Statement by H.E. Ambassador Koro Bessho, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, Chair of the Group of Friends of Universal Health Coverage and Global Health, at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development Side Event: “Fostering Resilience across the Life Course through UHC"

 (Check Against Delivery)

Thank you Jane,
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to express my appreciation to the organizers and co-sponsors for making this event possible.
As an ageing society with a shrinking population, UHC is of major interest to Japan. And I really appreciate this opportunity to share with you the experience of my country which I feel would have relevance to every nation.
Japan has managed to sustain its universal health coverage system for more than half a century and I believe this has contributed to attaining the world’s longest life expectancy. In the process, we learnt some key lessons that may be useful as we discuss the way forward here in the UN context.
The first lesson is that UHC leads not only to a healthier nation but also to economic development and growth. Japan introduced a national health care insurance scheme which covered the entire population in 1961. Coupled with a series of public health interventions including safe water and sanitation, better nutrition, vaccination, and school health programs, our UHC system ensured affordable access to fundamental health care and saved many Japanese from impoverishment. We believe this is one of the major factors that led to our country’s economic development.
The second lesson for Japan was learning how to adapt a universal health system to an ageing population. In the year 2000, Japan introduced a public long-term care insurance system in order to address the nursing care needs of the ageing population in addition to medical care. Service provision increased dramatically under the new scheme. However, we have felt it necessary to integrate medical care and long-term care into the community-based care.  We have also being adapting the system to strike the best balance between the home-based and institutional care.
Based on these lessons, it became clear that UHC is not a luxury. It is not just the right choice but a smart choice for countries to develop and prosper. It is at the same time a constant journey that needs to adapt to changing needs and demographics. Every country will face population ageing sooner or later. So countries may wish to prepare sooner rather than later to establish their UHC and strike the right balance between medical and long-term care in order to meet the needs of the ageing population.
Globally, 3.5 billion people, half the world’s population, still lack access to essential health services, and 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty every year because of health care costs. This year, we have an opportunity to change the trajectory as we convene the High-Level Meeting on UHC in September. We must bring together all our efforts to ensure UHC for everyone.
    In order to make this opportunity as meaningful as possible,  interested Member States have established the Group of Friends of UHC as an informal platform open to all UN Members here in New York. The purpose of the Group is to build momentum, in support of the co-facilitators, Thailand and Hungary, towards the High-Level Meeting on UHC during the High Level Week this year. After the High Level Meeting, The Group of Friends will continue to work towards achieving UHC by 2030. Some 40 Member States have already joined. If your country has not, please refer to the concept note distributed, and let us know if you are interested in joining.
The Group of Friends will convene briefings and consultations. The first such briefing is planned during the lunch hour of coming Friday, February 15th in Conference Room 2. We will hear from the PGA, co-facilitators, and WHO colleagues and discuss the way forward.
Japan on its part will leverage every opportunity to promote the agenda of UHC, including the G20 summit in Osaka in June, as well as the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD VII, in Yokohama in August leading to the High-Level Meeting on UHC in September.
Let us work together to live up to the commitment of “leaving no one behind” through ensuring UHC so that everyone can “add years to life and life to years.”
I thank you.