WMA Statement on Sustainable Development

Adopted by the 69th WMA General Assembly, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 2018


1. The WMA believes that health and well-being are dependent upon social determinants of health (SDHs), the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These social determinants will directly influence the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Many of the SDG goals, targets and indicators that have been developed to measure progress towards them, will also be useful measures of the impact of action is having on improving the SDH and, in particular, on reducing health inequities.

2. This statement builds upon WMA policy on Social Determinants of Health as set out in the Declaration of Oslo, and upon the basic principles of medical ethics set out in the Declaration of Geneva.

3. The WMA recognizes the important efforts undertaken by the United Nations with the adoption on 25 September 2015 of the resolution “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The Sustainable Development Agenda is based upon five key themes: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership and the principle of leaving no one behind. The WMA affirms the importance of global efforts on sustainable development and the impact that they can bring to humanity.

4. SDGs are built on the lessons learned from successes and failures in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including inequity in many areas of life. While there is no overarching concept unifying the SDGs, the WMA believes that inequity in health and wellbeing encapsulates much of the 2030 Agenda. The WMA notes that while only SDG 3 is overtly about health, many of the goals have major health components.

5. The WMA recognizes all governments must commit and invest to fully implement the goals by 2030, in alignment with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The WMA also recognizes the risk that the SDGs might be considered unaffordable due to their estimated potential cost of between US$ 3.3 and US$ 4.5 trillion a year.

6. The WMA emphasises the need for cross and inter-sectoral work to achieve the goals and believes that health must be addressed in all SDGs and not only under health specific SDG 3.

Policy priorities:

7. Recognition of Health in All Policies and the Social Determinants of Health / Whole of Society approach.

8. Policy areas that are essential to achieving the SDG 3:

  • Patient Empowerment and Patient Safety
  • Continuous Quality Improvement in Health Care
  • Overcoming the Impact of Aging on Health Care
  • Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance
  • The safety and welfare of Health care staff

9. Ensuring policy alignment among all the UN Agencies and the work of regional governmental organizations such as EU, African Union, Arab League, ASEAN, and Organization of American States.

10. The WMA commits to support implementation of the other three global agreements regarding the sustainable development process:

  • The Addis Ababa Action Agenda as the mechanism that will provide the financial support for the 2030 Agenda.
  • The Paris Agreement is the binding mechanism of the sustainable development process that sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as the agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Recommendations and Commitments

11. The WMA commits to work with other intergovernmental organizations, including the UN, the WHO, healthcare professionals’ organizations and other stakeholders, for the implementation and follow-up of this Agenda and related international agreements, and for policy and advocacy alignment.

12. The WMA commits to collaborate with its constituent member Associations to support their work at regional and national levels, and with their governments on the 2030 Agenda implementation.

13. The WMA recommends that NMAs create strategies regarding data collection, implementation, capacity building and advocacy, to enhance policy coherence and to maximise the 2030 Agenda implementation at national and global levels.

14. The WMA also recommends that NMAs collaborate with development banks, NGOs, intergovernmental organisations and other stakeholders who are also working to implement of the 2030 Agenda, especially in their own countries.

15. The WMA encourages the UN and the WHO to develop guidelines on how financing for health will be implemented to reach the targets established by the 2030 Agenda and the economic implications of NCDs, aging and antimicrobial resistance.

Climate Change, Inequity, SDGs, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Development Goals

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