General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text on ‘Global Health and Foreign Policy’, Acknowledging Need to Make World Health-Care System More Coherent, Effective

9 December 2010
GA/11034

General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text on ‘Global Health and Foreign Policy’, Acknowledging Need to Make World Health-Care System More Coherent, Effective

9 December 2010
General Assembly
GA/11034
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

61st Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text on ‘Global Health and Foreign Policy’,

Acknowledging Need to Make World Health-Care System More Coherent, Effective

Meeting Also Hears Introduction of Resolution on Follow-up

To Commemoration of Anniversary of Abolition of Transatlantic Slave Trade

Calling for more attention to health as an important policy issue on the international agenda, especially in meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, General Assembly delegates today recognized that challenges in global health demanded persistent attention, urged States to consider health in the formulation of foreign policy and requested the Secretary-General and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General to submit a report to the next session on “improving the effectiveness of governance for global health”.

Those elements were laid out in a consensus resolution adopted on foreign policy and global health, by which the Assembly also underscored the urgency of strengthening health systems by improving infrastructure and ensuring affordable access to quality services, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and acknowledged the need to make the global health architecture more effective, efficient and responsive with a view to enhancing “health equity”.  The World Health Organization’s lead role as the primary specialized agency for health also was recognized.

By other terms, the Assembly acknowledged that progress in global health depended primarily on international partnerships, particularly during crises, and in that context, reiterated States’ willingness to cooperate on health issues, including in promoting universal access to medicines that were safe and affordable, as well as in increasing global vaccine production to achieve equal access in situations of pandemics.  It reaffirmed the right to use provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement, among others, which provided flexibilities in promoting access to medicines.

In half-day debate that also saw consideration of the Organization’s programme of activities in follow-up to its commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, some delegates agreed that cross-sector programmes, particularly to deal with non-communicable diseases, were critical to strengthening public health systems.  While the World Health Organization was the essential United Nations leader in global health, new partnerships — including public-private partnerships — were also important.  Substantial gaps persisted in realizing every person’s right to the highest standards of physical and mental health.  In that light, many discussed their cooperation on health issues, both with neighbours and countries of other continents.

Specifying his understanding of “governance” in the health sphere, Switzerland’s delegate stressed the need for mechanisms to manage global health problems jointly and coherently.  “It is not a question of creating new structures, which would make the existing architecture even more cumbersome,” he said, but rather of creating rules of the game that were mutually acceptable.

In prior debate on the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, Trinidad and Tobago’s delegate introduced on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) a draft text on erecting a permanent memorial to victims, which set the tone for discussion on slavery’s “pernicious history”, which still cast a dark shadow on the world.  It was vitally important, he said, to support education efforts and to preserve the memory of the “horrific occurrence” to ensure it was never repeated. 

With that in mind, Jamaica’s delegate, as Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee in 2010, said that panel had focused on fund-raising, and with its advisory board, would revise its strategy.  Ten countries had contributed to the Trust Fund this year, including India, whose $250,000 was the single largest voluntary contribution to date.  Consultations on the project design, criteria for artists and judges for the design competition, and a draft memorandum of understanding for engagement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had all been concluded.

Brazil’s delegate said her country, with the world’s largest African diaspora, took pride in its African heritage.  Echoing the remarks of others, she noted that inequalities persisted and that her Government was fully committed to redressing them.  The initiative to erect, in a prominent place at United Nations Headquarters, a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade was strongly supported.  “May the spirit that animated nineteenth-century abolitionists inspire the present fight against all forms of discrimination and for the full realization of all human rights for all,” she said.

Also speaking today on the issue of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were Mauritania (on behalf of African States), United States, Cuba, Belarus, Australia, Libya and India.

Brazil’s representative introduced the draft resolution on “Global Health and Foreign Policy”.

Also speaking on global health and foreign policy were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), India (also on behalf of the Asian Group), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), United States, Japan and Australia.

