World

WHO Director-General's remarks at the COVID-19 Foreign Ministerial hosted by the United States of America

Thank you, Secretary Blinken, for bringing us together today.

As a former Foreign Minister myself, I believe Ministers of Foreign Affairs have a crucial role to play in ending the pandemic and making the world safer:

First, because health security is a national security issue;

And second, because pandemics are by nature cross-border events.

So this meeting is very welcome, and we would like to work with you to make it a more permanent platform.

Our meeting today is basically about two fundamental questions:

First, how do we end this pandemic?

And second, how do we make the world safer?

Let me start with the first question.

As you know, WHO’s targets are to vaccinate 40% of the population of all countries by the end of this year, and 70% by mid-2022.

Nearly 80 countries, half of them in Africa, will not reach our 40% vaccination target, without your help.

To reach that target, we need an additional 550 million doses.

We ask you to establish immediately a high-level working group to identify and deliver those doses, and to give COVAX, AVAT and low-income countries the visibility they need so they can plan accordingly.

We ask high-coverage countries to give your place in the vaccine delivery queue to COVAX and AVAT, as the US has just done with a delivery of Moderna vaccines;

We ask those countries that have promised to donate vaccines to make good on those promises, as soon as possible.

We ask you to support local production of vaccines.

And we ask you to fully fund the ACT Accelerator, which needs 23.4 billion U.S. dollars over the next 12 months to get vaccines, tests, treatments and PPE to where they are needed most.

The second question we must answer is: how will we make the world safer?

Ultimately, the pandemic is a crisis of solidarity that has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in the global health architecture.

The only way we can address those weaknesses is with a binding treaty or agreement between nations.

Such an agreement would provide the overarching framework to foster greater international cooperation, and provide a platform for action in four key areas:

First, better governance. WHO supports the idea of a heads of state council, anchored in WHO, to provide high-level political leadership for rapid and coordinated action.

The council could be supported by a ministerial standing committee, which WHO Member States are now working to establish under the WHO Executive Board.

Second, better financing. We support the idea of a financial intermediary fund established at the World Bank for additional financing to address gaps identified by WHO, and financed by countries and regional organizations on a burden-sharing basis.

And third, the world needs a strengthened, empowered and sustainably financed WHO, at the centre of the global health architecture.

Almost a three-quarters of a century ago, the nations of the world created WHO to be the leading and coordinating authority on global health.

Now, the nations of the world must fulfil that mission and mandate.

I thank you.