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Health Remained a Priority at the Hiroshima Summit
Samraggi Hazra, G7 Research Group
May 24, 2023
With the leaders of the G7 gathering in Hiroshima at the site of the world's first nuclear attack, it was anticipated that several key issues would be on their mind, most importantly related to regional security and nuclear proliferation. However, beyond these major hotspots of discussion, it was necessary to ensure that other, still pressing matters did not fall into the sidelines. Significant among these was the issue of health. In recent years, discussions on the subject of health have primarily focused on the looming threat of the Covid-19 pandemic and measures to combat the disease. On May 5, 2023, however, more than three years after declaring a pandemic, the World Health Organization announced that Covid-19 no longer presented a global health emergency. Coming at an opportune time, this announcement freed up the health agenda at Hiroshima for the leaders to discuss other often overlooked issues in the field. Leaders were thus expected to focus on universal health coverage (UHC), global health governance, gender equality in the field of health, and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
At Hiroshima, G7 leaders' strongest performance was on UHC. It is a clear priority for the G7, with the health ministers in Nagasaki on May 14 having released the G7 Global Plan for UHC Action Agenda for achieving "resilient, equitable, and sustainable" UHC globally by 2030, the deadline for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The G7 leaders built on this plan and reaffirmed their commitment to its tenets. Most significantly, the G7 Hiroshima Leaders Communiqué committed to address the needs of low- or middle-income countries in attaining UHC. Overall, the G7 leaders demonstrated a willingness to continue working toward health coverage for all.
On pandemic preparedness, the leaders also produced a strong performance. They discussed investments in the Pandemic Fund, working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and increasing cooperation between countries on preparing for future public health emergencies. This reflects commitments made at past summits, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic began. As Covid-19 is slowly being overcome, the leaders can be expected to implement the lessons learned from the pandemic. The communiqué reflects their desire "to break the cycle of panic and neglect" in order to address future emergencies head-on. The leaders stressed the coordinating role of WHO and the necessity of its leadership and guidance in preparing national and international health systems for future health emergencies, indicating a forward-looking approach to global health.
The weakest performance was in the area of addressing gender-based health needs. At the 2022 Elmau Summit, G7 leaders explicitly recognized the need to consider health concerns in conjunction with gender equality in order to meet the needs of marginalized women. At Hiroshima, there was a lack of such commitments. G7 leaders only considered gender equality and health when committing to achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights "for all," without any specific mention of women's health needs. This was surprising, as only a week before the Hiroshima Summit their health ministers committed to "tackle gender inequity and inequality in the health sector." Although the ministers' words indicate that the G7 will continue to address gender-based health concerns, it is noteworthy that such commitments did not make it into the leaders' communiqué.
Overall, among the many pressing concerns addressed at Hiroshima, health remained a priority, with focus shifting from Covid-19 to a more general, post-pandemic outlook on health concerns for the most vulnerable populations and readiness for future needs. Health did not fade into the background as other pressing matters took centre stage in Hiroshima.
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