Closing remarks to the 61st World Health Assembly
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Mister President, honourable ministers, excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
First and foremost, let me express my heartfelt gratitude for your achievements. As I stated on Monday, health problems are increasingly shaped by powerful forces outside the direct control of the health sector. Up against these forces, public health has to struggle to take a pro-active role.
You have seized opportunities to do so. Resolutions such as those endorsing the action plan for noncommunicable diseases, and for reducing the harmful use of alcohol, are prime examples. They establish a foundation for national and collective strategic actions, actions that have great preventive power, though we all know that the way ahead will not be easy.
You have taken a huge step forward with the item on Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property. With this, public health leaps ahead in addressing two fundamental and long-standing needs: to improve access to existing interventions, and to include diseases of the poor in the drive to develop new products.
This is a major breakthrough for public health, and I congratulate you all. This is a breakthrough that will benefit many millions of people for many years to come. This is a contribution to fairness in health, and this is pro-active public health at its very best.
In other areas, you have given WHO a clear mandate to perform its role. Concerning climate change, you want the Secretariat to make those sectors shaping environmental and energy policies more keenly aware of the high stakes for human health. Countries, and especially small island developing nations, gave numerous examples of serious health effects being documented right now. I appreciate the need to respond to climate change with the utmost urgency. The resolution on this matter gives WHO, and countries, some clear responsibilities.
As an undercurrent throughout this Assembly, we have seen the strong commitment to the health-related Millennium Development Goals as a stimulus for innovative action and a benchmark for monitoring progress.
A second welcome theme, expressed in many debates, was the emphasis given to the strengthening of health systems. I appreciate, too, the enthusiasm shown during the technical briefing on primary health care.
Above all, during this 61st session of the World Health Assembly, health leaders from around the world have joined together in a united front on many very big and very difficult issues.
You consistently demonstrated a desire to reach consensus, and showed great flexibility in achieving compromise despite some significant differences. Many of you worked not only long hours, but well into the early hours of the morning. I am aware of the intense behind-the-scenes consultations, and thank you for again demonstrating the “Geneva spirit”.
These are good omens as WHO enters its seventh decade of work to improve health, for all people, in all countries.