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During the first day of the 73rd World Health Assembly that took place through a teleconference based in Geneva, lots of leaders of states and heads of other Organizations made important statements backing the 7 pages draft resolution proposed by Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, the African Group and its Member States, the European Union and its Member States, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The UN secretary said that “there is a lot of talking about solidarity but not that much for unity in our response to covid-19. Countries made strategies sometime contradictory strategies. We have to respond both to the health and economic consequences of the epidemic. If we don’t control the spread of the virus the economy will never recover.”
WHO’s General Director Dr Tedros reminded the members of the assembly of the “triple billion” targets: 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being, 1 billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage and 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies.; These are the targets that the world has set itself to achieve by 2023.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of WHO said “We are calling on all governments to unite behind a #PeoplesVaccine to protect all of humanity”.
EU and member candidates were represented by Croatia, affirming WHO’s leadership and the will to support global response in a line with the recent Pledge organized by the European Commission.
The representative of the Global Health Security Agenda Initiative said from the Netherlands that “defends WHO and multilateralism and that also supports the patent pool initiative.”
The representative of Qatar recalled the Doha declaration. “This includes the utilization of compulsory licenses to ensure equitable access to medical products. Intellectual property must not be a barrier to health for all.”
This afternoon French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a joint initiative for the EU recovery fund. In the joint document it is also clearly stated that they want Europe to “increase capacities on research and development for vaccines and treatment as well as coordinating and financing at the international level (ACT-A initiative) with the short term goal to develop and produce a Coronavirus vaccine within the European Union ensuring its global access.” In the same joint document the two powerful member-states of the EU talk about “coordinate European procurement policies [..] in order to speak with one voice with the pharmaceutical industry”.
The Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech said “[…] We need to share information, experience and best practice on R&D. WHO should lead the global response. We must provide further support for Africa. We must strengthen global governance in the area of public health. Restore economic and social development while working to combat the virus. Strengthen international cooperation. Solidarity and cooperation is our most powerful weapon to defeat the virus. For the shake of boosting international cooperation against covid-19 China will provide 2 billion US dollars over two years to help with covid-19 response, and with economically affected countries, especially developing countries. China will work with the UN to set up a global humanitarian response depot & hub in China, ensure the operation of supply chains. [..]”
The Russian representative also backed also the global efforts of the WHO saying that «Russia stands for strengthening #WHO as the leader of international health cooperation, playing a crucial role in coordinating multilateral efforts to combat #COVID19.»
The UK thanked the WHO for their work so far, and said that after the coronavirus crisis there will be lessons to learn not only from WHO but from the wider international system and for all member states. We support the need of a review of the global response but for now we must all stay focused on the fight against the virus. A vaccine would be our best weapon. The UK is leading this work; we are the biggest donor to this global effort to find the vaccine. UK research efforts are leading the way. The UK will be hosting a global vaccine summit on the 4th of June. I hope that you will be able to give your support because ultimately we are all on the same side of this battle.»
Tomorrow is the second and final day of the World Health Assembly. You can find more information and also watch it live here.