Celebrating 20 years of the Ljubljana Charter

Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija / Slovene Press Agency

This year, the WHO European Region celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Ljubljana Charter on Reforming Health Care in Europe, 1996.

The Ljubljana Charter was a milestone in how the Region approaches health care services. A main message of the Charter was that health care and health care reform should first and foremost lead to better health and quality of life for all people. It emphasized the importance of aligning human resources, health technology, information and financing with health services to improve health care performance. It argued for the positive role of health in the development of societies and the importance of intersectorality to accelerate health gains. The Ljubljana Charter also provided the basis for the establishment of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a partnership devoted to evidence-based policy-making. The main values of the Charter and the values of the Tallinn Charter, endorsed 12 years later, have since been integrated into national health plans across the WHO European Region. The WHO Regional Committee document (2015) on health systems strengthening – Priorities for health systems strengthening in the WHO European Region 2015–2020: Walking the talk on people-centredness – also incorporated these values into its work to focus explicitly on assuring patient-centred health systems, in line with Health 2020.

To recognize the importance of this landmark charter, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office, organized a formal event and round-table discussion on 16 June 2016. The opening ceremony was led by Dr Tomaž Gantar, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Health. Speeches were delivered by the Minister of Health of Slovenia, Milojka Kolar Celarc, and the Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab. 

In her remarks, Dr Jakab said, "As all of us in the room today are aware, strengthening and maintaining strong health systems is an important priority in Europe, an ageless priority one could say. This priority is reflected in the path from the Ljubljana Charter to the European policy framework Health 2020, which is guided by a vision of people-centred health systems that is well aligned with other global commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals."

The event was attended by members of Parliament, key national stakeholders working in health system reform and primary health care, staff of the WHO Regional Office and the WHO Country Office, members of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies steering committee, staff of the Directorate for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission and several international experts. The anniversary was also marked by events before and after the anniversary event. A national conference on the Slovenian primary health care strategy 2016–2025 was held on June 14–15, and a meeting of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies steering committee followed the main event on June 16 and 17.

The anniversary offers an important moment to reflect on the legacy of the Ljubljana Charter and the progress that has been made in health systems strengthening over the past 20 years. The celebration of the Ljubljana Charter coincided with a renewed commitment by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to evidence-based health system reforms. For the anniversary, a special issue of Eurohealth, a quarterly publication from the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, was prepared, which includes articles on how countries of the Region are strengthening their health systems to further integrate the values initially set out in the Ljubljana Charter.