The 2023 UN High-level meeting (UN HLM) on universal health coverage (UHC) took place on 21 September 2023. It provided countries and stakeholders an opportunity to reinvigorate progress towards delivering health for all.

During the meeting, Member States unanimously recognized that universal health coverage (UHC) is fundamental to achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – not only those related to health and well-being (SDG 3), but also those related to poverty eradication, access to education, gender equality, climate change and building peaceful and inclusive societies.

The Political Declaration which was adopted during the opening of the meeting can be used to identify a path forward for ensuring the health and well-being of people everywhere and for correcting the course of action for the billions of people who do not have access to health services or who face financial hardship in doing so. 

Click on the headings below to find answers to the most commonly asked questions leading up to the 2023 UN HLM on UHC.

What is a UN High-level Meeting?

A United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting (HLM) is convened by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the main decision-making body of the UN representing all 193 UN Member States.

In this forum, Member States discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc. Agreement to hold a HLM on a specialized topic is taken in exceptional circumstances through a UN resolution, with the purpose of reaching agreement on cooperation measures and solutions on important global issues among Heads of State and governments.

Since the first Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, the UN has called for various HLMs devoted to health issues, including HIV/AIDS (2006, 2011, 2016, 2021), Non-Communicable Diseases (2011, 2014, 2018), Antimicrobial Resistance (2016), Tuberculosis (2018), and Universal Health Coverage (2019).

What was agreed at the UN HLM on UHC in 2019?

On 12 December 2017, the UN passed a resolution on global health and foreign policy: addressing the health of the most vulnerable for an inclusive society (A/RES/72/139). In this resolution, it was decided to hold a UN HLM during the 2019 UNGA on universal health coverage (UHC), with the theme “Universal Health Coverage: Moving together to build a healthier world”.

The UN HLM on UHC secured political commitment from Heads of State and governments to prioritize UHC. It resulted in a Political Declaration on UHC (A/RES/74/2), negotiated by Member States and endorsed by Heads of State. The Political Declaration formed the basis for global efforts to provide universal access to affordable and quality health-care services, in line with SDG target 3.8. The political declaration recognized the primary responsibility of governments to urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards UHC, and that effective and financially sustainable implementation of UHC is based on a resilient and responsive health system.

In 2019, UHC2030 convened a powerful movement of diverse voices around a set of UHC Key Asks, which fed into the Political Declaration.

Why will a second UN HLM on UHC take place in 2023 and what will it achieve?

In the 2019 Political Declaration on UHC (A/RES/74/2), Heads of State and Government committed to convene a second UN HLM on UHC in 2023 in New York to undertake a comprehensive review on the implementation of the 2019 Political Declaration and to identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress towards the achievement of UHC by 2030.

On 19 August 2021, the UN passed a resolution on global health and foreign policy: Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on universal health coverage (A/RES/75/315). In this resolution, it was decided to hold a one-day UN HLM during the 2023 UNGA on UHC. The resolution recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionately heavy impact on the poor and the most vulnerable, with repercussions on health and development gains, thus hampering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and UHC.

As part of the 2030 SDGs (A/RES/70/1), all countries have committed to try to achieve UHC by 2030, including ensuring financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

Where and when will the meeting in 2023 take place?

The meeting will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on the third day of the general debate of the UN General Assembly at its seventy-eighth session (21st September 2023).

The confirmed dates for the High-level Meetings on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, Universal Health Coverage and Tuberculosis are: 

20 September 2023: High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response

21 September 2023: High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage 

22 September 2023: High-level Meeting on Tuberculosis

What are the expected outcomes of the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

At the high-level meeting, Heads of State and Government will approve a concise and action-oriented Political Declaration, agreed in advance by consensus through intergovernmental negotiations. It will be submitted by the President of the General Assembly for adoption by the UNGA. This Declaration will endorse and further build on the 2019 Political Declaration.

The 2023 UN HLM is an opportunity to build on previous UN HLMs and initiatives and to reaffirm the global political commitment to achieving UHC. This meeting will be a major opportunity to mobilise the highest political support for UHC as the cornerstone to achieving SDG3, unite all health stakeholders together under a common theme and commit to action-oriented goals on UHC for 2030.

What is the outline for the agenda for the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

The Modalities Resolution for the 2023 UN HLM on UHC outlines the agenda, which includes:

  • an opening segment from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., featuring statements by the 78th President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the Director General of the World Health Organization, the President of the World Bank Group, and an eminent high-level champion of UHC;
  • a plenary segment from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., where Member States will deliver their statements;
  • two multi-stakeholder panels from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the other from 3 p.m. to 5:00 p.m; and
  • a closing segment from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Modalities Resolution also requests the President of the General Assembly, with the support of the World Health Organization and other relevant partners, to organize and preside over an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing, on 8-9 May, 2023, with the active participation of appropriate senior-level representatives of Member States, observers of the General Assembly, parliamentarians, representatives of local governments, relevant United Nations entities, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, invited civil society organizations, philanthropic foundations, academia, medical associations, the private sector and broader communities, ensuring the participation and voices of women, children, youth and indigenous leadership, as part of the preparatory process for the high-level meeting.