An Observer of the Holy See spoke in a point of order on the text.

The General Assembly will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to take up the reports of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and the report of the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order.

Background

The General Assembly met today to discuss two items on its agenda:  follow-up to the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and the issue of global health and foreign policy.

The Secretary-General’s report on the programme of educational outreach on the transatlantic slave trade and slavery (document A/65/390) outlines ways in which the United Nations Department of Public Information reinforced its efforts to maintain the effective implementation of its multiplatform outreach programme throughout the year.  During the reporting period, the Department continued to raise awareness about issues related to slavery and the slave trade through public information campaigns and by promoting and facilitating knowledge-sharing initiatives, in particular studies and expert discussions on the topics.

The Information Department collaborated with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union to organize the third annual observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on 25 March 2010, under the theme “Expressing O ur Freedom Through Culture”, the report says.  It also reviews activities related to that theme, including the cultural legacy of slavery, which was passed down from generation to generation, and the 2010 commemoration’s dedication to Haiti in recognition of its significance in the struggle against slavery and as a special tribute following the massive 12 January 2010 earthquake.

Detailing the activities undertaken by the Information Department over the period under review, the report covers the week-long programme organized to mark the 2010 commemoration.  The programme included an Afro-Caribbean music and food fair, a documentary film screening, a three-part exhibition, an expert panel discussion, a special commemorative meeting of the General Assembly, an international student videoconference, and a special media briefing on the permanent memorial to the tragedy and legacy of the slave trade, which would be erected on United Nations premises, and whose efforts were led by Jamaica.

The report also highlights partnerships among the Department, United Nations Member States and other stakeholders.  In organizing commemorative activities, the Department worked with a Steering Committee comprising representatives from CARICOM, the African Union and the United Nations Office for Partnerships, and was chaired by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.  Other partners in this regard included the Institute for African-American Affairs at New York University, the Universities of Liberia and the West Indies and the non-governmental organization Amistad America.

As part of its outreach programme, the Information Department established a comprehensive communication strategy to raise awareness of commemorative activities and to promote knowledge of issues relating to the slave trade, including by issuing press releases and briefing notes to media, briefing civil society representatives and posting related stories on the United Nations intranet, to keep the world body’s staff informed of activities.  In this regard the Department also utilized both new media and visual communications materials — including a special commemorative poster, postcards and buttons — and created a special website on the Day of Remembrance.  Additionally, it conducted outreach through United Nations information centres around the world.

The report also reviews action taken by civil society organizations in individual Member States, and explores future activities to be taken by the Department of Public Information going forward.  These activities included the further strengthening of the Department’s collaboration with Member States and other stakeholders in planning and organizing activities for future remembrance observances, the extension of targeted educational outreach, the further exploration of ways of deepening collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — including by maintaining efforts to promote and distribute educational materials relating to UNESCO’s Slave Route Project — and the reinforcement of partnerships forged in 2010 and during previous commemorations with academic institutions and other civil society organizations engaged in promoting the body of knowledge on the slave trade.

The Assembly also had before it a report of the Secretary-General, prepared in collaboration with the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and after consultations with Member States on global health and foreign policy, transmitted in document A/65/399.  The report presents examples of global health and foreign policy coherence and coordination, particularly reviewing the institutional environment inclusive of forums for interaction, various instruments and means that could be used and addressing capacity needs brought upon by changing roles and responsibilities.

The survey’s conclusions acknowledge the heightened foreign policy importance of global health issues, emphasizing the need for a more rigorous understanding of that relationship, and stress the need for more coherence between foreign and health policies within Member States with a view to implementation of international accords, touching on specific issues including the impacts of health and foreign policy on one another, the use of various forums to advance interaction between foreign and health policies, and capacity development.

