health agenda.