Speech by President Charles Michel at the World Health Summit

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. WHO Director-General, my very dear friend Dr. Tedros.

It is a pleasure for me to be with you today, even if virtually.

And to begin with, very naturally, I would like to pay tribute to all Ukrainian health workers. You work in absolutely horrific conditions of war and you work bravely to save lives and to try as much as possible to alleviate human suffering. And I would like to tell you here that we consider you as heroes. And I would also like to express our immense respect to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

COVID-19 has made public health and international cooperation an important issue, and rightly so. Because health is closely linked to many other public policies, such as the climate issue, the environmental issue, trade, the economy or even social cohesion.

Our health, it is well measured, is directly linked to the health of our ecosystems and, more generally, to the health of our planet. We must fully grasp these links to try to address the most pressing challenges, such as, for example, antimicrobial resistance, new pandemics that may arise or food safety issues. That is why I strongly believe that we must adopt this “One Health” approach. Because the “One Health” approach is not a luxury, on the contrary it is a condition sine qua non for the future of global health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to health services around the world. This pandemic also slowed two decades of hitherto uninterrupted progress towards universal health coverage. It is urgent to reverse this trend through concerted action. We fully share this common UN agenda which aims to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the area of ​​health.

As part of our international partnerships, the European Union gives priority to strengthening health systems and universal health coverage. We are totally determined to work hard to leave no one behind. Everyone must have, should have access to quality health care without any financial barrier and without the place where one lives is a constraint.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is obviously at the heart of our global health architecture. WHO is the leading and coordinating authority to address global health challenges. Next year you will celebrate 75And birthday. The European Union is determined to play a leading role in an inclusive process aimed at strengthening the WHO. In particular with regard to the preparation and response to health emergencies. It is also for this reason that together with Dr. Tedros some time ago we launched this idea of ​​an international treaty on pandemics.

This binding international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response is currently under negotiation. I hope this agreement contains changes to international health regulations. And I also hope that fairness, solidarity, greater transparency and greater coordination will be the basis of this future agreement. And, of course, we know: major investments will be needed to ensure its effectiveness and credibility. And this includes technical assistance and capacity building for developing countries.

Beyond COVID, the EU is fully engaged on health issues around the world. We are currently working to review our global health strategy. We want to strengthen global health systems, we want to fight health inequalities to move towards this universal health coverage. This includes work on building effective multilateral institutions and building strategic partnerships with other regions of the world.

Global health is also one of the priorities of G7 and G20 leaders. In this regard, I welcome the launch of the Financial Intermediation Fund for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. And we invite potential donors to join this effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Several months ago, after much diplomatic efforts, we reached a compromise on the intellectual property rights of vaccines. We have found this balance between intellectual property, scientific innovation and universal access to technology. And, of course, I welcome this agreement. Because it will ensure that countries that lack vaccine production capacity do not face obstacles or legal uncertainty when importing COVID-19 vaccines.

The pandemic has highlighted the challenges of equitable access to vaccines. This is why it is so urgent to increase the local production of vaccines, especially in developing countries. For this the European Union, with the support of financial institutions, has committed to raise over 1 billion euros. One billion euros to promote local production, to improve access to vaccines, medicines and technology in Africa. Technology transfer and support for regional production clusters are an essential part of this program.

With our African partners we are also building the first vaccine production sites on the continent, for example in Rwanda and Senegal. And other facilities will be built in Ghana, South Africa and elsewhere on the continent. Vaccines made in Africa, for Africa, with world-class technology.

During the summer we also started a new partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean for the local production of vaccines and medicines in this region of the world. This is an opportunity to strengthen public health, stimulate growth and create decent jobs while promoting innovation in the private sector.

Public health must never again be relegated to the backdrop of global challenges. Because our health is our life. Our life to all. And we must treat it with the necessary collective respect and commitment. This is why we are gathered here today to try together to move towards a more just world and a healthier world. Thanks for your attention and I wish you a great job.

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