(L to R) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, H.E. ; Dr Walton Webson, the permanent representative of the Mission of Antigua and Barbuda and founder/co-chair of the UN Friends of Vision Group; and Peter Holland, IAPB CEO who met to discuss the global call for a UN Special Envoy on Vision.
GENEVA, Switzerland—In a meeting here recently, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and its representatives discussed the global call for a United Nations Special Envoy on Vision to the World Health Organization (WHO). IAPB Global Ambassador H.E. Dr. Walton Webson, the permanent representative of the Mission of Antigua and Barbuda and founder/co-chair of the UN Friends of Vision Group and IAPB CEO Peter Holland met with WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The meeting came as the campaign calling for the appointment of a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Vision was gaining substantial support across the UN.

Over 60 member states have signed the letter encouraging the secretary-general to appoint a Special Envoy of the secretary-general on Vision to serve as a global champion for vision and eye health. The Special Envoy would galvanize national action and enhance political commitment and multi-sector cooperation to drive progress with other development issues such as health, poverty reduction, education, gender equality, decent work, road safety and climate change. VMAIL reported on the international initiative in early February.

The letter from 63 countries, including Nigeria, India, the United Kingdom, China as well as Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Ireland, Brazil, Ghana, Australia and others stated, “This is an opportunity to ensure all people around the world have equitable access to eye health and to tackle a development issue which can be solved this decade.” To coincide with the letter from UN member states, over 150 CEOs and leaders of eye health organizations around the world have also written to the secretary-general to support the establishment of a Special Envoy on Vision.

Acknowledging that the challenges around eye health are only expected to grow if action is not taken, ambassador Webson stated, “The moment in time to spark a generational-level change for vision has arrived. With the full support of the global eye health sector, the Special Envoy on Vision can make significant progress towards the implementation of General Assembly resolution 75/310 ‘Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’ around the world.”

During the meeting with Dr. Tedros, they also discussed the importance of elevating eye health as a universal, cross-cutting and intersectional issue critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda. There was praise for the World Health Organization’s role in mobilizing national action on prioritizing vision and eye health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the need is most prevalent, as well as monitoring progress with recent global targets on Uncorrected Refractive Error and Cataract.

Peter Holland said, “A Special Envoy on Vision has the full support of IAPB; the global umbrella body for the eyecare sector with more than 180 members working in over 100 countries. Our members are drawn from NGOs, civil society, professional bodies, hospitals, research centres, as well as businesses and the corporate sector, all speaking with one voice about the importance for eye health to the world. Together we have demonstrated a united support and collective action calling on the UN secretary-general to appoint a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Vision.”