Guidance regarding UNGA side events will be provided by the UN Secretariat closer to the date. Over the past few years, the UN Secretary General discouraged organising side events within UN Headquarters during UNGA High-level week. We would encourage participants to focus on the three HLMs on health.

What is the theme for the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

The theme for the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC is: Universal Health Coverage: expanding our ambition for health and well-being in a post-COVID world. The panel discussion themes are: 

Panel 1: What is a primary health care approach and why does it matter?
Panel 2: Aligning our investments for health and well-being in a post-COVID world.

Click here for more information. 

Who is organizing the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

The UN HLM will be organized under the direction of the President of the General Assembly, in close consultation with the World Health Organization. The UN HLM preparatory process, including the multi-stakeholder hearing, is also supported by contributions from UHC2030 and other relevant initiatives.

The President of the General Assembly appointed H.E. Mrs. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (Permanent Representative of the Republic of Guyana to the United Nations) and H.E. Mr. Suriya Chindawongse (Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations) as co-facilitators for UN HLM on UHC. They have a critical role in the UN HLM preparations and will chair key discussions and negotiations.

In 2023, UHC2030 is convening a new, powerful movement of diverse voices around an Action Agenda for 2023, which will feed into the 2023 Political Declaration.

What is the expected level of participation at the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

Previous UN HLMs have been attended by Heads of State, Government Ministers, the UN Secretary-General and other UN leaders, community and civil society representatives, the private sector, UN Ambassadors, researchers, academics, parliamentarians, and other relevant partners.

Member States are encouraged to participate at the highest possible level, preferably at the level of Heads of State and Government. Observers of the General Assembly and other stakeholders should also be represented at the highest possible level.

Further, the UN HLM presents an opportunity to move health discussions beyond the sole domain of Health Ministries and to engage other sectors, such as Ministries of Finance, for coordinated action.

How can I participate in the multi-stakeholder hearings?

The multi-stakeholder hearings on health took place on 8-9 May. Read the hearing summary here.

How can interested stakeholders participate in the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

The deadline to register for the UN HLMs on universal health coverage (UHC); pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR); and tuberculosis, was 11 August 2023.

Sign up for our newsletter and visit our UHC HLM event page for updates on key side events. 

How will the Political Declaration be developed?

Taking into account the outcomes of the multi-stakeholder hearing, the two co-facilitators submitted a ‘Zero Draft’ of the outcome document to the President of General Assembly, who then presented it to the UN Member States. The ‘Zero Draft’ is the basis for member states negotiations, which are conducted in New York by Permanent Missions to the UN to produce a final declaration. The schedule for the negotiation process is available here.

The 2023 High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage is a follow-up meeting to the 2019 High-level meeting. Therefore, it is meant to examine progress and build on the 2019 Political Declaration. The final Political Declaration is expected to be endorsed by Heads of State at the UN HLM on September 21, 2023. To learn more, read the UHC2030 co-chair statement here.

How was the Action Agenda for the UHC Movement developed?

The Action Agenda was developed by an inclusive, multi-stakeholder task force, which brought together twenty representatives from UHC2030 constituencies and beyond. It was informed by a public consultation that gathered 830 responses from over 100 countries and provided inputs into the 2023 Political Declaration. 

How does the UN HLM on UHC relate to the UN HLMs on Tuberculosis and on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response?

Three high-level meetings on health are scheduled in 2023. Alongside the high-level meeting on UHC, a high-level meeting on tuberculosis (TB), and a high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) will take place.

2023 provides political leaders an opportunity to unite behind stronger, more equitable and resilient health systems for UHC and health security. These are pre-conditions for ensuring health for all, and for sustainable pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The high-level meeting on TB furthermore provides a critical opportunity to strengthen equity and ensure that no-one is left behind, two key principles of the UHC approach.

How can I follow and engage in the preparation of the 2023 UN HLM on UHC?

Join our campaign "Countdown to the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC" from 11 to 20 September!

All partners in the UHC movement, whether government representatives, parliamentarians, academia, civil society or the private sector, must advocate for a strong UN HLM Political Declaration that advances UHC at the community, regional, national, regional and global levels. 

UHC2030 encourages all partners to use the advocacy toolkit as a basis for coordinated advocacy efforts in the final moments leading up to the UN HLM. 

You can also follow UHC2030’s dedicated webpage on the 2023 HLM, receive regular updates by signing up to the UHC2030 newsletter, and follow UHC2030 on X. Civil society members and organizations are encouraged to join and follow the Civil Society Engagement Mechanism as well.