Leaving No One Behind - Subnational Health System Strengthening


Remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann, United Nations Resident Coordinator

Riverside Hotel Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

3 November 2016

  • Honorable Vice Minister of Health Ms. Byambasuren
  • Dr. Soe, WHO Representative
  • Representatives of Health Departments from 11 Aimag

Thank you for inviting me to this important event. We all know that the leaders of 193 countries approved the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. The 17 sustainable development goals are set to transform the world. The SDGs are about making our world a more peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable – for this generation and for those to come; to protect people and planet.  In other words, the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are about doing development differently and about changing the way we live, behave, do business, consume and produce.

At the heart of the SDGs is a simple principle: leave no one behind.  It means the SDGs and targets should be met for everyone, with a particular focus on the poorest, most vulnerable and furthest behind – those who are often the hardest to reach.

To fulfill the promise of the 2030 Agenda, we must ensure that no person – wherever they live and regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion or belief, race, sexual orientation or other status – is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities.

Inequality is a global problem that impedes development everywhere. It shows up in skewed income distributions; in gender and other discrimination; and in unequal access to the most basic goods and services like food, water, education, and health. It extends to access to land and natural resources, and to political participation and decision-making.

Mongolia has shown solid development progress over the last 15 years. Last year, it has been classified for the first time as a high Human Development Country. Economic progress has lifted half a million people out of poverty. But poverty remains a challenge. 1 in 5 Mongolians still live below the poverty line. And progress has been achieved at the cost of environmental degradation impacting the lives of all with the poor often bearing the brunt.

For example, Pneumonia, the “forgotten’ killer”, is the second leading cause for under-5 mortality in Mongolia. The main cause for pneumonia is lung infection often complicated among children with poor nutrition status. Air pollution is recognized as a critical contributing factor. UNICEF’s new report on air pollution released earlier this week estimates that 300 million children around the world live in environments where the air to breathe is toxic. Of these 220 million are believed to live in the AP region. The 2010 Global Burden of Disease study also demonstrated the significant long term health impact of air pollution in Mongolia with pneumonia being one of three diseases that results in the most life years lost.

More efforts are needed from all stakeholders – including policymakers, industrial emitters and citizens – to reduce pollution and protect the health of Mongolia’s people. This links to SDGs number 3 – good health and well-being – along with goal 7 – affordable and clean energy – goal 11 – sustainable cities and communities – goal 13 – climate action – and goal 15 – life on land.

At the United Nations, we are pleased to see Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision 2030 firmly anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Like the SDGs – Mongolia’s vision is broad and ambitious. Implementing it goes beyond government and requires a whole-of-society effort bringing in private sector, civil society and communities as well as political parties. In fact, the vision offers an opportunity to go beyond the short-term objectives of the next election and plan for the longer-term and for future generations.

The next step now is for Mongolia to translate its Sustainable Development vision – and the SDGs embedded in it – into concrete government policies and budgets for actual implementation. In doing so, it will be key to work out the connections between the different priorities – how they are mutually reinforcing and potentially, how they compete with each other. In times of economic crisis, policy-makers may be tempted to scale back on social spending. To do so however defies economic logic. According to the IMF it is investments into the poorest 20% of citizens that have proven to boost growth. Prioritising the wealthiest in society has shown to have little or no effect on GDP. The principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ thus offers solid returns.

I would like to commend the government for the emphasis it puts on social agendas. Continued social expenditures are vital to protect the country’s impressive developmental gains including on maternal mortality where we have seen a worrisome regression in the last 6 months.

Investments are key but equally important are sustainability and resilience of health systems. It is good to hear that Zavkhan and Selenge aimags are now establishing Aiimag Emergency operation centers and most importantly are formalizing the operational arrangements with the aimag Governors. This will help the speedy exchange of information, streamlining cross sectoral surveillance and harmonize recovery and response.

I am pleased that health sector workers from national and regional health institutions are discussing this topic today. The importance of a strong health system cannot be underestimated in ensuring to leave no one behind. Equitable access to good quality professional health care services and medicines when and where people need them is one of the fundamental answers. Health care coverage must be universal and accessible, especially for the poor and disadvantaged. I thank WHO for organizing a series of the workshop for health sector workers nationwide. I hope that your discussions will find answers to questions such as Who are the poorest and disadvantaged in Mongolia, who cannot access quality health services and why not, and how health care coverage can be improved.

Supporting the implementation of the SDGs and the SDV is at the heart of the new UN Development Framework that we launched Friday two weeks ago.

We are setting up a broad programmatic platform for the SDGs that supports SDG mainstreaming into Mongolia’s national and local plans, policies and budgets and facilitates measures for acceleration and their subsequent monitoring.

As part of this, we will support the development of an integrated financing assessment of Mongolia’s Development Vision and introduce a screening tool for review and alignment of policies and sectoral plans with the Vision and the SDGs. We will also work with the Government to translate experiences from local pilot initiatives into country-wide solutions underpinned by relevant policies and budget allocations. And we are supporting the establishment of data and monitoring systems that can track progress over time.

We look forward to working with the Government and all partners on this important agenda.

I wish you productive discussions and all the best of success in your important work.

Thank you.