New Global Health Commitments At G20, Nelson Mandela 100th

Global health reaped a weekend windfall of new international and bilateral commitments over the past two days, beginning with the close of the G20 meeting in Argentina on Saturday, followed by the Mandela 100 Global Citizen festival in Johannesburg yesterday, which saw stars like Beyoncé, Jay-Z and others perform in the name of health and development causes, reaping a historic commitment by the United States of more than US$1.2 billion for the fight against HIV/AIDS and some US$ 139 million for the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

G20 “Family Photo” with leaders and their spouses Friday evening, Nov. 30, 2018, at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Heads of state at the G20 Leaders’ Summit, managed to sound a unifying note on health themes, while bluntly acknowledging sharp differences on trade, climate change and migration. The final G20 Leaders’ Declaration from 1 December called on the World Health Organization to develop an action plan for implementation of the health-related aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals, by 2030.

The Summit Declaration “Building consensus for fair and sustainable development” echoed key messages from the Declaration of the G20 Health Ministerial Summit, which took place on 4 October, in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.

It called for more action: to reduce the spread of anti-microbial resistance; malnutrition, and particularly childhood obesity and overweight; as well as further strengthening of public health emergency response. The declaration also reaffirmed commitments to “ending” HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and health service strengthening to reach universal health coverage (UHC) “in line with their national contexts and priorities.” Leaders also gave a nod to “scientifically proven traditional and complementary medicine,” where appropriate, as part of stronger and more effective health services.

“Thank you, world leaders at #G20Argentina, for acknowledging health issues and the role of @WHO in your Leaders’ Declaration!” tweeted WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus yesterday.

Meaningful progress on another US health issue happened on the summit sidelines, where the White House announced that China had agreed to designate fentanyl a controlled substance as part of a broader deal on trade, tariffs and intellectual property issues. The opioid fentanyl, much of it reportedly produced in China – is driving a sharp rise in drug addiction and opioid-related mortality in the US, and is one of the factors held responsible for the recent decline in US life expectancy. The Chinese also agreed to begin negotiations on a range of technology transfer and intellectual property issues that have plagued recent US-Chinese relations ever since the White House had accused China of “unfair” transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, earlier this year.

Scene from Global Citizen Mandela 100th festival, Johannesburg, South Africa

The political declarations at the G20 were followed by a windfall of financial commitments at yesterday’s Mandela 100 Global Citizen festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. The festival celebrated the 100-year legacy of the late Nelson Mandela, leader of the anti-apartheid struggle and first president of democratic South Africa. Mandela, born in 1918, died on 5 December 2013.

The $US 1.2 billion commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, announced by US Ambassador Deborah Birx, coordinator of government HIV/AIDS activities, on the Global Citizen stage of the Mandela 100 event, and reportedly the largest such pledge ever made by the US, is to be channelled through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria also committed some $US 369 million towards HIV/AIDS in South Africa, including prevention of new infections among adolescent girls and young women, deemed most at risk, according to, which organised the Mandela 100 festival.

As for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), WHO received a new commitment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation during the festivities.

“It was a special pleasure to announce $ 17M going to @WHO to protect 20 million people from neglected tropical diseases during @glblctznSA‘s Mandela 100 celebration #HealthForAll,” tweeted the Gates Foundation’s Mark Suzman.

The Belgian government also committed €4.4 million, for an expanded collaboration with Gates, while UK Aid, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Ghana-based Alma Foundation, the END fund and Virgin Unite also made commitments to combat NTDs.


Image Credits: Global Citizen Festival, Andrea Hanks – White House.

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