Reduced health assistance - not a good signal when Agenda 2030 is launched

Sweden has long emerged as a major power in health care. We have also taken on a leadership role in order to achieve the lofty goals in Agenda 2030. At the same time, the government is now reducing its funding for health assistance, write three debaters from the think tank Global Challenge.

As the Minister for Development Aid wrote in an article recently, there is a lot to be accommodated in the development aid budget in a time of concern and great humanitarian needs. Protecting human health is a need - both humanitarian and for long-term development. According to the new development goals in Agenda 2030, equal health for all must have been achieved by 2030.

The cuts to the Global Fund against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria of 300 million are the downgrades that have received the most attention in health care. But cuts are also being made for, among others, the World Health Organization WHO, the global sexual rights organization IPPF and Sida's global strategy for socially sustainable development. On the other hand, health aid is protected for the UN organizations UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNDP and UNICEF. Achieving the third goal of health in Agenda 2030 requires one increased aid for health, not that it is reduced in several areas. Since the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria started, it has so far saved 17 million lives and Sweden has been one of the largest donors.

Agenda 2030 requires that health work be given priority

There has been a lively debate for many years about how development assistance should be designed to meet the new challenges we face and now it is intended that all Swedish policy will be adapted to Agenda 2030 and the 17 global goals for sustainable development. The third goal of ensuring good health for all can be criticized in many different ways, including the fact that it is too non-specific and unrealistic given the time frame. On the other hand, many of the sub-goals are well-formulated and specify what the goal is really about.

Sub-goal 3.3 states that we must eradicate the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other neglected tropical diseases, fight hepatitis, waterborne diseases and other infectious diseases - precisely those diseases that threaten public health and hinder further development. That goal, like the other sub-goals, is high and requires that health work remains a priority.

The work to combat poverty-related diseases is above all to work for women's and children's right to basic health and access to education. If the visions in Agenda 2030 of broad societal development and economic growth are realized, more and more countries with their own resources can create capable institutions and health systems and invest in basic health. This is a perspective that was highlighted in the report of the expert group Lancet Commission Global health 2035: A world converging within a generation published in December 2013. Nevertheless, the report says that increased assistance is needed in global health work to overcome old and new infectious diseases, resistance to medicines and for everyone to be able to have basic health, be vaccinated and have access to children and maternity care.

Sweden must stand up for taboo development issues

With the Lancet Commission's methodology, the expert group for development assistance analysis, EBA, has reviewed how Swedish health care needs to be developed in order to best contribute to achieving equal health within a generation. Efforts are needed both on what is cross-border (security, epidemics, environmental and climate issues) and for those who remain in poverty to be included.

The starting point is that health assistance should continue to have a high priority. Sweden has long been considered a major power in development aid, especially in health and issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights - and also research. Sweden has stood up for many otherwise taboo development issues that concern health in a broad sense - the equal value and inclusion of people, where access to health is a human right. Regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. The task remains.

Gun-Britt Andersson
Johan Hassel
Rosanna Färnman

On Tuesday, Global Challenge organizes a seminar in Stockholm where they present the new report "Global health in perspective - Agenda 2030 and the Swedish development work".

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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