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Global health: what will be the international milestones in 2023?

Published 27 July 2023 in Analysis


April 7, 2023, World Health Day, also marks this year the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2015, all the governments of the world committed to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, including SDG 3 "Good Health and Well-Being", which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Significant progress has been made in global health in recent decades : increased life expectancy, reduced incidence of certain infectious diseases, increased immunization coverage, decline in maternal and child mortality...



Explore all Our World in Data graphs and interactive maps related to global health through this link


However, much remains to be done to achieve SDG 3 by 2030, including solving the persistent disparities between rich and low and middle income countries ; or countering the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc). 

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in health systems around the world, highlighting the need for greater investment in pandemic preparedness and public health in general.

Progress toward achieving SDG 3 is slow, and has been slowed or even reversed by the Covid-19 pandemic : according to the Goalkeepers 2022 report, at the current rate, none of the SDG 3 targets will be met by 2030. 

In a new open letter, civil society organizations call on France to invest and reaffirm its ambition, leadership and credibility for global health. In 2020, the year the Covid-19 pandemic was declared, only 8% of French development aid was directed to global health projects and programs. 


ODA and health financing needs

In 2021, Official Development Assistance provided by OECD DAC members to health projects amounted $18 billion, representing 10% of total commitments. 

To build health system resilience, the OECD report "Ready for the Next Crisis ? Investing in Health System Resilience" calls for a targeted annual investment of 1.4% of GDP for OECD countries compared to 2019 spending, with a priority on investing in the health workforce.

In addition, financing global health is one of the best investments possible: international aid can help create better conditions for development and allow for reductions in certain expenditures. For example, eradicating polio could save between $40 and $50 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). 

Seven years before the deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, what is the international community’s agenda to accelerate progress in health ? Highlights. 

2023 milestones for global health

 United Nations High-level Meetings (September 2023) 

In September 2023, the UN General Assembly will convene three high-level meetings: on universal health coverage (UHC), pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and tuberculosis eradication


 UN High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (September 21) 

This year’s World Health Day, under the theme "Health for All", recalls the importance of deploying universal health coverage (UHC), given that 30% of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services.

Target 3.8 of SDG 3 aims to ensure that by 2030, all people have access to the health care and services they need, regardless of their geographical, economic or social situation.

This meeting is an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of States to universal health coverage, after the previous meeting held in 2019, which resulted in a political declaration on the subject. "The State of Commitment to Universal Health Coverage (UHC)" report, published in 2021 by UHC 2030, explores whether States have met their commitments to UHC. This report will be updated this year. 


 UNGA High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (September 20) 

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for increased international cooperation to jointly address and respond to global health threats in a more coordinated manner. For example, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, unequal access to vaccines among countries delayed the response to the pandemic and caused an estimated 1.3 million preventable deaths in the first year of vaccination: while wealthier countries were already administering booster doses to their populations, some vulnerable countries still lacked access to the first doses. 

In addition, many low and middle-income countries face significant challenges in financing the response to pandemics. The 2023 Financing for Sustainable Development Report : Financing Sustainable Transformations points out, for example, that in developed countries, in 2020 and 2021, pandemic recovery expenditures amounted to $12,200 per capita. This is 30 times higher than in developing countries ($410) and 610 times higher than in least developed countries ($20).

In December 2021, the World Health Assembly created an intergovernmental negotiating body to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or a new international instrument to strengthen prevention, preparedness and response to pandemics. A preliminary draft agreement was unveiled at the WHO Executive Board on 1 February 2023. The agreement, which is expected to be adopted in 2024, should promote greater solidarity and equity among countries in the response to pandemics. The project is broadly supported by NGOs, despite reservations about the dispositions used in the text, which appear not ambitious enough to guarantee the application of measures.

This agreement would complement the International Health Regulations, which are incomplete and also being revised.

Civil society organizations mobilized on pandemic preparedness issues welcomed the meeting and presented their priorities : 

  • Elevate international action on pandemic PPR as a whole-of-government, whole-of-society priority, beyond the health sector.
  • Harness the HLM to drive long-term ownership and accountability for the pandemic PPR agenda.
  • Prioritize civil society and multi-stakeholder engagement at the earliest stages.


 UN High-level Meeting on the fight against tuberculosis (September 2022) 

While tuberculosis is preventable, treatable, and curable, 1.6 million deaths were recorded worldwide in 2022, making tuberculosis the deadliest infectious disease in the world, particularly in low and middle income countries. Eradicating TB is an achievable goal, but one that requires coordinated collective action at the global level.

This high-level meeting will therefore be an opportunity to re-mobilize Heads of State and take concrete steps to increase investment in research and development of new treatments, build strong health systems and promote universal health coverage.

Since 2000, an estimated 74 million TB deaths have been avoided as a result of international efforts. The Global Fund to Fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria provides 76% of global funding for TB programs. 

 Other events 

 Summit for a New Global Financial Pact (June 22-23) 

On June 22 and 23, 2023, France will host a Summit for a New Global Financing Pact to facilitate the access of vulnerable countries to the financing needed to address global crises: aiming to propose solutions to funding global issues, notably climate change, access to health and the fight against poverty.

To learn more about the health financing issues covered by this summit, check out the Center for Global Development’s note on the future of global health spending in a context of multiple crises, as well as an article on the links between rising debt and health spending. 


 Gavi and Spain High-Level Global Summit on Immunization 

Spain and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have announced that they will jointly organize a High-Level Summit on Immunization on June 13-14, 2023, which will bring together global health stakeholders (multilateral organizations, governments, companies, civil society representatives, academics, etc).

This high-level summit will have three objectives : 

  • To take stock of the current status of immunization in Gavi-supported low-income countries
  • Review Gavi’s performance at the midpoint of its current strategic period, which begins in January 2021
  • To envision new future immunization strategies to achieve immunization goals by 2025 and beyond.

Since 2021, Gavi has played an increasing role in the response to epidemics, including the delivery of more than 1.9 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 146 countries through COVAX. Gavi has also supported 32 epidemic response vaccination campaigns in 2022 and is currently reactivating its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program. The organization is also supporting the deployment of the first malaria vaccine this year. The high-level summit will provide an opportunity to discuss these initiatives and to consider new opportunities to meet immunization goals for 2025 and beyond. 


 2023 : the year of polio eradication ? 

Since 1988, the international community has been organized around the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Through surveillance and immunization, this partnership has resulted in a reduction in polio cases of more than 99% since 1988. As part of the partnership’s 2022-2026 strategy, 2023 could be the year of the last polio case. 

However, this goal can only be achieved with sufficient global funding, and only half of the funds needed have been raised so far.  

To learn more about the stakes in the fight against polio, discover the chapter of the Elyx Foundation’s 10ToGo program dedicated to this subject, whose launch was marked by the deployment of a campaign in France from March 31 to April 6.