Health in UN Post-2015 Development Agenda


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have proven to be a powerful force in maintaining political support for development. The simplicity of the framework, readily understandable objectives, and focus on quantitative monitoring have proved durably engaging. The debate about how the next generation of global goals post-2015 raises important questions about how progress in improving human health should be reflected in any future set of goals.


The UN is in a process of determining its future development framework as the targets of the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. Defining a post-2015 development agenda is Member State-led with broad participation from different stakeholder groups, including businesses and investors. This is an opportune moment for business and the UN Global Compact to help shape the future priorities of the UN and to prepare for supporting the implementation of the results of the post-2015 process, which is anticipated to include Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The development agenda post-2015 is being debated at a time when sustainable development is in the political foreground. While the first draft of the Rio + 20 outcome document was disappointing, health is relatively well reflected in the final version of “The Future We Want”. In addition to the fact that healthy people have stronger cognitive and physical capabilities and, in consequence, make more productive contributions to society, health policy contributes to poverty reduction through the financial protection inherent in universal health coverage. Changes in population growth rates, age structures and distribution of people are also closely linked to national and global development challenges. In addition, health is also a potential beneficiary of policies in a wide range of other sectors such as transport, energy and urban planning. And health metrics can measure progress across the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.

Health outcomes can be defined precisely and are measurable, and health concerns are immediate, personal and local. Measuring the impact of sustainable development on health can generate public and political interest in a way that builds popular support for policies that have more diffuse or deferred outcomes (such as reducing CO2 emissions)1 . Similarly, health is an important component of other “holistic” approaches to development that seek to replace or supplement GDP as the main indicator of economic progress.

the potential for using Universal Health Coverage in the post-2015 agenda as a way of accommodating the wide range of health concerns discussed above. As a starting point, it is important to be clear as to what is meant by UHC; how UHC can accommodate and accelerate the achievement of and not compete with other more specific programmatic health goals; and how progress in UHC can be measured.

Universal Health Coverage offers a way of sustaining gains and protecting investments in the current set of health-related MDGs – providing a vehicle for sustained technical and financial support after 2015.