"Health is a right in Europe and beyond, for all human beings, regardless of their place in the world", said new European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs in his key speech at the Action for Global Health Cross-Europe Conference in the European Parliament on 2 March 2010. The purpose of the event was to discuss what the EU can do to deliver the right to health using the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
On 2 March 2010, Action for Global Health (AFGH), of which EPHA is a partner, organised a Cross-European conference in the European Parliament entitled Delivering the right to health with the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - What the EU can do!
The conference examined what concrete actions EU institutions and Member States need to undertake to ensure that the health MDGs are achieved. The structure of the conference was twofold: the morning session discussed the impact and contribution the EU Institutions and Trio Presidencies can have in this process, and the afternoon session focused on detailed issues relevant for achieving the health MDGs.
The conference was very successful. There were more than 200 participants, and a key note speech was delivered by new European Commissionner for Development Mr. Andris Piebalgs - nota bene, it was his first public appearance since his official confirmation hearing in the Parliament. His speech was followed by an EU Presidencies panel with the Secretaries of State for Development Cooperation of Spain, Belgium and Hungary, and an EU Institutions panel with high level representatives of the European Parliament, European Commission, and a civil society representative from the Action for Global Health network.
In the afternoon, three thematic workshop discussions took place on financing for health, health systems strengthening, and fair access. Each came up with four key recommendations that will be taken forward by Action for Global Health and its NGO partners to influence the EU Position for the UN MDG Review Summit in September. The workshops were also very well attended with over 40 participants each.
Interesting things to highlight from the speeches from the European Commissioner and the Presidencies panel are:
The strong focus on rights and the universal right to health by the new European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs: "The rights approach, which we value, is based on the universality of every human right and Europe is bound to promote and protect health as a human right. It thus requires that attention be paid to all individuals and to all health needs";
He also emphasised that "while health has a cross-cutting dimension, we must first and foremost stick to the current MDG framework as the essential reference to our work on health and driver of the political momentum, and put all our energy in reaching the targets set";
He mentioned that respecting aid commitments is key and target them in priority to the MDGs, and that "we need to ensure that other, additional and innovative sources of financing are also directed towards the health sector".
With regard to the EU Presidencies panel, the intervention by Belgium (the upcoming EU Presidency, under which the MDG Review Summit will take place) was particularly interesting:
Belgium wants to put the issue of innovative financing mechanisms and the Financial Transaction Tax on the agenda of its Presidency;
Belgium is also planning to put the issue of social protection high on its agenda during its Presidency;
It wants to work on a more harmonised EU approach concerning the issue of budget support;
The Spanish EU Presidency is willing to push for the inclusion of the 0.1% of GNI for health target in the Council Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in May; and
Hungary wants the trio of presidencies present at the debate to show the issue of fulfilling EU aid committments to be a “common priority” for the next 18 months.
On a similar note, the EU Institutions panel called for:
practitioners to work more closely with recipient health ministries, and primary healthcare to be a key element in the development of local capacity; and
strong inter-institutional support for the MDGs, and especially for the link between health and all other MDGs.
By clicking on the following links you can access: the conference programme, the conference concept note and an introduction to AFGH EU Roadmap on what the EU needs to do to achieve the health MDGs by 2015.
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