Further, the report states that to ensure sustainable international responses to shared health risks, a common foreign policy and health framework should articulate how achieving global health outcomes contributes to providing human, national and international security, among other related goals.  Achieving the Millennium Development Goals required coherent global and national policies, involving both technical health interventions and health programming more familiar to foreign and national policymakers.  A better understanding of the nature, extent, intensity and effectiveness of foreign policy action on global health was also needed, says the report.

The report goes on to recommend that, through regular dialogue, the General Assembly identify priority issues for which foreign policy and development cooperation can support and affect health outcomes, particularly those related to advancing progress on achievement of the health-related Millennium Goals; strengthen the political commitment to, and institutional foundations for, foreign policy and development cooperation action on global health; encourage Member States to consider health issues in the formulation of foreign policy and development cooperation; increase the quantity and quality of health information available to decision makers, as well as analyses of the influence and impact of foreign policy on global health; and increase the capacity and training of diplomats and health officials in global health, foreign policy and development cooperation.

Follow-up on Anniversary of Abolition of Transatlantic Slave Trade

ABDERRAHIM HADRAMI (Mauritania), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group was an active player in the committee of interested States overseeing the memorial project to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and was working closely with CARICOM in that matter.  The two groups were taking actions through relevant resolutions related to the commemoration and to bolstering the permanent memorial.

He said the establishment of the Permanent Trust Fund deserved strong and urgent attention at all levels.  Action at the national level, including public awareness-raising initiatives, should correspond with international activities.  The African Group reiterated its commitment and determination to continue to collaborate with UNESCO and other players and to bring about the fruition of the permanent memorial, as well as other projects aimed at honouring the memory of those who lost their lives as a result of the transatlantic slave trade.

Next, EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) introduced on behalf of CARICOM a draft resolution on permanent memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade (document A/65/L.36), saying that the tragic period of the slave trade continued to have an impact on communities today — often through racism, bigotry and hatred.  It was therefore necessary to remove the residual effects of that “pernicious trade”.

Turning to the draft resolution before the Assembly, he noted that, aside from various technical updates, the text had this year eliminated out-of-date references and included a report on the outcome of the Durban Process (follow-up to the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in Durban, South Africa), which had taken place during the reporting period.  It further encouraged contributions from Member States to the Trust Fund to erect a permanent monument at United Nations Headquarters in New York.  Several amendments were made to the resolution’s operative paragraphs, and he drew further attention to several budgetary matters, included in an amendment to the text.

The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, on 25 March, was an important measure towards honouring the memory of those victims, he continued.  He also thanked the various United Nations information centres and other organs that had held events, but nonetheless said that he regretted that other events held were not included in the report before the Assembly.  It was vitally important to support all efforts to promote education about and preserve the memory of the “horrific occurrence” to ensure that it was never repeated.  The CARICOM thanked all donors in pursuance of the establishment of a Trust Fund in that regard, he added.

FREDERICK D. BARTON ( United States) said his country, a co-sponsor of the resolution, looked forward to its adoption by consensus, saying that delegates must never forget the human tragedy of slavery and the moral courage of those who worked to end it.  While progress had been made, efforts were by no means finished, and the resolution drew attention to the plight of those who had been denied the fruits of their labour.  The United States was determined to undo the legacy of slavery in the country.  The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States, and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment further advanced such efforts.  However, slavery’s legacy still cast a long shadow and he urged continued efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.  Slave descendants had made lasting contributions to the United States and the Government was committed to both educating youth and honouring victims.

RODOLFO ELISEO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN ( Cuba) said there were traces of the slave trade in his country, resulting from the greed of European traffickers.  Indeed, the transatlantic slave trade had forever marked Cuba’s history.  Cubans appreciated their African roots.  Their cultural wealth and character were expressions of the cultural heritage of Africans who had enriched the country with their religious beliefs, temperament and “rebellious spirit”, which had nourished Cubans’ sense of independence.  For almost three decades, 381,000 Cubans had fought to defend the sovereignty of African sister nations and only the remains of fallen comrades returned from Africa.

