Director-General

Solidarity and Globalization - Innovative Financing for development and combating pandemics

Plenary session 2 - Innovative financing for Public Health

Paris, France
28 February 2006

The concept of gathering new money from a tax on airline tickets is creative and exciting. For some time President Chirac was the sole champion of the solidarity levy. From the number of participants in this meeting, innovative financing has taken off. It is gratifying.

Tax has never been popular - except with ministers of finance. These days, with high oil prices and tightened security on international travel, there is increasing pressure to stay at home or not travel by air. The travel industry is suffering setbacks.

One might say that this is a bad time to be launching a ticketing tax. But it really does make sense.

There is a critical need for new money from original sources. The challenges the world faces today from diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and preparing for pandemic influenza require money. The ambitious targets of the Millennium Development Goals need financing. We know that governments have finite budgets. Private donors, even major ones like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have limitations on their financing capabilities. We can't keep re-shuffling the old money.

Let's look at the example of Norway. Minister Jonas Store can tell us how his government has made a critical difference to immunization from the beginning of the GAVI Alliance by providing fresh money to this new initiative. The International Financing Facility for Immunization - another innovative financing mechanism - will provide a further vital boost to this key area.

The new airline ticketing levy will similarly bring new money to important health issues. The airline industry's experience of its drastic fall in business during SARS in 2003 reflects the vulnerability of service sectors such as tourism, transport, retail and hospitality to public health events. An outbreak of pandemic influenza will hit this sector very hard, as people try to avoid infection. Airlines have much to gain from putting some of their resources into prevention activities. Investing in health in this way is not so much a donation, as an insurance policy.

Having achieved the hard task of raising the money, how should this money be spent? Passengers will want to see that their contribution is being spent in a specific, accountable way. It should not simply go into a general public health pot. This is why the proposal to support an international drug purchase facility is so appropriate. It is a tangible approach to overcoming one important obstacle in drug provision. We already have seen, with the Global TB Drug Facility, how remarkably effective such an arrangement is, and the radical improvements it can bring to disease control.

If this can be done it would make a valuable and substantial contribution to world health.

For this reason, I applaud President Chirac's initiative, giving this proposal WHO's full support, and encouraging you to do the same.

Thank you.

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