Key Issues

Health ‘a Cornerstone of Human Security’, Says Secretary-General in Remarks to Global Preparedness, Crises Response Event

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the side event on global preparedness and response to health crises, in New York today:

I thank the Governments of Germany, Japan and Norway for providing this important opportunity to take stock and build momentum for improving our collective response to health-related emergencies.

The Ebola, Zika and yellow fever outbreaks have highlighted the need for the international community, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN to be better prepared for health crises that affect multiple countries.

I would like to highlight some significant progress made to date.

In January, the High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises provided clear recommendations that chart a clear path forward. They focus on engaging communities, supporting national health systems, strengthening regional arrangements, securing sustainable financing and catalysing research and development.

In July, I established the Global Health Crises Task Force to update me on the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations, and advise me on whether the systems and processes in place for tackling global health crises are sufficiently robust.

In the past year, WHO has also made significant changes. One of the most important is a new programme to prepare for and respond to health crises. This means that WHO has operational capacity in outbreaks and emergencies, in addition to its traditional work on norms and standards.

The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is already showing impressive results in response to three emergencies: the Zika and yellow fever outbreaks and the humanitarian emergency in Nigeria.

To help end the yellow fever outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, WHO worked with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other UN partners and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to vaccinate 8.5 million people in Kinshasa – one of the most challenging public health responses ever.

I congratulate all those involved.

WHO is also working closely with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on a UN-wide approach for managing severe outbreaks. And the World Bank is playing a critical role through its Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, which will mobilize to meet funding needs right from the earliest stages of an outbreak.

Health is not just an end in itself, but a means of reaching all the 17 Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Health is a cornerstone of human security.

Public health crises remind us of the need for strong health systems and universal health coverage. Early and robust action, supported by swift financing, is essential.

I am grateful to Japan and Germany for their leadership in raising the profile of health on the agenda of the G-7 summits these past two years. I urge Member States to continue stressing the importance of health on their political agendas.

I commend Member States for initiating collaborative and inclusive partnerships with private sector and philanthropic partners, like the Roadmap for Health Systems and Healthy Lives, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

I urge Member States, UN agencies, civil society, private sector and other partners to maintain and build on your support for preparedness and response to health-related emergencies.

We must continue our vigilance, our commitment and our solidarity. We must constantly ask ourselves what more we can do, to meet one of the most urgent and intractable challenges of our times.

Thank you, and I wish you a successful meeting.

Source: United Nations.