He went on to say that today, over 2,400 Cubans were providing services in African nations in such areas as public health, education, sports and construction.  It was not possible for former colonial homelands to “wash their hands” of their responsibilities.  Africa would remain marginalized if an unjust political order that allocated resources to the minority and denied them to the majority were allowed to continue.  It was unacceptable that Africa financed the opulence of rich countries that failed to follow through with official development assistance (ODA) commitments.  He supported the initiative to erect a permanent monument to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.  That was the least the United Nations could do to commemorate their situation.

REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said that her country — with the world’s largest African diaspora — took pride in its African heritage.  Many inequalities persisted, however, and the Government was fully committed to redressing that situation.  In the last few years, some 20 million Brazilians had been lifted out of extreme poverty, and 30 million had joined the middle class, and they included millions of people of African descent.  Efforts were being made to ensure that people of African descent have full access to education and health, and special attention has been paid to “Quilombolas”, or communities of slave descendants in rural and isolated areas.  Last week, a project had been launched to establish a network of public policies for such people in Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador to promote food security and full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.

Brazil had redoubled its efforts to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; next year’s tenth anniversary of the Declaration would be a welcome opportunity to take stock of its progress.  The initiative to erect, in a prominent place at United Nations Headquarters, a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade was strongly supported by Brazil, and in that regard it was pleased to be a co-sponsor of draft resolution L.36.  All Member States in a position to do so were called upon to make or enhance their contributions to the Trust Fund for the permanent memorial.  “May the spirit that animated nineteenth-century abolitionists inspire the present fight against all forms of discrimination and for the full realization of all human rights for all,” she said.

RAYMOND O. WOLFE ( Jamaica) noted the steps that his country and others had taken to implement the annual Assembly resolution on slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.  In Jamaica, the history of the slave system was part of the school curricula, but such knowledge was not shared at the international level, and it was hoped that that situation would be corrected soon.  The transatlantic slave trade was a horrific period when millions were uprooted, then transported across the ocean like animals, then forced to suffer under a system of slavery.  The legacies of slavery lingered today in many countries, and it was the moral obligation of the international community to ensure that slavery, a crime against humanity, never happened again.  Full implementation of all relevant Assembly resolutions would put the International Day of Remembrance on an equal footing with other resolutions on similar issues, with stable and predictable funding.

Noting that he was Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee in 2010, he gave a brief update on its activities.  This year it had initiated an engagement with the Caribbean diaspora in the greater New York area, and it hoped to engage likewise with the wider African diaspora next year.  The Committee had also focused on fund-raising, and with its advisory board it was revising its fund-raising strategy.  A website is to be launched by the end of this year.  Consultations on the project design, the criteria for artists and judges for the international design competition, and a draft memorandum of understanding for engagement with UNESCO have been concluded.  Broad participation by Member States was expected when the design competition is launched “hopefully early in 2011”.  Ten countries had contributed to the Trust Fund this year, including India, whose $250,000 was the single largest voluntary contribution to date.

ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that no one should be held in slavery or in servitude, and that those systems were prohibited in all their forms.  However, the eradication of the slave trade had not ended those practices in all their forms.  Forced labour, including child labour, the sale of wives, serfdom, the sex trade, and other forms of the “contemporary manifestation of slavery” still existed, and it was necessary to counteract them. 

She hoped that such efforts would be bolstered in the wake of the Organization’s consensus adoption of the Global Plan of Action on Combating Human Trafficking, which would go a long way towards eradicating that modern-day form of slavery.  Belarus had further made a voluntary contribution of $20,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fundfor Victims of Trafficking in Persons.  It supported keeping the issue of the commemoration of the slave trade open in the Assembly, and had further co-sponsored the resolution on the establishment of a permanent memorial to the victims of the slave trade. 

