In 2015, Member States endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including SDG 3 which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Target 3.8 of SDG 3, specifically aspires towards achieving universal health coverage, including access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.
Based on this commitment, on 14-15 November 2023, Belgium, in collaboration with UNODC, organized a Panel Discussion on “Equal Access, Empowered Health – No Patient Left Behind” in Brussels, Belgium. The event built upon the dedicated Joint Call to Action, which was launched at the 65th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) by H.E. Ambassador Ghislain D'Hoop and supported at the highest level by UNODC, WHO and INCB. The topic at hand will be at the forefront of the upcoming 2024 Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).
The event brought together about 50 experts, policymakers, and stakeholders from different organizations and geographical regions, who shared successful best practices to expand access to controlled substances and explored new ways to foster cooperation and increase support across the regions. Panellists highlighted the importance of adopting a bottom-up approach, thus involving the community, taking into account the specific national context, and bringing to the table stakeholders from all relevant sectors to change the perception of controlled substances. Additionally, the need to focus on education and training of healthcare professionals, as well as the importance of allocating sufficient financial resources to address this problem, were also noted as key endeavours.
Urgent action, collaboration, and reforms on a global scale are needed to ensure that no one is left behind. The 2024 Midterm Review, to be held in March 2024 at the CND, will serve to assess progress made in the implementation of all international drug policy commitments in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration. Among other objectives, it will provide an opportunity for the international community to advocate for policies that prioritize and facilitate access to controlled substances, call for the provision of sustainable funding for capacity-building initiatives, and encourage and raise awareness on evidence-based approaches to pain management and palliative care.
“We must continue to accelerate our efforts, broaden our partnerships, and secure sustainable funding. Together, let us create a future where access to pain relief and palliative care is universal.” Ms Ghada Waly, UNODC Executive Director
Looking ahead, UNODC will continue to lead and advocate for a coordinated and global response to improve availability of and access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, with the goal to increase the number of patients globally receiving appropriate treatment.