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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Atlanta (USA)

09 May 2008

Opening remarks at press encounter following meeting on Global Health and the United Nations at the Carter Center

Thank you, President Carter, ladies and gentlemen of the press. I am very grateful for your very kind words as well as your hospitality, and for convening this meeting in Atlanta on global health issues.

I am delighted to be with you today and to be seated here with Dr. Chan and Dr. Brundtland, two of the most esteemed figures in the global health field.

We are here not only because global health is an enormous challenge, but also because we can do something about it.

That is why I am determined to push further action on global health as one of my key priorities as Secretary-General.

New actors and resources are pouring into the global health space as never before. More than 100 health agencies and partnerships are now involved. I welcome this attention and activity. But this won't amount to much if we don't ensure coherent and decisive action.

That is why we convened this meeting today, to bring together senior UN officials, the Elders, and leading global health experts from civil society, academia, philanthropy and the private sector, to identify the top priority global heath issues and what we can do about them.

We are halfway to the deadline to achieving the Millennium Development Goals the targets to lift people out of poverty by 2015. But we are not on track to achieving them, including critical health goals.

We must join forces and work together to ensure that the increasing resources being dedicated to health are translated into even more lives saved.

This discussion is not only important, but timely. In two months, the G8 Summit will be held in Japan, and leaders' engagement for global health is one of the key pillars on the agenda. In September, we will host a Summit on the Millennium Development Goals in New York. And at the end of the year, the Financing for Development conference will take place in Doha. Health must be an essential component of all these discussions.

We have just come out of a very productive session this morning.

We have achieved consensus on the urgency of strengthening health systems to serve all, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

We have outlined concrete options to make the process of giving birth safer for mothers, and debated concrete means to improve women's health. It is unacceptable that over half a million mothers die every year. We must put a stop to these senseless deaths.

And we have targeted the neglected diseases of the world's neglected people. Those diseases like guinea worm and river blindness can be eliminated if we only take the time to do so.

Of course, the global health landscape goes beyond these three key issues. This is only the beginning. I believe we are making significant progress at this meeting, and that we will be emerging with a concrete game plan.

Before I conclude let me say a few words about the tragic situation in Myanmar, which is of great concern to me. I want to reiterate the urgent need for critical aid and humanitarian workers to be allowed into the country without any hindrance as soon as possible. I hope very much that the authorities in Myanmar will be receptive to the outpouring of offers of aid that we have witnessed over the last few days, so as to save the maximum number of lives, and I appeal to them strongly to do all they can to facilitate this aid. It has been a week since the cyclone hit and lives need to be saved now. If early action is not taken and relief measures put in place, the medium-term effect of this tragedy could be truly catastrophic in terms of the impact on public health, sanitation, and food availability for the affected populations. We must put aside all political differences and get all sections of Myanmar, and the regional and international humanitarian community together to address the tremendous challenges that lie before us. The sheer survival of the affected people is at stake. That being said, I would like to focus this press conference on global health issues, though I will be happy to answer one or two questions on Myanmar at the end of this meeting.

I will now turn to Dr. Chan and Dr. Brundtland to say a few words. Dr. Chan's superb leadership of the World Health Organization has been instrumental in realizing progress on the full spectrum of global health issues. Dr. Brundtland wears many hats, including a Special Envoy on Climate Change, but she is here today as a leader, a member of the Elders, and a top global health expert.

Thank you very much.