Belarus believed that the educational programme on the slave trade, created in conjunction with UNESCO, should continue, she said.  It had held an outreach educational campaign in Belarus, as part of a project by the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to counter human trafficking, added the delegate.  She closed by saying that no person should be allowed to build wealth by ignoring the humanity of others.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said that it was an obligation to remember the dark side of human history.  Memory — and the lack of memory — shaped the future, and it was therefore necessary to educate the next generations on the tragedy of the slave trade.  Australia had worked to come to terms with its own historic tragedy, in particular its past actions towards indigenous Australians.  That had included an historic apology delivered to indigenous Australians through the Australian Parliament in 2008.  Australia pledged its continued support of the establishment of the United Nations Headquarters memorial to the victims of the slave trade, and looked forward to working closely with other members of the international community in that regard.

FADEL BEN ASHUR ( Libya) appreciated the third annual observation of the remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, as well as efforts to erect a permanent memorial.  Libya had no doubt about the cultural element as an expression of the suffering of enslaved people.  It also had no doubt of the positive moral reflections resulting from information activities organized to remind people of the suffering of victims.  At the same time, total reliance on the “cultural factor” through awareness-raising programmes was not sufficient to deal with the magnitude of history that left behind a racist culture.

In that context, he cited the daily suffering of Palestinians at the hands of occupation authorities.  Comprehensive treatment of the transatlantic slave trade and its long-term implications was needed.  It should remain a focus of researchers and decision makers alike.  The heinous crimes to which Africans had been subjected for more than four centuries had left a deep wound.  The slave trade had claimed many lives and the survivors continued to live under oppression.  It also had left psychological and social legacies, of which many African societies suffered today.  Collective thinking about such injustices was necessary for creating an international environment conducive to lifting them.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the transatlantic slave trade was among the most shameful chapters in human history, making nearly every other atrocity pale in comparison.  The international community must, without reservation, condemn it, accept that such heinous crimes took place, and express sincere repentance.  The world should commit to never again allowing such crimes to be committed and ensure that future generations were aware of the grief and tragedy borne by victims.  A permanent memorial would be a fitting tribute to the victims and India was honoured to be part of such efforts.

India, with its $260,000 contribution, was the lead donor to United Nations Trust Fund for such a memorial, he said, reflecting its belief that homage must be paid to victims.  But the Trust Fund had received a mere $800,000, significantly short of the anticipated $4.5 million cost for building the memorial.  It was imperative for the international community to contribute to that noble cause and he urged States, especially those that had benefited from the slave trade, to contribute.  India supported the Department of Public Information’s activities to commemorate the transatlantic slave trade on 25 March.  “Education has a critical role in creating awareness in present and future generations,” he said.  Its importance could not be overemphasized.

Global Health and Foreign Policy

As the Assembly turned to the next item on its agenda today, REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) introduced the draft text on global health and foreign policy (document A/65/L.27) on behalf of the seven founding members of the same-titled Initiative, which also included Norway, South Africa, Thailand, France, Senegal and Indonesia.  The Initiative was created by a commitment to applying the health lens to foreign policy processes and actions, and examined ways in which policy could support global health outcomes.  Links between those areas suggested the need for more understanding with a view to “making globalization work for all”.

The resolution paid tribute to international efforts related to health and welcomed conferences to be held next year, such as the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health and the Conference on Human Resources for Health, Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Diseases.  The first chapter of its operative section, on “Health-related Millennium Development Goals”, seized momentum generated at the Assembly’s High-Level Plenary Meeting in September on the Goals.  The second chapter, on “Governance for Global Health”, acknowledged the need to make the global health architecture more effective, efficient and responsive.  Follow-up actions encouraged States to consider health in the formulation of foreign policy and development cooperation.  In sum, the text had the merit of consolidating international initiatives that impacted health and requested continued support.

