Intervention by His Excellency, President Zuma, at the Launch Event of the United Nations High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, New York

20 September 2016

Your Excellency, Mr François Hollande, President of France

Your Excellency, Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Your Excellency, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation

Your Excellency, Mr Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation

Your Excellency, Mr Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Honourable Commissioners


Ladies and gentlemen

Allow me to start by thanking the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, for establishing the High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth.

This I believe is an initiative that could contribute considerably to developing countries’ efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and overcoming the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

I would also like to express my appreciation to His Excellency President François Hollande, with whom I had the privilege to serve as co-chair of the Commission as well as the vice-chairs Dr Margaret Chan, Mr Guy Ryder and Mr Angel Gurria.

Allow me further to extend a special word of thanks to the Commissioners, the team of Sherpas, the Expert Group led by Dr Richard Horton and the members of the World Health Organisation’s Secretariat for their tireless efforts over the past few months to ensure that we have a benchmark report to present today.

The world needs to focus on the potential of the health sector to generate millions of jobs if we are to increase health security at the national, regional and global levels. This need is particularly urgent in developing countries.

Communicable diseases know no boundaries and non-communicable diseases are on the increase.

To protect ourselves and enhance humanity’s well-being, we need to invest in a more extensive and appropriately aligned health workforce.

We also need to provide access to affordable and effective medicines and other medical products that will ensure a healthy global population, which is able to contribute to global economic growth.

Investment in a healthy workforce and in the broader health economy goes to the heart of implementing the African Union Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The costs associated with training and deploying health workers and the delivery of health services should not be seen as a cost to the economy.

It should rather be viewed as a prudent investment, which will yield substantial dividends in terms of job creation and economic growth.

The youth, in general, and women in particular can benefit from this investment.

For Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to be achieved it is necessary to have a health workforce that is adequate, well placed, competent, skilled, motivated and accessible to the public.

The Commission is making ten recommendations to the Member States of the United Nations ranging from training needs, continuing education and the need to focus on primary health care.

The report also deals with health emergencies, ensuring the safety of health workers, addressing underserved areas and the benefits of using information and communication technologies.

It further proposes that we prioritise these recommendations over the next five years because by doing so, we will greatly increase our chances of meeting several of the goals we set ourselves in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It will, however, require bold political leadership at all levels as well as enhanced cross-sectoral collaboration in the fields of finance, labour, education, science, technology, health and social development in order for this to be achieved.

I believe that this is possible and a worthwhile investment to consider.

I therefore urge you to take the steps necessary to advance and implement the recommendations contained in the Commission’s report.

I thank you.





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