WHO - World Health Organization

06/03/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/03/2021 07:57

WHO Director-General's remarks at G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting – 3 June 2021

Secretary Hancock,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends.

First of all, thank you to Secretary Hancock and the UK government for inviting me to participate in today's session.

We're very encouraged that cases and deaths from COVID-19 are continuing to decline globally, but it would be a monumental error for any country to think the danger has passed.

The inequitable distribution of vaccines means that globally, we have allowed the virus to continue spreading, increasing the chances of a variant emerging that renders vaccines less effective.

Inequitable vaccination is a threat to all nations, not only those with the fewest vaccines.

At last week's World Health Assembly, I called for a massive global effort to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of all countries by the end of September, and at least 30% by the end of the year.

The tailored and consistent use of public health measures, in combination with equitable vaccination, remains the roadmap for ending this pandemic.

At the same time, we must learn the lessons the pandemic is teaching us.

As you know, there have been several reviews of the international response to the pandemic, and of WHO's role in it, including the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

And my thanks to Ellen and Helen for your leadership over the past year and thank you so much for inviting them to join you.

There are many recommendations in the IPPPR report and the other reports on how to strengthen WHO, and how to strengthen global health security.

The reports are unanimous in their view that the world needs a stronger WHO at the centre of the global health security architecture.

A common theme is that to strengthen WHO, a step change in the quantity and quality of funding is essential.

Addressing the mismatch between the expectations of WHO and the resources we have to do the job is a key issue, but it's by no means the only issue.

The challenges we face are more profound, and so must be the solutions we design.

That's why the one recommendation that I believe will do most to strengthen both WHO and global health security is the recommendation for a treaty on pandemic preparedness and response.

As you know, Member States at the World Health Assembly last week adopted a resolution agreeing to hold a Special Session of the Assembly in November to consider developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

This is an idea whose time has come.

We need a generational commitment that outlives budgetary cycles, election cycles and media cycles;

That creates an overarching framework for the governance, financing and systems and tools needed to build a safer world, based on a One Health approach, through close collaboration with the tripartite-plus partners.

A treaty would foster improved sharing, trust and accountability, and provide the solid foundation on which to build other mechanisms for global health security:

For peer review of national capacities;

For research and innovation;

For early warning, through mechanisms like the Global Pandemic Radar proposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson;

For stockpiling and production of pandemic supplies;

For equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments;

For an emergency workforce;

And much more.

I thank those G7 countries that have expressed support for the idea of a treaty.

Crucially, an international agreement of any kind must be designed and owned by all nations. It must be truly representative and inclusive.

Let me leave you with three requests:

First, we seek your support for reaching our vaccination targets for September and the end of the year.

Sharing doses with COVAX now is an essential for achieving those targets. We need 250 million doses by September, and we need 100 million doses just in June and July. As G7 nations, you are in a unique position to pool doses and make this happen.

Second, we seek your leadership for strengthening WHO, including through sustainable and predictable financing;

Third, we seek your support for a treaty or international agreement - call it what you will - to improve sharing and mutual accountability and address challenges we are facing now.

Thank you once again, and let me assure you of WHO's continued commitment to working with you and with all nations to realize our vision of a healthier, safer, fairer and more sustainable future.

I thank you.