PIERRE CHARLIER (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that at last year’s debate, his delegation had highlighted that discussions on health and foreign policy cut across two core areas which formed the foundation of the United Nations system:  the fight against poverty and the pursuit of peace and human security.  The European Union welcomed the latest Secretary-General’s report prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) with its focus on strengthening global health and foreign policy coordination and coherence.  It believed that the international community should continue to enhance its collective understanding of how health outcomes were affected by different aspects of foreign policy, including efforts to tackle climate change, regional responses to food insecurity and others.  The cross-cutting aspects of health for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals should be well understood.

The European Union believed that a strong political leadership would remain crucial going forward if the world was to achieve improved health outcomes, especially in women’s health and tackling gender inequality.  He also believed that broader partnerships such as those with civil society and the private sector were important in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Finally, he said, the delegations believed that discussions on global health and foreign policy in New York must continue to build on and effectively come together with the substance and technical expertise handled in Geneva.

M.S. PURI (India), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, stated that making progress on health-related Millennium Goals would entail a multisectoral approach that placed equal emphasis on the attainment of all the other goals, ranging from poverty and hunger eradication, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women to promoting global partnership and achieving environmental sustainability, including in the areas of safe water and sanitation.  In that regard, the Asian Group supported the “Sustainable Sanitation Five Year Drive” initiated by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.  It also welcomed the introduction of the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and expected that strategy to be implemented by a wide range of partners in a well-harmonized and integrated manner.

He noted that substantial gaps persisted in the realization of the right of every person to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.  Hence, the role of foreign policy and international cooperation could not be overemphasized, in particular ODA-related commitments, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, among others.  Global health must be a priority consideration when dealing with trade issues, he continued.  The Asian Group supported the General Assembly’s continued engagement in global health concerns and looked forward to participating actively with high-level meetings currently being planned on the issue of non-communicable diseases as well as the United Nations Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Review in 2011.

Speaking in his national capacity on India’s progress in the field of health, he noted that in 2005 the Government had launched its flagship National Rural Health Mission, which continued to be one of the biggest interventions of its kind in the health sector in the world.  India was presently spending over $3.5 billion each year on health services.  The delegation called on all countries to provide technical assistance to other countries to support, rather than hinder or create barriers to, such legitimate efforts.

LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), in his statement on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said collective cooperation in health issues had been, and was considered to be, one of the main components of the process of building the ASEAN community, such that ASEAN Ministers of Health at their meeting in Singapore last July endorsed the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Health and Development (2010-2015) to guide the regional grouping’s health cooperation activities to achieve strategic objectives enshrined in its sociocultural community blueprint.  Since the adoption in Indonesia in 2000 of the vision of “Healthy ASEAN 2020”, serious efforts had been made to meet the commitment of placing health “at the centre of development”, and strengthening ASEAN cooperation in health to ensure that all the region’s peoples were mentally and physically healthy, and living in harmony in safe surroundings.

Noting that regional cooperation in response to communicable diseases and pandemics had proven to be effective and timely over the past years, particularly during the alarming spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza and H1N1 influenza, he pointed out that apart from such intra-organization cooperation, ASEAN attached great importance to strengthening cooperation with outside partners, especially with the United Nations specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNDP, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and UNICEF, and other international organizations like the World Animal Health Organization.

In that regard, ASEAN counted on the continued support and cooperation of the United Nations and the international community in addressing global and regional health issues and called for closer links between global health and foreign policy issues on the international agenda in a wide range of cooperation frameworks.

THOMAS GÜRBER ( Switzerland) said his country was committed to offering training in the fields of diplomacy and health.  At the national level, it was working to implement the principles of coordination and coherence among health, development and foreign policy.  At the international level, the question of governance for global health was equally urgent, with the emergence of a complex architecture in that field on one hand, and increased interdependence among various sectors of public policy on the other.  It was a fact to bear in mind in the conduct of foreign policy, meaning there was a need to reflect on the coherence and effectiveness of the system and to ensure that health systems were strengthened.

