WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the first meeting of the working group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

I am sorry I could not be here for the first day, but I am very pleased to offer my welcome to the Co-Chairs, the Vice-Chairs and to all Member States at this first meeting of the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness for and Response to Health Emergencies.

I would like to congratulate the Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs on your election and to express my confidence in your leadership as you guide the working group. You have my full support.

In the midst of the worst global health crisis in generations, a consensus has emerged on the urgent need for fundamental changes in the global health architecture, both to address the shortfalls in the response to this pandemic, and to prepare for the next.

As mandated by the World Health Assembly, the purpose of this working group is to build upon, and bring coherence to, the substantial amount of work that has been done so far on this pressing issue.

At the Health Assembly, Member States were presented with the findings and recommendations of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, the IHR Review Committee and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

Member States also decided to hold a Special Session of the World Health Assembly in November to consider developing a WHO convention, agreement or other type of international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

One of the major gaps exposed during this pandemic has been the lack of international solidarity and sharing: the sharing of pathogen data, epidemiological information, resources, and technology.

Several Member States have proposed that a framework convention or other international instrument could address this fundamental weakness by providing a solid foundation for enhanced cooperation.

Several other multilateral groups have also made recommendations for improving the global health architecture, including the G7, the G20, and the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board.

I understand the working group is considering its methods of work in relation to two closely-related tasks:

To issue a report to be considered at November’s Special Session of the Health Assembly to assess the proposal for a framework convention or other international agreement on pandemic preparedness and response;

And to consider the findings and recommendations of the various committees for improving pandemic preparedness and response; and to propose actions for the Secretariat, Member States, and non-State actors, on how to take these recommendations forward.

You have a critical role at a critical time: to recommend reforms for the global health architecture for pandemic preparedness and response, and for how WHO prepares for and responds to health emergencies.

I would like to call on all Member States to participate fully in this process, and to draw on your experiences confronting the pandemic and other health emergencies.

This is not the time for small changes and temporary solutions. This is the moment for bold leadership and action, and for following through on commitments. Future generations are depending on us.

I wish the working group productive deliberations, and I look forward to your findings.

I thank you.