Germany announced today that they will host the 2017 G20 summit, acknowledging that the agenda will be broadened beyond economic and financial discussions to also address issues of sustainability and development. If their 2015 presidency of the G7 is any indication, it is hoped that global health will continue to be a key component on the agenda.
At the outset of its G7 presidency, Germany hosted the replenishment conference for Gavi, the vaccine alliance, where pledges exceeded the initial target of US $7.5 billion and marked an important contribution by the G7 in assuring vaccinations for over 300 million children worldwide. At the conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel presented the German government’s 6-point plan to improve responses to international health crises and strengthen health systems, marking the intention under the G7 presidency to highlight lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic. In line with this plan, Germany launched the “Healthy Systems – Healthy Lives” initiative to reach a common understanding of health system strengthening and support actionable commitments at the country level.
The international response to Ebola, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and global health security were among the topics discussed by world leaders at the June 2015 Elmau G7 Summit. The Leader’s Declaration from the Summit stresses the right to health and includes commitments to strengthen health systems through assistance to at least 60 countries over the next five years; to develop and implement national action plans to combat AMR; to coordinate and support research and development concerning NTDs; and to end preventable child deaths and improve maternal health worldwide.
Complementary to their important health commitments was an emphasis by the G7 on the empowerment of women and girls worldwide. The G7 Forum for Dialogue with Women was hosted in Berlin in September 2015 and included an array of female leaders from across politics, business, and society. Among others, the thematic group on women and health included Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates, WHO Director General Margaret Chan, and the Global Health Programme’s Director, Ilona Kickbusch. The discussions centered around the role of women in designing, managing, delivering, and accessing health care. These discussions informed the conclusions of the G7 Forum for Dialogue with Women released in its outcome statement.
Most recently, Germany hosted meetings of the G7 Health Ministers, who focussed on the topics of AMR and Ebola, and G7 Science Ministers, who considered NTDs in the wider context of Poverty-Related Diseases (PRDs). In their joint consultations, G7 Health and Science Ministers set themselves the goal of providing mutual support and greater knowledge-sharing to confront pressing global health threats. In their declaration, the G7 Health Ministers outline their intention to work in close collaboration with science ministers to advance research and development to combat AMR. This was echoed by the G7 Science Ministers in their Communiqué, wherein they state their desire to work with health ministers to address the full spectrum of challenges around NTDs, PRDs, Ebola, and diseases with emerging resistance.
Global health had a prominent place on the 2015 G7 agenda, not only due to the global scale of health threats such as Ebola and AMR, but also through the political will of the German government to make it a priority of its presidency. Let us hope that through the German presidency of the G20 in 2017, we will see the realisation of commitments made at Elmau, the continued placement of health high on the political agenda, and the full participation of women in shaping this agenda.