In that context he welcomed the Secretary-General’s Action Plan on Maternal and Child Health, saying Switzerland also wished to see the launch of a “process of reflection” on governance for global health.  By “governance”, he meant mechanisms to enable actors to manage problems related to global health jointly and coherently.  “It is not a question of creating new structures, which would make the existing architecture even more cumbersome,” he said, but rather of creating rules of the game that were mutually acceptable.  Reflection should also take place within the World Health Organization, whose founding mandate must be adapted to current realities.

FREDERICK D. BARTON ( United States) said his delegation was pleased that the Assembly was unified in its promotion of global health and its links to foreign policy.  Global health was central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and therefore it was necessary for world leaders to face related challenges.  The global health initiative focused on many issues including HIV/AIDS, malaria, nutrition, health systems, and others.

Strengthening public health systems in the face of challenges was essential, and the rise of non-communicable diseases meant that cross-sectoral programmes would be critical in that regard, he said.  While the World Health Organization was the essential United Nations leader in global health, new partnerships — including public-private partnerships — were also making strides.  There was a need for all country-level actors to work together in these respects.  In closing, he said that progress in global health required coherence in global foreign policy and health policies.

TAKESHI OSUGA ( Japan) described global health as one of the main pillars of his country’s foreign policy and explained that health was an essential component for human security and prosperous society.  The reality, however, was that achievement to date in reducing the mortality rate of infants and pregnant women was still far short of the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals, and additional, drastic efforts were thus needed.  He recalled Japan’s announced new contribution in the field of health whereby the country would provide $5 billion to the health sector over the course of the next five years, including an $800 million contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 

Japan hoped that with that contribution, announced by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at September’s High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, and in cooperation with other partners, the lives of almost 700,000 mothers and more than 11 million children would be saved.  Further, he called on developing countries, donors and international organizations to make concerted efforts in implementing optimal assistance measures in maternal and child health.

He said that Japan was convinced that the concept of human security contained in the outcome document of the High-Level Plenary Meeting was a relevant instrument in the endeavour to attain the Goals, in particular those related to health.  Finally, he said that to follow up on commitments made at the High-Level Plenary Meeting, and thus lead efforts of the international community towards achieving the Goals, Japan proposed to convene an international conference next spring in Japan in order to strengthen the coordination among a broad range of stakeholders, including governments, international organizations and non-governmental groups, he added.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said global health had always been a priority for his Government.  The World Health Organization (WHO) was among the most regionalized specialized agencies and Australia had had a long, productive collaboration in addressing non-communicable diseases, emerging infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness.  In recent years, Australia had taken a “whole of Government” approach in its response to major policy challenges.  Its foreign policy debate had been informed by HIV/AIDS and the influenza pandemic alike, recognizing that gains could be reversed by challenges to health systems.  The Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health provided a crystallized view of progress to be made to reach Millennium Goals 4 (child health) and 5 (maternal health).

He hoped next September’s meeting on non-communicable diseases and the challenges posed for developing countries would address multisectoral actions, like ensuring trade and agricultural policies supported healthy lifestyles.  Australia was supporting its neighbours in addressing such diseases.  On HIV/AIDS, he underscored the importance of policy coherence in that field, saying a policy lens must be applied to that issue, which was far more than simply a health problem.  The pandemic was a social, political, economic and cultural issue requiring Governments to understand the drivers of their own epidemic, to share knowledge and generate funding to tackle it.

Action on Draft

The General Assembly then adopted by consensus the resolution on global health and foreign policy (document A/65/L.27). 

PHILIP BENÉ, Observer for the Holy See, said that while some of its proposals were not taken into account, some were, and were integrated into the resolution text.  Unfortunately, many populations of the world did not have resources in regard to health.  Therefore it was necessary to work at all levels to provide primary health care for all.  Moral rules were essential to the protection of global health, so that health care did not become “inhuman”.  Love of justice, the protection of life from conception to its natural end, and other issues must be respected.  While noting various positive elements in the text, the representative of the Holy See reaffirmed its reservations expressed at previous conferences, including the fact that it did not recognize abortion as a global health matter.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.