On World Sight Day in October Ambassador Aubrey Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, convened the first meeting of the UN Friends of Vision group. It followed considerable efforts by Clearly, the organisation founded by James Chen to persuade governments to take notice of the crisis of poor vision, to get vision on the UN’s agenda.
Representatives of 10 countries from every continent attended. Alongside Antigua and Barbuda, Ambassadors and senior diplomats from Bangladesh, Barbados, Botswana, Dominica, Grenada, Rwanda, St Kitts & Nevis, Surinam, and the UK all attended.
It was a most encouraging start, with every sign that the group will swiftly expand in future.
James Chen introduced the session. He spoke about how important tackling vision impairment and avoidable blindness is to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular those relating to quality education, good health, decent work and gender inequality. Peter Holland, chief executive of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness emphasised that message and also discussed the World Health Organization’s forthcoming “World Report on Vision” which will provide a practical toolkit for countries committed to providing vision for everyone.
Ambassador Webson was a highly engaged chairman who wants to use the group to educate countries on the links between vision and the SDGs and to drive the integration of primary eye-care into universal health care, a key UN theme for 2019, as we travel the road towards “quality eye-care for all.”
Dr Agnes Binagwaho, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity and former Minister of Health in Rwanda, excited the group as she explained how with determination and goodwill it has been possible to deliver primary eye care for all in Rwanda.
The establishment of the UN Friends of Vision group is especially timely, because next year the UN will look at Universal Health Coverage. The group will ensure that vision is firmly on the agenda.
You can read more about the UN Friends of Vision group at James Chen’s blog.