(Check against delivery)Thank you, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to express my appreciation to the organizers, co-sponsors and distinguished participants for making this event possible. Universal Health Coverage, or UHC, embodies the notion of ‘No One Left Behind’, the core principle of the SDGs, and underpins the concept of human security, which Japan subscribes to. In fact, Japan has been managing its universal health coverage system for more than half a century. I would like to share some of the lessons we have learned, and also discuss their global implications.
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 insurance scheme covering the entire population in 1961, while we were still recovering from the Second World War. Coupled with a number of public health interventions, including safe water and sanitation, improved nutrition and vaccinations, our UHC system ensured affordable access to basic health care for all and saved many citizens from impoverishment. We believe this political choice led Japan not only to achieving the world’s longest life expectancy but also in part to our country’s economic development.
The second lesson has been 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 our ageing population in addition to medical care. Service provision increased dramatically under the new scheme. However, we are faced with the challenge of how to ensure the sustainability of our health and long-term care insurance systems with a shrinking working age populations and rising costs. Against this backdrop, we are embarking on a comprehensive social security and work style reform, aimed at ensuring that people can fulfil and enjoy their lives to the fullest while containing costs and securing financial resources.
These lessons tell us that UHC is not a luxury. It is not just the right choice but also an economical choice for a country’s development and prosperity. At the same time, it is a constant journey that needs to be adapted to changing needs and demographics.
Drawing on the global knowledge base including these lessons, Japan, as the G20 Presidency this year, will take up the agenda of sustainable financing for UHC at the G20 Osaka Summit as well as the first joint session of G20 Health and Finance Ministers in June to enhance collaboration and share common understandings to achieve and sustain UHC. In August, we will convene the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD VII, in Yokohama. We will promote UHC building on the AU-Japan joint initiative called “UHC in Africa” that we launched at the last TICAD in 2016 in Kenya, as well as the recent AU initiative called “Call to Action on UHC”.
We trust these discussions will inform and mutually reinforce other processes, including the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, the High-Level Political Forum, and the Financing for Development Forum in September. There is already a promising sign. This week, the ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum will adopt an outcome document that, for the first time, “encourages countries’ further efforts to scale up investment in UHC”, which Japan has been promoting to include throughout the negotiations.
Japan will leverage every bilateral and multilateral opportunity to promote the agenda of achieving and sustaining UHC, leading to the High-Level Meeting on UHC in September and beyond, together with all of us here today.
I thank you.