The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cut across every major area of human activity. They are interconnected and indivisible, and achieving them involves working with others in different areas. Health and well-being for all at all ages is an implicit core human right in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, endorsed at the highest level of government. Global, regional and subregional partnerships provide crucial support to this joint societal effort.

Subregional networks

  • Small Countries Initiative: WHO established the Small Countries Initiative in 2013 so that countries in the WHO European Region with a population of fewer than 1 million people could share their knowledge on implementing Health 2020. In 2017, at their third high-level meeting, the countries discussed and decided on the common denominators of the SDGs and Health 2020. Case studies illustrate how these countries are seizing opportunities, including through the Small Countries Health Information Network, which monitors SDG implementation.
  • South-eastern Europe Health Network (SEEHN): SEEHN is a political and institutional forum set up in 2001 to promote peace, reconciliation and health, and to bring people together across borders to improve health in the whole region. Following the Declaration of Astana in 2018, a recent SEEHN expert meeting underlined that primary health care is a cornerstone of sustainable health systems, universal health coverage and the health-related SDGs.
  • Regions for Health (RHN) Network: RHN members aim to put Health 2020 and the SDGs into action in their own areas. A recent case study on San Merino illustrates the whole-of-government approach that is successfully enabling this region to put the 2030 Agenda into action.
  • WHO Healthy Cities: Healthy Cities is a global movement working to put health high on the social, economic and political agendas of city governments. The Almaty Acclamation of Mayors adopted in October 2018 in Astana, Kazakhstan, recognizes that primary health care is the foundation of universal health coverage and the SDGs, and that cities are at the forefront of achieving it. It calls on cities, urban places and local governments to engage with leaders and all relevant sectors and levels of government, with other cities and within cities, in order to achieve health and well-being for all, leaving no one behind.

Thematic cross-sectoral partnerships

Governments are collaborating on SDGs with different sectors and levels, with civil society and the private sector, at home and abroad. Working closely with other countries, professionals and experts in a wide variety of fields means they can learn from each other, break down silos and monitor progress. WHO is using its convening power to bring people together and offer support in multisectoral areas such as environment and health, and transport and health.

In the late 1980s, for example, European countries initiated the European Environment and Health Process to eliminate the most significant environmental threats to human health. Progress towards this goal is driven by a series of ministerial conferences held every 5 years and coordinated by WHO/Europe. These unique conferences have successfully brought together different sectors to shape European policies and actions on environment and health. The most recent took place in 2017 in Ostrava, Czechia, where WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab noted the “transformative spirit of the 2030 Agenda”.

United Nations cooperation

The focus on SDG implementation in countries has highlighted the need for strong coordination within and beyond the United Nations system, across agencies, sectors, levels and technical areas. United Nations agencies are working in partnership to harmonize and streamline their efforts in several ways, including through the Global Action Plan for healthy lives and well-being for all and through issue-based coalitions.

Issue-based Coalition on Health and Well-being (IBC-Health)

In the Region, several United Nations issue-based coalitions have been set up to achieve the SDGs. These coalitions were established by and report to the United Nations Regional Coordination Mechanism for Europe and Central Asia. WHO/Europe leads IBC-Health.

IBC-Health is a coalition of partners from different United Nations agencies. It first met in November 2016 with the purpose of improving the involvement of stakeholders to support Member States in implementing the health-related SDGs, mapping norms and policies, accessing technical support, using human and other resources effectively, and communicating and sharing information on good practices.

Their first 4 work streams are maternal and child health; infectious diseases; universal health coverage with a focus on medicines; and migration. At the last meeting of United Nations regional directors, participants agreed to add primary health care as a cross-cutting workstream to be coordinated by WHO/Europe.

International commitments

One of the most important measures for achieving the SDGs is the implementation of international health treaties such as the International Health Regulations, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.

Health and well-being must also be reflected in the implementation of the many multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Because the 2030 Agenda places national multisectoral action and international cooperation for health at its centre, several United Nations declarations on global health – including on antimicrobial resistance, on ending AIDS, and on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases – pave the way for further action and collaboration. Cooperation initiatives, such as the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, already contribute to such engagement and will continue to do so.

In addition, the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 and the 2016 report of the United Nations High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, entitled “Working for health and growth: investing in the health workforce”, provide a unique opportunity for a paradigm shift in health workforce policy.