Next week, from 18th to 26th September 2023, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will take place in New York and virtually. This is the 78th event of this kind at a time described by the UN as defined by “unprecedented setbacks on global progress”. WHO has shared a message in advance of this meeting, calling for leaders to “put health for all on the highest political agenda”. Urging the application of lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, the appeal coincides with “multiple humanitarian and climate-related crises”, which are converging to threaten lives and livelihoods around the world.  

“The Earth is getting hotter, faster. Poverty and food insecurity are worsening, amid war and inflation. Humanitarian needs are escalating in scale and cost. Inequality is deepening.”  
What’s on the agenda? 

The UN suggests that leaders will “discuss and debate” how we can “confront the global polycrisis” and accelerate actions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Central to the UNGA 78 event is the SDG Summit, taking place on 18th and 19th September. This marks the beginning of a “new phase of accelerated progress” towards the Sustainable Development Goals and draws on “high-level political guidance on transformative and accelerated actions” as we approach 2030.  


WHO’s call to action focuses on three main areas: strengthening pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, delivering universal health coverage (UHC), and ending TB. WHO suggests that the convening leaders “have a chance to demonstrate that health is an investment, not a cost”.  

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reflects that “if COVID-19 taught us nothing else, it’s that when health is at risk, everything is at risk”.  

“The pandemic caused enormous economic, social, and political upheaval, and stalled or reversed progress towards the health-related targets in the SDGs.”  

He describes the UNGA as “the moment” for leaders to show that “they have learned the painful lessons of the pandemic”, taking “concrete steps” towards a “healthier, safer, and fairer world for all”.  

WHO’s anniversary 

This year, 2023, the WHO celebrates 75 years of improving public health. Thus, the Director-General commented on the opportunity to remind the world of “what our founders affirmed”: 

“Health is not only a fundamental human right, but also the foundation of safe, peaceful, and prosperous societies.”  

Alongside senior leadership, the Director-General will participate in “high-level meetings” and other events.

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