People's Health Assembly

Cuenca, Ecuador - Video Address
12 July 2005

I welcome this opportunity to express the support of the World Health Organization for the People's Health Assembly, and our appreciation for your many health activities around the world.

Our objective is the same, and our methods complement each other: working with governments and with nongovernmental groups to protect and promote the health of all peoples. By combining our strengths and uniting our efforts, we have achieved a great deal and we will achieve a great deal more together.

This year, 2005, will be remembered as the one in which the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control came into force. It is a treaty ratified and enforced by governments but it is also the outcome of a strong social movement in favour of health and in opposition to a harmful industry. With that mass movement to sustain them, the governments of the world were able to reach agreement on measures to combat this major health problem. With continued mutual support, we are putting those measures into practice and ensuring that they get results.

The current global effort to get life-saving medicine to people living with AIDS likewise began with the mobilization of many thousands of people working at community level. It was they who made the world aware of what was needed and what was possible. Now that effort has the strong support of governments and intergovernmental organizations as well. These can provide the means and the systems for universal access to treatment and preventive services. To ensure that these systems are well made and well used, the expertise and goodwill of nongovernmental groups are as much needed as ever. It is by combining our efforts that we got this campaign started, and it is by continuing to do so that we are making it succeed.

The same is true for polio eradication, for TB control, for malaria control, for the growing fight against chronic diseases, and for the work of strengthening health systems. Your energy and abilities are an indispensable part of these efforts, as are those of the health promotion movement, which will be holding its Sixth Global Conference in Bangkok in three weeks time.

People's health depends to a very large extent on the social conditions in which they live. Policies that can improve those conditions are among the best means we have of protecting health. We need to make sure that successful interventions are recognized and put into practice as widely as possible, particularly in developing countries. To help us do this, last March we launched the Commission on Social Determinants of Health, in Santiago, Chile.

The commissioners are seeking ways to make use of the vast amount of knowledge and potential for action represented here today in the People's Health Assembly. I am delighted that the Commission, as well as senior staff members of WHO, will be actively involved in the discussions here this week. Regional consultations on civil society participation in the Commission's work are also in progress. We look forward to seeing new ways to work together coming out of these discussions.

"Health for All" expresses not just an ideal but a fact. Health is for all people. Everybody needs and is entitled to the conditions for a healthy life. This has always been WHO's guiding principle, not just since the Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978 but since the Organization came into existence in 1948. The challenge has been taken up anew by the Millennium Development Goals and the global community's commitment to achieving their health-related targets.

As our Constitution puts it, "the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition." As the People's Charter for Health puts it, our common vision is "a healthy life for all".

Thank you for adding your voices and your strength to the pursuit of this great objective.