WHO Regional Director for Europe highlights key health aspects for SDG implementation at the first Regional Forum on Sustainable Development


The first Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Region took place in Geneva on 25 April 2017. The meeting was intended to follow up on and review progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region. The Forum, which will be held annually, is designed to provide input from the UNECE region to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which oversees follow-up and review processes at the global level.

The policy segment of the Forum discussed where the region stands in the second year of SDG implementation and how it can accelerate actions towards realizing prosperity and well-being for all. Within the broader HLPF theme for 2017 – Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world – the Forum focused on key subjects that are relevant to all countries in the UNECE region: prosperity, health and well-being, and gender – linked to SDG 1 (poverty), SDG 2 (hunger and malnutrition), SDG 3 (health and well-being), SDG 5 (gender equality and women’s empowerment) and SDG 9 (infrastructure, industrialization and innovation).

Health and well-being are at the centre of sustainable development

Speaking during a policy segment panel, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, explained that health and well-being are at the centre of sustainable development because they are a goal in and of themselves, but also contribute to and benefit from other goals. In addition, she remarked that Health 2020, the WHO policy framework for health and well-being in the WHO European Region, is fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda and instrumental to the achievement of the SDGs.

Six key areas for further action

Dr Jakab presented pressing health issues and challenges in the Region, highlighting six areas for joint societal action to further improve health and well-being and achieve the SDGs.

  • Tackling the determinants of health. This is crucial to reduce disease from environmental exposure, climate change and food systems; to address risk factors for communicable and noncommunicable diseases, as well as for antimicrobial resistance; and to strengthen social protection.
  • Focusing on the young, without forgetting other age groups, to leave no one behind. Such efforts can be further supported by pursuing cross-sector action on other goals (e.g. SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities within and between countries).
  • Establishing healthy places, settings and communities, where people live, eat, work, play and age. Involving new allies, such as municipalities and mayors, will help build healthier communities.
  • Strengthening health systems towards universal health coverage. This means strengthening health services delivery, health financing and health workforce capacity, and ensuring that health systems are equitable.
  • Increasing health security, especially by ensuring full implementation in all countries of the Region of the International Health Regulations (IHR), a key tool for health security.
  • Strengthening health research, innovation, monitoring and evaluation. This includes improving health information systems with regard to both traditional and new information sources, and strengthening the use of evidence, information and research for policy-making.

Participants in the Forum included relevant stakeholders from international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector. Forum outcomes represent the contribution from a high- and middle-income region to the global SDG agenda, and include a compilation of key action areas and good practices.