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Sixty-fifth General Assembly
61st Meeting (AM)

Meeting Also Hears Introduction of Resolution on Follow-up To Commemoration of Anniversary of Abolition of Transatlantic Slave Trade

Calling for more attention to health as an important policy issue on the international agenda, especially in meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, General Assembly delegates today recognized that challenges in global health demanded persistent attention, urged States to consider health in the formulation of foreign policy and requested the Secretary-General and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General to submit a report to the next session on "improving the effectiveness of governance for global health".

Those elements were laid out in a consensus resolution adopted on foreign policy and global health, by which the Assembly also underscored the urgency of strengthening health systems by improving infrastructure and ensuring affordable access to quality services, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and acknowledged the need to make the global health architecture more effective, efficient and responsive with a view to enhancing "health equity". The World Health Organization's lead role as the primary specialized agency for health also was recognized.

By other terms, the Assembly acknowledged that progress in global health depended primarily on international partnerships, particularly during crises, and in that context, reiterated States' willingness to cooperate on health issues, including in promoting universal access to medicines that were safe and affordable, as well as in increasing global vaccine production to achieve equal access in situations of pandemics. It reaffirmed the right to use provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement, among others, which provided flexibilities in promoting access to medicines.

In half-day debate that also saw consideration of the Organization's programme of activities in follow-up to its commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, some delegates agreed that cross-sector programmes, particularly to deal with non-communicable diseases, were critical to strengthening public health systems. While the World Health Organization was the essential United Nations leader in global health, new partnerships - including public-private partnerships - were also important. Substantial gaps persisted in realizing every person's right to the highest standards of physical and mental health. In that light, many discussed their cooperation on health issues, both with neighbours and countries of other continents.

Specifying his understanding of "governance" in the health sphere, Switzerland's delegate stressed the need for mechanisms to manage global health problems jointly and coherently. "It is not a question of creating new structures, which would make the existing architecture even more cumbersome," he said, but rather of creating rules of the game that were mutually acceptable.

In prior debate on the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, Trinidad and Tobago's delegate introduced on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) a draft text on erecting a permanent memorial to victims, which set the tone for discussion on slavery's "pernicious history", which still cast a dark shadow on the world. It was vitally important, he said, to support education efforts and to preserve the memory of the "horrific occurrence" to ensure it was never repeated.

With that in mind, Jamaica's delegate, as Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee in 2010, said that panel had focused on fund-raising, and with its advisory board, would revise its strategy. Ten countries had contributed to the Trust Fund this year, including India, whose $250,000 was the single largest voluntary contribution to date. Consultations on the project design, criteria for artists and judges for the design competition, and a draft memorandum of understanding for engagement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had all been concluded.

Brazil's delegate said her country, with the world's largest African diaspora, took pride in its African heritage. Echoing the remarks of others, she noted that inequalities persisted and that her Government was fully committed to redressing them. The initiative to erect, in a prominent place at United Nations Headquarters, a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade was strongly supported. "May the spirit that animated nineteenth-century abolitionists inspire the present fight against all forms of discrimination and for the full realization of all human rights for all," she said.

Also speaking today on the issue of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were Mauritania (on behalf of African States), United States, Cuba, Belarus, Australia, Libya and India.

Brazil's representative introduced the draft resolution on "Global Health and Foreign Policy".

Also speaking on global health and foreign policy were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), India (also on behalf of the Asian Group), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), United States, Japan and Australia.

An Observer of the Holy See spoke in a point of order on the text.

The General Assembly will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to take up the reports of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and the report of the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order.