– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

17 December 2020

 

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, 

The United Kingdom’s Minister for the European Neighborhood and the AmericasThe Right Honorable Wendy Morton MP,  

Excellencies,  

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Annual gathering and to help commemorate World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. My sincere appreciation to Minister Morton, Dr. Tedros, and to the wider Group of Friends on Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance.  

Ladies and gentlemen, AMR is not a new problem. Drug-resistant diseases are responsible for at least 700,000 deaths globally a year, and this could reach 10 million by 2050 without appropriate action. 

The potential economic impact – a staggering $100 trillion USD – is equally concerning. 

To say that this would impact progress on the Sustainable Development Goals would be an understatement. Not only would this affect the most obvious Goals, such as SDG3 and efforts to achieve Universal Healthcare, this would also have implications on access to education, on gender equality, and on efforts to fight poverty, to name but a few.  

Less obvious, but equally concerning, is the link between climate change and AMR. Factors such as rising temperatures, changing ecosystems, and socio-economic climate impacts create conditions for microbial mutations and increased resistance.  

If this year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot wait for the next disease to emerge before we act. We must act now to build public awareness; work with healthcare providers to avoid overuse of medications; and strengthen our environmental standards to strengthen prevention and build resilience. 

Above all else, we must heed the lessons from COVID-19. At this very moment, billions of people globally are awaiting vaccine approval and roll-out, demanding a plan for ‘vaccines for all’. Knowing what we know now, with the pain still fresh and the urgency palpable, we should be looking to avoid such scenarios in the future.  

We can and must invest rapidly and significantly in strengthening surveillance, regulatory frameworks and awareness of antibiotic treatments. Not recognizing this urgency risks reversing decades of progress in health care, and exposing our people, our nations and our communities to yet more crises down the road. 

If this year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot wait for the next disease to emerge before we act. We must act now to build public awareness; work with healthcare providers to avoid overuse of medications; and strengthen our environmental standards to strengthen prevention and build resilience.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, allow me to welcome the official launch of the One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. This key global governance structure has a clear role to play in advising and advocating on misuse of treatments and will be an important structure in addressing AMR as a whole. 

I wish you a constructive discussion and commend you for your continued efforts to date, particularly in engaging key stakeholders in this critical endeavor.

Thank you once again for having me in this very important meeting.