The United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF), a mechanism that tracks and advances the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was convened virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on 7–16 July 2020, on the theme “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development “. Given the considerable impact of the pandemic on human health and the global economy, the Forum strongly focused on the potential impact of the pandemic on the implementation of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, and how the international community can respond and get back on track to achieving the sustainable development agenda.
WHO actively participated in the Forum, by contributing to the background materials and agenda for four of the six official thematic sessions (Advancing human well-being; Ending hunger and achieving food security for all; Protecting the planet and building resilience; Sharing economic benefits) as well as in the virtual special events, side events and the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The 47 countries that presented VNRs, echoed the need to undertake substantial measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the proper functioning, preparedness and strengthening of health systems.
The eight WHO co-sponsored side events, focused on UHC and investing in health; tobacco control, COVID-19 and children; global strategy to leave no one behind during the COVID-19 pandemic; COVID-19 vaccines, Nutrition, as well as education in time of COVID-19, among others.
WHO’s main side event, co-hosted by Dr. Nata Menabde of the WHO office at the UN, focused on Investing in Health: the Key to Building Back Better from COVID-19 and Accelerating Progress for UHC and Sustainable Development, was organized in collaboration with the Group of Friends of UHC and Global Health and UHC2030. It addressed the extent to which COVID-19 has endangered global health and human security, threatening the progress made on the SDGs, as well as best practices and lessons learned to help accelerate response and recovery. Dr. Tedrosaddressed the meeting in a video message, urging leaders to fulfil the commitments made in the UHC Political Declaration to build back better, accelerate action to achieve the SDGs, and leave no one behind.
WHO was also represented by Mr. Stewart Simonson, Head of the WHO Office at the UN, at a side event on “Education and the Trying Times of COVID-19”, organized by theMission of the State of Qatar to the UN. He highlighted the vulnerability of children and young people due to the health and socioeconomic impacts resulting from the pandemic and stressed the need for national health system reform to be led by a strong multi-sectoral and whole-of-government approach.
The WHO VNR lab event cosponsored by the Financing for Sustainable Development Office of UNDESA and UHC2030, featuring Dr. Agnes Soucat, Director of Health Systems Governance and Financing at WHO, raised awareness of the health financing gaps as well as showcased solutions to financing health systems and build on lessons learned from COVID-19.
WHO also participated in thevirtualSDG Media Zone focusing on sustainability, solidarity and solutions, as the pillars for recovering back better. Dr Bruce Aylward, Epidemiologist and Senior Advisor to the WHO Director-General, highlighted the importance of vaccines in the global response efforts to COVID-19 and the crucial need for equitable access to them, once they become available.
Prior to officially concluding the Forum, the ECOSOC President, unveiled new UN stamps which pay tribute to frontline workers in the pandemic. Proceeds from an added surcharge will go directly to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to support the WHO and partners.