WHO Forum - Making partnerships work for health

Geneva, Switzerland
26 October 2005

Honourable Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, Good morning.

Welcome to the first WHO Forum. The theme is important: how to effectively harness the power of partnership to achieve better health outcomes.

WHO is founded on those ideals. Our Constitution recognizes that health, peace and security are 'dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and States." That interdependence is at the heart of a good relationship. Without full cooperation, partnerships are empty structures. This meeting is about how to make them work at their best.

Repeatedly we are reminded of the challenges involved in dealing with large numbers of people in situations of ill health, emergency and insecurity: the aftermath of the earthquake in South Asia, the Asian tsunami; and the food crises in Niger and elsewhere. These are highly visible “natural disasters”, among many, where individual countries simply can’t cope.

Right now we are working very closely with the World Bank, FAO, OIE, and many other partners, to pool our knowledge and planning abilities against the natural disaster called pandemic influenza. That event will test us all. We have to act on what we know and prepare to the very best of our combined ability.

That combined ability can be a formidable force. The global initiative to eradicate polio has brought together an unprecedented coalition. It includes governments, the private sector, NGOs, and communities, including the 30 million volunteers who have helped to get the polio vaccine out, even to the most remote and challenging areas. That remarkable partnership has brought us to the brink of eradicating this disease. When the last pockets of poliovirus have been extinguished, the credit for that success will be shared by all those who have been involved.

Working together is a crucial resource in emergency situations - it is also increasingly the primary resort in dealing with large-scale public health problems. The recent proliferation of partnerships to address HIV, TB, malaria and many other serious threats to health highlights renewed global concerns about health. Involvement of new donors such as foundations and the private sector have introduced new dynamics into the international scene. They have broadened the traditionally medical confines of public health to include the broader goals of development and human rights, and have brought a new complexity to relationships and planning.

Our role in each of these situations was defined at the founding of the Organization: as “the directing and coordinating authority on international health work”. It describes the role of drawing together the right resources and leading the way out of the problem.

The three themes of this meeting illustrate practical opportunities to see what has worked in the past – or not – and to learn and discuss best practices. The themes explore the health of mothers and children, the health workforce crisis, and the chronic disease pandemic. They illustrate the power of partnerships to bring resources together fruitfully. They also make clear the challenges of overlooked or neglected populations and conditions. They are all areas where coordination of the particular strengths of several partners is essential for success.

I invite you all to make the most of the opportunities this Forum offers. It is an ideal time to exchange ideas, and to renew or gain impetus in your plans through working with others.

Thank you.