Seminar: Fighting inequalities to leave no one behind and to achieve SDG 3

On September 3, 2019, Friends of the Global Fund Europe in partnership with the French Embassy in Helsinki, the Global Fund, and Vaestöliitto organized a seminar on “Fighting inequalities to leave no one behind and to achieve SDG 3”. This seminar brought together NGOs, civil society, international organizations, academia and decision-makers to discuss and showcase what current research and practice tell us about the relationship between Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on ensuring healthy lives and various forms of inequality. This event took place during the Finnish EU Presidency, when there is an opportunity for Finland to put issues on the table, and the event aimed specifically to raise questions on the intersection of gender equality and global health.

In the opening statement, H.E Serge Tomasi, French Ambassador to Finland expressed that “the Global Fund is one of the best examples of international cooperation”. He explained how 20 years ago all major actors came together to create the Global Fund in a unique act of international solidarity to fight the AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

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Keynote speaker Eva Furman from the Finnish Environment Institute and member of the Independent Group of Scientists that prepared the United Nations Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 expressed the need for systems thinking. She explained how we cannot solve problems one by one, but we need to deal with the whole palette of challenges. « In many SDGs there has not been any progress. For some, it is going backwards — inequality is among them. This will hinder the progress in other goals. All SDGs are linked together, and one action can ensure progress for several goals », she highlighted showing findings from the recently published Global Sustainable Development Report 2019.

Hanna Sarkkinen, Member of the Finnish Parliament, expressed the need for an intersectional approach to deal with the global challenges. She stressed the need to promote gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). She argued that there is a real need for champions in the world right now in order to raise the voice of people who are neglected. She also stressed the importance of inclusive governance, and how the people we are talking about should be involved in the decision making. She also expressed her strong belief that Official Development Assistance from Finland will increase in the coming years, and that the Finnish Parliament is? dedicated to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dianne Stewart from the Global Fund explained how the Global Fund has had an important impact not only on the fight against the three diseases, but also on the improvement of health care systems in general. She stressed the need for a holistic approach to fight the three diseases. She also highlighted how the Global Fund, since the start, has worked to ensure inclusion of the most vulnerable groups. She also highlighted how initiatives that come of the grassroots are more sustainable than ideas imported from Geneva, which is why the Global Fund works closely with civil society and NGOs in all countries.

Elina Nikulainen from UN Women explained how young women face barriers to information about HIV and have less access to it and fewer resources to take preventive measures. Women also carry more of the burden for caring for others sick or dying of AIDS, along with orphans left behind. This decreases opportunities for education and employment, which has impact on several other SDGs. She expressed the need for women’s leadership and meaningful participation in all decisions, as key factors in successful work to eliminate the increase in infection rates and to end stigma and exclusion. From a research perspective, Maria Lo Bue from the United Nations University summarized the current state of research related to health and inequality. Current research highlights how health outcomes tend to be worse in more unequal societies and that shocks to health of children have persistent impact on future.

Her Excellency Carmine J. Smidt, the South African ambassador to Finland, put the issues in the context of her country, and explained how despite progress, there is still important challenges. Girls continue to pay a disproportionate price and there is still particularly challenges such as violence against women. She explained how South Africa will continue to work with donor countries and international organizations to implement progress that last.

In conclusion, the event highlighted the importance of empowerment of women and the inclusion of the most affected groups in the decision-making process as several speakers highlighted the meaningful participation of affected groups in all decisions to ensure durable progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Download the briefing note « Fighting inequalities to leave no one behind and to achieve SDG 3 »