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UN Event discusses accelerating vision for everyone

Published: 15.10.2020
Ambassador Aubrey Webson; Antigua and Barbuda
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Political Leaders, UN Ambassadors, Head of UNICEF and Civil Society groups join HRH The Countess of Wessex for a United Nations event to discuss accelerating Vision for Everyone.

In recognition of World Sight Day, Royalty, political leaders, United Nations (UN) Ambassadors and the Executive Director of UNICEF joined with leading civil society organisations globally to hold a virtual United Nations event to discuss the issue of eye health and its importance to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a recovery from Covid-19.

The event was hosted by the UN Friends of Vision (FoV), a group of UN Member States which is co-chaired by Ambassador Webson of Antigua and Barbuda, Ambassador Rabab Fatima of Bangladesh and Ambassador Byrne Nason of Ireland to the United Nations, New York, a newly elected member of the UN Security Council.

Attendees heard a preview of new research from the as upcoming Lancet Global Health Commission report on Global Eye Health and discussed plans for a first-of-its-kind UN General Assembly resolution on vision. Such a resolution would be designed to drive progress on the SDGs.

Over 400 attendees joined today’s event and heard from HRH The Countess of Wessex, Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness; The Honorable E. P. Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda; Henrietta H. Fore Executive Director of UNICEF; Stewart Simonson, Assistant Director-General, WHO’s office at the United Nations; Matthew Burton, Director, International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as well as a number of contributions from civil society including Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers.

Opening the event, The Honorable E. P. Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda said “Covid-19 may have slowed humanity’s progress but it has given us opportunities to reset, recover and to recover better. Vision for everyone can help us do just that”.

UN FoV co-chair and co-founder Ambassador Webson of Antigua and Barbuda said, “Vision is hugely important within the context of the SDGs. Leaving no one behind means we have to tie eye health and the broader inclusion of services of people who are visually impaired with universal health care and eye health for all.

Announcing a UN resolution on vision Ambassador Rabab Fatima of Bangladesh said, “We are working towards the first ever UN resolution on vision health and expect that we can achieve this landmark during the 75th General Assembly session in order change the way the world sees vision care.

Ambassador Byrne Nason of Ireland to the United Nations, New York, added, “Eye health is about so much more than one SDG. We put a huge premium on the fundamental importance of education. Giving a child eye glasses will massively impact the quality of education that child will receive. We know that eye health directly impacts the ability of so many people to access work and contribute to economic growth in their countries.”

During the event Professor Matthew Burton of the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine spoke about the upcoming Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health, and the links between eye health and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the event, Professor Burton said, “2020 is a pivotal year for vision. The Commission has shown that improving vision is an important, if not essential, enabler for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which will improve quality of life and livelihoods worldwide. Due to a high economic cost of vision impairment, and an ageing population, the evidence for urgent global action is compelling.

In closing remarks HRH The Countess of Wessex, Global Ambassador, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, concluded “No longer should it be acceptable that vision loss is just a condition that is untreatable or merely the luck of the draw.

“The gift of sight enables everyone to live their lives to the fullest, releasing their potential to learn, to work and to lead productive and fulfilled lives. This makes it fundamental to global prosperity and the SDGs.”