Opening remarks by Dr Shin Young-Soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Regional consultation on achieving the SDGS in the Western Pacific Region
Honourable guests, distinguished participants,
ladies and gentlemen:
Good morning and welcome to this first consultation on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Western Pacific Region.
This is the first year of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are at the beginning of a new era in global health and development.
The SDGs will guide global, regional and national development efforts until 2030 — including WHO's collaboration with Member States.
It is still early, but we are off to a good start in the Western Pacific Region. We are already working hard to support Member States with this new agenda.
Last year, we had a high-level event on the SDGs during the session of the Regional Committee. Now, we are here with experts and Member States to discuss the draft regional action agenda and the best way forward.
In the end, countries will need to select their priorities and develop their pathways towards achieving the SDGs.
To better understand the way forward, we should first examine our experiences with the Millennium Development Goals.
Health played a strong role in the MDGs, with a few disease-focused targets. This helped mobilize funds and partners — such as the Global Fund and Gavi — and led to significant successes.
The MDGs also showed us ways to make our support more efficient and effective. We saw that vertical programmes and “one-size-fits-all” approaches often create overlapping investments in health. While helpful, these investments might not contribute to building sustainable health infrastructure, especially at the community level.
In reality, the SDGs are much broader than MDGs. They are based on a new principle: that today's health and development challenges are complex, integrated and interconnected.
SDGs also stress that development should leave no one behind. The SDGs include ALL people in ALL countries — not ONLY developing countries.
Take SDG 3, for example. It is about ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.
The goal includes the unfinished business of the MDGs, and goes further to include noncommunicable diseases, pollution and tobacco control.
Core health issues can also be found in other SDGs— such as nutrition in Goal 2, violence against women in Goal 5, and birth registration in Goal 16. Universal health coverage, or UHC, is a separate SDG target. UHC brings together efforts across health programmes — because the interlinked nature of health goals requires a whole-of-systems approach to build stronger health infrastructure.
Ensuring health for all is not only about improving services. The social determinants of health must also be addressed. This is why the SDG agenda includes a broad range of determinants of health.
The SDGs will require the health sector to tackle many challenges with causes outside of the health sector — such as NCDs, outbreaks and emergencies, and climate change impacts on health.
These challenges require whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches. Coordination and implementation will create new roles for the health sector—and new ways of working for WHO.
For this reason, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific has developed a draft regional action plan to help guide implementation of the SDGs.
The action plan tries to answer four questions:
- What are countries aiming to achieve and how will they know?
- What are the policy and programme priorities for leaving no one behind?
- How will countries put their priorities into effect?
- How can the health sector drive this agenda?
I look forward to your discussions. Consultations like this are invaluable, as we share ideas and plans — and agree on ways forward.
Your discussion and feedback will help finalize the draft action plan.
The SDGs challenge all of us to change our way of thinking about society and development — working together for shared prosperity and sustained progress — with a new vision for a healthy planet.