January 11, 2019

Setting The Stage For 2019: A Look Back At The UNGA 2018

Each year, world leaders gather in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to engage in policymaking discussions, side events, and more. At the 2018 UNGA, all eyes were on two high-level meetings to address the impact of a couple of pressing global health issues – noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and tuberculosis (TB). The outcome of these past meetings will lead into and set the tone for several discussions this year about global health challenges, including those at this month’s World Health Organization Executive Board meeting.

It was particularly exciting to see some common themes emerge: the value of the private sector in addressing these global health problems and the importance of convening all stakeholders to work together. As we start the new year and look forward to further discussion around these issues, let’s look back at five moments to remember from the UNGA 2018:

  1. New TB and NCD resolutions: World leaders got it right by adopting two resolutions on these urgent global health issues, making sure to include input from a variety of stakeholders, from civil society to the private sector. The first-ever high-level meeting on TB, for example, resulted in a resolution that renewed a commitment to encouraging public-private cooperation to facilitate the development of new medicines. The NCD side, meanwhile, featured an afternoon panel to explore how governments can engage a variety of stakeholders more effectively.
  2. Bill Gates’ speech: Many gathered to hear Bill Gates deliver the keynote address during the high-level TB meeting. Gates, cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, noted that private sector engagement is critical to prevention efforts and stated, “The private sector has the skills to play a key role in this R&D effort, including pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, which know how to translate scientific understanding into scalable, life-saving products.”
  3. TB Innovation Summit: Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in various side events between meetings. The TB Innovation Summit, hosted by the Stop TB Partnership, Johnson & Johnson, and the World Economic Forum, brought together a mix of private and public sector leaders along with TB survivors and academics to speak about the vital role of innovation and technology in the fight against TB. 
  4. Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ tweet: Following the aforementioned summit, Dr. Tedros took to Twitter to express a renewed call to action to end TB, noting, “World leaders, innovators & public health professionals are coming to unite against a common foe. It’s clear that to #EndTB we need new tools, new ideas, & new partnerships, including with the private sector.”
  5. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s speech: Sec. Azar’s speech in front of the UNGA underscored the dynamic nature of global health challenges and how world leaders must embrace a strategic plan that encourages innovation and collaboration. His remarks highlighted the importance of intellectual property rights in the development of new medicines and tools, and reminded others that “respect for intellectual property rights is not just an important international legal obligation, but also the very foundation of the innovation economy that we need to fight TB and other deadly diseases.”