Call for special envoy on vision

63 countries have written to the UN Secretary-General to call for the envoy, with more than 150 leaders of eye health organisations writing in support


More than 60 countries, including the UK, along with 150 eye health leaders, have written to UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, calling for the creation of a Secretary-General’s special envoy on vision.

The envoy would enable a global advocate to lead the implementation of the 2021 UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on ‘Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,’ co-ordinating with relevant UN agencies such as the World Health Organization, and mobilising national action.

The letter was signed by 63 countries including Nigeria, India, China, Antigua, Barbuda, Bangladesh, Ireland, Brazil, Ghana and Australia.

Dr Walton Webson, the permanent representative of the Mission of Antigua and Barbuda, founder and co-chair of the UN Friends of Vision Group, called the July 2021 adoption of the UNGA resolution a “watershed moment for global efforts to improve vision.”

“In that resolution, governments recognised vision as foundational to human development,” Webson said. “With this call for a Special Envoy on Vision, countries are once again stating the importance in eye health in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

To coincide with the letter from the UN member states, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has co-ordinated a letter to the Secretary-General in support of the special envoy on vision, which has been signed by more than 150 leaders of eye health organisations around the world, including professional bodies, the corporate sector, and non-governmental organisations.

The letter states: “Opportunities to spark generational-level change are rare. It requires the right global commitment, strong government and community support, a clear pathway forward, and the right leadership to guide the way. For vision, that moment has arrived.”

Peter Holland, IAPB chief executive, said: “Globally, at least 2.2 billion people, more than a quarter of humanity, have a vision impairment or blindness. Of those, more than one billion live with sight loss due to a lack of services. Population growth, an aging population, and increased urbanisation only make the problem worse.

“The special envoy would crucially serve as a global champion for vision to mobilise national action on eye health ensuring everyone has accessible, available and affordable eye health services is a global development challenge which can be solved by 2030.”

The letters, and social media assets, can be downloaded from the IAPB website.