1 May 2009
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/457
ORG/1512

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, in town hall meeting, strongly urges United Nations


staff to stay well informed, up to date on influenza A (H1N1)


Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the United Nations staff town hall meeting on influenza, in New York today, 1 May:


Thank you, colleagues, for joining us ‑‑ you here in New York and all others who are joining through other media.  As Ms. [Angela] Kane just informed, the purpose of this meeting is to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Secretary-General and myself, we would like you all to be updated on the global situation related to the influenza outbreak caused by a new virus strain ‑‑ Influenza A (H1N1).


We also want to inform you about the state of pandemic preparedness in our Organization and to offer you an opportunity to pose whatever questions you may have.  Ms. Kane has already said that we are joined by Dr. Keiji Fukuda from the World Health Organization (WHO), who will brief you on the global situation and the implications of the pandemic phases.  There are distinctions between the global assessment and the actual risk to individuals in different locations.  Then we have Dr. Brian Davey, Chief of the UN Medical Service, who will also inform you on the implications of WHO’s analysis and alert for all of us, wherever we work.


In addition to the speakers, and in addition to our moderator, Ms. Kane, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Management, we do have, as you can see, representatives from the Office for Human Resources, the Business Continuity Management Unit and the Department of Safety and Security.  All these are here to help answer your questions.


Due to the importance of the information that will be shared, this meeting is being webcast, as well as broadcast on UNTV.  It is also being recorded to ensure staff from around the world, who are on holiday today, will have access.  We also want all staff at the funds, programmes and agencies, as well as in different duty stations, to have access to the information being given today.


I would first like to say a word or two about pandemic preparedness in the United Nations System.  In 2006, following concerns about the pandemic potential of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, the Secretary-General directed the United Nations system to engage in preparations for a possible pandemic.  Our primary focus has been on the safety and security of staff and assets, but we have also planned for continuing to provide critical functions wherever we are working.  We have planned for providing whatever support is needed, by local and national authorities, as they serve the needs of their people under pandemic conditions.


During the past three years, extensive technical guidance was provided by the UN System Influenza Steering Committee, which I chair.  A small coordination office (UNSIC) was set up and worked closely with the Secretariat and a broad range of agencies, funds and programmes.


Scenario plans were developed and desktop exercises undertaken at country and regional level.  Headquarters offices developed preparedness and continuity plans, and have tested them.


This Committee regularly reviews the state of pandemic preparedness.  Progress is generally good, but some are better prepared than others.  As a result of this preparation the different parts of our system should be able to respond together if and when the world faces a severe influenza pandemic.


Now I focus on the purpose of today’s meeting and what we will need to do next.  We know that the risk of an influenza pandemic has risen in the last few days:  the alert level has climbed from 3 to 5.


This meeting is an opportunity for us to come together to share information about what this means; to come to terms with the uncertainties; to learn how to handle the present situation; and to make sure that we are ready for whatever might happen in the next few weeks and months.


A few thoughts on what we will need to do next.  We all have work to do.  We should review our preparedness plans and know what to do should the need arise.  We must ensure that our lists of critical functions and emergency contact information sheets are up to date.  We must keep ourselves informed through meetings, websites, intranets ‑‑ and we must keep them up to date.


On Monday we launched a UN Staff Pandemic Information Portal to enable staff to receive updated information if working away from the office (www.un.org/staff/pandemic).


We should remember that no one yet knows all the answers, so we should avoid being lulled into a false sense of security by whatever is said in the media.  We should use WHO’s information as a source of reference, and when in doubt, ask for clarification from those who are responsible.


Most important, dear colleagues, we must face with confidence whatever the future brings, working together as one family and doing what needs to be done.


The World Health Organization is leading the global response.  I now give the floor to Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda.


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For information media • not an official record