WHO Director-General praises the World Health Assembly for its work

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Closing remarks at the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly
Geneva, Switzerland

27 May 2013

Mister President, Excellencies, honourable ministers, distinguished delegates, friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

This has been an efficient and productive Health Assembly, thanks to the excellence of its President and Vice-President, the Chairs of the two committees, and their officers.

With what must be record-breaking speed, you approved a budget for the next two years. You approved a high-level vision for the next six years.

And you have given us your blessings to hold the first-ever financing dialogue. That will be a learning experience for all concerned.

I will be in a better position to manage this Organization when I have a better overview of the real money that will be coming in. WHO will operate more efficiently and more effectively when we can see the funding gaps and make appropriate adjustments.

The financing dialogue will help us use assessed contributions in the most strategic manner. All of this helps ensure that core activities will have the funds they need to stay in business.

You went through the agenda with remarkable engagement, but also with exceptional speed and efficiency.

I personally believe this is a tribute to the good preparatory work done by the Executive Board and the other committees and consultations that supported the work of this Assembly and contributed to its smooth deliberations.

Perhaps the grey, cold, and rainy weather also contributed to a serious and focused Assembly. Standing close together in solidarity is good for public health, but it also keeps people warm.

The item that took up most of your time, in drafting groups that extended late into some nights, was the item on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

This is entirely appropriate given our deep concern about these diseases. We have a very good outcome as a result. I want to thank all of you for the excellent work.

Some of you viewed the global action plan as a potential watershed moment in the way we approach these diseases. The time spent getting the plan right was well invested. Let me share your appreciation for the work of the co-Chairs, from Pakistan and the United States, of the informal working groups.

Ladies and gentlemen,

“Transparency” and “solidarity”. These are words I heard repeatedly during the session, and especially during discussion of the item on the International Health Regulations.

Looking at the overall world health situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus.

We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat.

Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control.

We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these question, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention.

These are alarm bells. And we must respond.

The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself. The novel coronavirus is a threat to the entire world. As the Chair of committee A succinctly stated: this virus is something that can kill us.

Through WHO and the International Health Regulations, we need to bring together the assets of the entire world in order to adequately address this threat. We need more information, and we need it quickly, urgently.

As I have announced, joint WHO missions with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Tunisia will take place just as soon as possible. The purpose is to gather all the facts needed to conduct a proper risk assessment. I thank these countries for their cooperation and collaboration.

I thank Member States for supporting my views on the seriousness of this situation.

I thank Member States for discussions and debates that made this Assembly an uplifting experience for me.

I was inspired by your commitment to accelerate efforts to reach the MDGs, now and beyond 2015.

I was inspired by your enthusiastic desire to see health given a high place on the new development agenda, especially with a focus on universal health coverage.

It is now my great pleasure, in a traditional gesture of gratitude, to hand these gavels to your President, and the Chairs of the two committees.