20 June 2016
I thank the President of the General Assembly for taking the initiative to organize this important briefing.
I also thank His Excellency Mr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, former President of Tanzania, for his leadership as the Chair of the High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises. Thank you, Mr. President, for your participation.
I am glad he could join us today from Dakar to discuss the findings of the Panel.
I commissioned the High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises in April 2015 to make recommendations on how to strengthen national and international systems to prevent and manage future health crises.
On 9 February this year, the Panel issued its report, setting out 27 recommendations for national, regional and international action.
The Panel stressed that making health systems stronger and being better prepared for health emergencies needs innovative research and development, adequate financing and support through development programming.
The conclusions of the Panel have been carefully reviewed by the UN system through inter-agency consultations.
Following these consultations, I published my own report, entitled “Strengthening the global health architecture: implementation of the recommendations of the High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises”.
The Panel has given us concrete and sensible recommendations that chart a clear path forward for how communities, nations and the international system can better prepare for and respond to health crises in the future.
I intend to be fully engaged in the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations as they relate to the UN system.
I have established a Global Health Crises Task Force to monitor, coordinate and support the follow-up and implementation of the Panel’s recommendations.
This will be led by the Deputy Secretary-General, who will be supported by Dr. David Nabarro, my Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change.
Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, will serve as co-leads for the Task Force.
There has already been progress on some of the Panel’s key recommendations.
I would like to highlight three developments.
First, the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
The Panel affirmed the role of the World Health Organization as a global health leader, at all times and especially during public health emergencies.
The Panel recommended that WHO’s capacity to respond to health emergencies must be consolidated and strengthened.
In the past year, WHO has been working to change how it works in health crises.
It has created a new Health Emergencies Programme, which now gives WHO an operational arm to respond effectively and immediately to outbreaks and emergencies.
This new Programme changes the fundamental nature of WHO, which up until now has primarily seen itself as having technical and normative roles.
I applaud the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, for having the vision, the dedication and the tenacity to implement this transformation.
And I am delighted that last month, the World Health Assembly agreed to the establishment of the new Health Emergencies Programme.
Secondly, the Panel highlighted the importance of strengthening UN system coordination during health crises, and affirmed the critical role of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.
These recommendations on how the UN system needs to do better have been taken very seriously.
In the case of the ongoing Zika outbreak, the Deputy Secretary-General has been convening monthly coordination meetings of the principals of the UN system to ensure that there is a senior-level forum for coordination and information sharing.
Earlier this month, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee endorsed a proposal prepared jointly by WHO and OCHA – the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – to extend and adapt existing IASC mechanisms to facilitate the coordination of support for large-scale outbreaks and public health emergencies.
WHO and OCHA will work to finalize Standard Operating Procedures for infectious hazards.
Thirdly, I am pleased that the World Bank launched its Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility on 21 May 2016. This will be an innovative fast-disbursing global financing mechanism designed to protect the world against pandemics. It will create the first-ever insurance market for pandemic risk. It will be implemented in close cooperation with WHO.
In March this year, the WHO Director-General declared that the Ebola outbreak no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
But by then, 2016 had already seen a new Public Health Emergency of International Concern with the clusters of neonatal malformations and neurological disorders related to the Zika virus.
These reports on global health crises address one of the most urgent and intractable challenges of our time.
Given the tragic suffering that can be caused by outbreaks of global health emergencies, I am grateful for the strong engagement by the General Assembly in health crises.