After Rio: Let’s start moving towards the Future We Want
“Disappointing”, “missed opportunity”, “weak commitments”… reaction to Rio+20 has been broadly negative. With lack of consensus among countries many of us had been gearing up for the possibility of the summit ending without any final statement. Instead, in a bid to find compromise and avoid complete disaster, the content of the text failed to really satisfy anyone at all. Despite the ambitious title “The Future We Want,” the majority of commentators seem to have been left largely disappointed by the summit’s outcomes.
The truth for those of us with a focus on health however is that having seen the initial drafts circulated in advance of the Summit we have little to complain about after all. Health, initially absent from the text, has had its’ relationship with sustainable development firmly recognized and a whole health and population section acknowledges the need to:
- Work toward Universal Health Coverage
- Strengthen health systems;
- Support the leadership of WHO;
- Continue working to address major infectious diseases;
- Work against non-infectious ones;
- Comply with Beijing, Cairo and the TRIPs flexibilities;
- Reduce infant and maternal mortality;
- Reach universal access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health.
9 articles supporting International Public Health issues gives us small cause for optimism. Of course the outcome text by itself means relatively little, with more divergent points than a Christmas tree and no tangible political commitments anywhere to be seen. It does, though, mark the beginning of the next phase of negotiations, one that will allow less space for pleasing everyone and compromise but that will ultimately offer a clear roadmap towards achieving the “Future We Want”; ideally with specific, measurable and time-bound goals.
A final statement like Rio+20’s, with no less than 286 articles, should not happen again. With the need to prioritise aggressively and less space for health, the road to the Sustainable Development Goals will not be easy. New agreements must reflect the challenges of the new global landscape, accounting for new health challenges, widening inequality and the increased proportion of the world’s poor in middle-income countries.
Action for Global Health and the undersigned organizations of the CSO Call to action on universal health coverage understand that the concept of Universal Health Coverage merges better health indicators, equity, wealth redistribution and citizen’s protection against impoverishment. It is the best option we have for including health in the post MDG agenda. According to Margaret Chan, “UHC is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer”, and can be the umbrella that represents all health constituencies and activists. To take this forward we need to define indicators of service provision and equity of health systems that really reflect people’s needs. If we do this we can take a big step towards the future we want.
Liliana Marcos is AfGH Advocacy officer at FPFE, Spain;