Gatson Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and the UN Friends of Vision Group have brought together world leaders, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prime Minister of Nepal, and Terrance Drew, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis together with ministerial representatives from over 15 countries to discuss eye health and development.
The meeting, held in the margins of the annual UN General Assembly, focused on raising the profile of eye health as a fundamental development issue critical to achieving the SDGs.
Prime Minister Browne, opened the meeting by saying “We must focus more of our collective action on health and development initiatives which are achievable and can accelerate progress across the Sustainable Development Goals. Healthy vision is one of those issues, but we must prioritize it more. It can be solved this decade.”
Addressing the meeting, H.E. Rabab Fatima, Under Secretary-General and High-Representative UN-ORHLLS, commented “We have the necessary technology – and other solutions – needed to end avoidable sight loss today. What we need is enhanced global commitment to address access to eye care services, vision correction, and eye health infrastructure. We must see it better integrated into Universal Health Coverage.”
H.E Walton Webson, UN Friends of Vision Group Co-Chair and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN said “Now is the time for decisive action on global eye health. The UN Friends of Vision encourage all governments to implement the recommendation in the UN resolution Vision for Everyone, and grasp the opportunities that addressing eye health presents to support global social and economic progress.”
The event comes nine months after over 60 countries from the UN Friends of Vision group and over 150 organisations from the eye health sector called for a UN Special Envoy on Vision. Peter Holland, Chief Executive of the IAPB said “For many poor eye health affects their ability to learn, to work or just to participate in daily life and see the faces of the people they love. That’s a tragedy. But it’s also an opportunity. The impact of providing affordable eye health is profound and transformational. The UN resolution on Vision recognised that – and the critical contribution that vision and good eye health makes to delivering the SDGs.
“But making good the promise of the resolution doesn’t just need your commitment. It needs leadership. That’s why we continue to call on the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Envoy on vision – to be a global champion, to mobilise resources/action from international institutions and to galvanise action at national level.” Holland concluded.
Also in attendance were representatives of the UN Friends of Vision group, including IAPB and eye health organisations The Vision Council, Vision Spring, Sightsavers, CBM, SEVA, World Health Organization (WHO), OneSight EssilorLuxxotica Foundation, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Cure Blindness, Sightlife and Restoring Vision.
To learn more about the critical role eye health plays in achieving the SDGs visit Eye Health and the Sustainable Development Goals.