UN High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

On the 23 September 2019, political leaders from around the world will come together for the first United Nations (UN) High-level Meeting (HLM) on universal health coverage  (UHC). This presents the global cancer community with a unique opportunity to contributing to securing political commitments that prioritise UHC in national agendas, and which provide a framework for its development and implementation.

What is a UN High-level Meeting? 

A UN HLM use the UN’s highest decision-making forum to bring together Heads of Governments from the 193 UN member states to address issues of global importance. Previous meetings have address pressing global health issues such as NCDs, TB, HIV/AIDS, and Antimicrobial resistance.

The meeting in September will be the fifth time that the UN has convened an HLM on a health-related topic. This forum provides an opportunity for UN Member States to work together to explore the issues of global importance and reach an agreement on cooperation measures and solutions to address them. 

What will it deliver?

The outcome from the HLM will be a Political Declaration on UHC which will support the vision set out in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.8. As part of Agenda 2030, all countries have committed to work towards achieving UHC by 2030 and the Political Declaration aims to provide a foundation for better global cooperation and consensus in order to make progress.

This will be the most politically significant meeting on UHC to date. The Political Declaration will be negotiated by UN Member States in New York and endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the UN HLM in September. As in many cases, we anticipate that this negotiation period will be incredibly important as it will help identify where there is global consensus, as well as sticking points which are likely to shape the implementation of UHC moving forwards. One important aspect of these negotiations will be reaffirming the primary responsibility of Governments to urgently and significantly scale up efforts to deliver UHC, with a particular focus on ensuring the financial sustainability of investment and the reequipment of resilient and patient-centred health systems. Find out more about how the political declaration has developed here 

How is this relevant to the cancer community? 

It is clear that UHC is the overarching paradigm for health over the coming years and presents several opportunities to advance cancer control globally as well as a number of challenges. 

To be effective UHC must include key measures to address the growing global cancer burden, as cancer is now second leading cause of mortality globally. The global cancer community are also well placed to engage in this discussion, using the momentum behind the 2017 cancer resolution and the calls for action on cervical cancer elimination and childhood cancer by WHO.

In addition to this, there is a strong body of evidence about the burden of cancer as well as cost-effective interventions to address some of the most common cancer types globally, and many of the interventions required for these cancers can be used as a foundation to build in services for rarer disease types over time. Making the case for the links between core investments for cancer and NCD services within the framework of UHC will be a priority for our advocacy work. 

There are, however, a number of challenges which stem from the misconception that cancer is too costly or complex for many countries to include within their UHC packages. As a result, we are encouraging all UICC Members to consider how you can support UHC discussions within your country or region and help make the case to ensure that cancer is not forgotten. 

How can I get involved? 

There are several opportunities to get involved between now and September, the most important of which is to start conversations with your national Ministry of Health to sensitise them about the importance of including cancer within national UHC packages.

  • Input into the UICC UHC priorities review – let us know your thoughts on what should be included in the Political Declaration on UHC. Deadline for input in 20:00 CET, Sunday 28 April. 
  • Participate in the Interactive stakeholder hearing on UHC  (29 April 2019), New York – This will be the first opportunity for civil society organisations, along with other stakeholders, to feed directly into the UHC preparations process. If you are ECOSOC accredited, or have special accreditation, you can register for the meeting here until 16 April. For those unable to join in person keep an eye out for opportunities to contribute to a joint statement or take part in the meeting virtually.
  • World Health Assembly (20-28 May), Geneva – discussions will include preparations for the UN HLM as well as important related topics such as access to medicines, primary health care, and follow-up to the UN HLM on NCDs. Let us know your thoughts on the proposed decisions and share key advocacy points with your country delegations.
  • Political Declaration Negotiations (June to August), New York – while negotiations take place in New York, the negotiators take direction from capitals. As such there is a great opportunity for national organisations to advocate with Governments for the inclusion of key language to support cancer control. UICC will support this in conversations with the Permanent Missions in Geneva. Keen to find out more or share reactions from your Government? Contact advocacy@uicc.org.
  • High-level Meeting on UHC (23 September), New York – this is an opportunity to encourage your Head of State or Government to participate in the meeting, to send a clear political statement that UHC is a priority for your country. This is a great opportunity to join your national delegation or participate as a civil society organisation to raise the importance of follow-up to the meeting and highlight successes or new UHC initiatives.

Useful resources

There are a large number of resources available on UHC and what it means for cancer and NCDs, the list below highlights a couple of key locations where you can find out more:

Last update: 
Tuesday 13 August 2019