On 14 December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on “Global health and foreign policy: strengthening health system resilience through affordable health care for all”, A/RES/75/130. The resolution was adopted by vote, 181-1-0, in contrast to previous resolutions on the topic adopted yearly by consensus based on proposals by the core group of the Global Health and Foreign Policy Initiative.
The draft resolution A/75/L.41 was presented by Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Mali, Mongolia, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam. Informal consultations were led by Indonesia.
The resolution reflects consensus on a number of issues. One core issue is the need for continued leadership, multilateral commitment and collaboration to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution also calls for urgent support to fund and close the funding gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its mechanisms, such as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, and to support equitable distribution of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and further explore innovative financing mechanisms aimed at ensuring continuity and strengthening of essential health services. The resolution also notes the need for all States parties to fully implement and comply with the International Health Regulations (2005) which requires adequate capacity of all countries to prevent, detect, assess, notify and respond to public health threats, and support research and development, to prevent and control emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that pose a risk to global public health. It also calls upon Member States to strengthen the resilience of their health systems as an integral part of their preparedness for health emergencies.
As in past years, the resolution highlights the need to address health inequities and inequalities, the importance of the 2030 Agenda and scaling up efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), acknowledging that primary health care is a cornerstone of a sustainable health system for UHC. It urges Member States to strengthen national health systems through ensuring affordable health care for all, with a focus on primary health care, as well as the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality health services and quality, safe, effective, affordable and essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and health technologies.
Illicit financial flows, in particular those caused by tax evasion, corruption and transnational organized crime, are noted as reducing the availability of vital resources for responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and financing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Accordingly, the resolution calls upon Member States to address the challenges of preventing and combating illicit financial flows and strengthening international cooperation and good practices on assets return and recovery.
The resolution calls for action by Member States to ensure access to medicines as one of the fundamental elements of a robust health system based on universal health coverage. In this regard, the resolution reaffirms the 2001 World Trade Organization Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which recognizes that intellectual property rights should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of the right of Member States to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all. The resolution also adds, at the request of the EU, that actions should not undermine incentives to innovation. The resolution also reaffirms the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, designed to promote medicinal innovation, build capacity and improve access to medicines, and encourages further discussions on access to medicines.
Importantly, the resolution calls for increasing transparency of prices of medicines, vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, assistive products, cell- and gene-based therapies and other health technologies across the value chain, including through improved regulations, in accordance with national and regional legal frameworks and contexts, to address the global concern about the high prices of some health products. In this regard, it encourages the WHO to continue to convene the Fair Pricing Forum to discuss the affordability and transparency of prices and costs relating to health products as one of the fundamental features of a robust health system based on universal health coverage.
The resolution also notes the need to enhance cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to address antimicrobial resistance, using an integrated and systems-based One Health approach, and in this regard welcoming the launch of the One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Among the issues that were contested, was whether to refer to the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak and to the ongoing independent evaluation of the international health response to COVID-19, which were not included the resolution.
The US disassociated from references to the WHO in the text, in particular the reference to recognizing the key leadership role of the World Health Organization within the broader United Nations response, noting that it has submitted a notice of withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which, according to the US statement, will become effective on July 6, 2021.
The full text of the resolution A/RES/75/130
(communication of South Center)