The G20 Summit ended in Hangzhou on September 5, highlighting China’s role as an agenda setter in promoting global governance and sustainable development. Like previous meetings, though, global health was not addressed in a mainstream way. This came as no surprise, as prior to the Summit, the 18-page document outlining China’s G20 plans did not mention health at all. Interestingly, two weeks before the Summit Chinese leaders held their first major national meeting on health in the post-Mao era, where President Xi Jinping not only emphasised health as a prerequisite to achieving China’s development goals, but also vowed to engage in global health, including strengthening health cooperation with countries in areas involving the Belt and Road Initiative.
Global leaders attending the meeting did hold discussion on global health as part of the “other prominent issues affecting the world economy”, but the focus was almost entirely on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). In the communique issued at the end of the Summit, they affirmed the need to “explore in an inclusive manner to fight antimicrobial resistance by developing evidence-based ways to prevent and mitigate resistance, and unlock research and development into new and existing antimicrobials from a G20 value-added perspective”. They also recognised health as a key aspect of sustainable development. The G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlighted the critical role strong and resilient health systems play in responding to infectious disease outbreaks and other global health challenges. The Action Plan also committed G20 members to support the efforts of WHO to “manage health risks and crisis in a comprehensive way”.
Next year, Germany will play the host of the G20 Summit. Chancellor Angela Merkel has already made it clear that global health will be one of the key deliverables at the 2017 Hamburg Summit. It is anticipated that AMR will continue to be a key global health issue to be discussed at the summit (as promised in the 2016 communique). Yet there are other equally important global health issues that need to be addressed in order to attain sustainable development goals (SDGs). Hopefully, the global health agenda for the Hamburg Summit will be expanded to include issues such as the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors, as well as financing the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the health targets of the SDGs in a synergistic and sustainable manner.
Written by Dr Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations