In 2017, forty-four countries volunteered to present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) - the main United Nations platform dealing with sustainable development. The VNRs are part of the follow-up and review of the progress on the Agenda 2030 implementation. In their VNRs, six countries directly referenced antimicrobial resistance containment activities as a means towards successful realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Indonesia highlighted improvements in their systematic approach to prevent the spread of Multidrug Resistance (MDR), in which they are making strides to seek new medical treatments. One of the main foci of the Netherlands’ approach to sustainable development, both at home and internationally, is the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Along similar lines, India and Afghanistan, emphasized drug-resistant TB prevention, while Belgium underscored antibiotic-free pork production.
Antimicrobial resistance most prominent in Sweden’s national review
However, the issue of antimicrobial resistance had the most prominent position in Sweden’s voluntary national review, where it was mentioned a dozen times. This reflected Sweden’s national success story and long-prioritized international leadership in AMR containment coupled with a civil society advocacy push to mainstream this topic into the sustainability discussions. At the HLPF, Sweden addressed the pillars of the country’s strong cross-sectoral work on AMR and its contributions to global collective action.
The Ministerial Declaration, side event and civil society push – a commitment to step up efforts on antimicrobial resistance
During the HLPF, countries reaffirmed their will to continue their AMR-mitigating efforts by adopting the Ministerial Declaration, in which they committed to “step up (their) efforts to promote immunization and combat communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and hepatitis, where achievements are gravely challenged, inter alia, by antimicrobial resistance.”
There was also a HLPF side-event solely devoted to antimicrobial resistance titled “Antimicrobial resistance, a litmus test for multi-sectoral action in the SDG era” which was co-hosted by Permanent Mission of UK to the UN, Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN, WHO Office at the UN, UNAIDS New York Office, and FAO.
The attention to the issue of antimicrobial resistance within sustainable development talks was also raised within the CSO call orchestrated by the Health in the 2030 Agenda NGO Coalition – a group of over 100 civil society organizations with global representation addressing a broad range of health issues. In this call, the organizations urged Members States to ensure the inclusion of health, including AMR, in annual reviews of the SDGs.
Next steps on antimicrobial resistance monitoring within SDGs
In parallel, despite the fact the SDG indicators framework has been adopted while omitting direct reference to antimicrobial resistance containment, many are persistent in voicing out the need to monitor the realization of the global collective action on antimicrobial resistance also within SDGs. Further synergistic advocacy efforts as demonstrated during HLPF this year could pave the way towards introducing antimicrobial resistance indicator(s) into the SDG framework. Work on the framework will continue under the umbrella of Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators even after its adoption with minor refinements and subsequently two major refinements sessions in 2020 and 2025.