Deputy Secretary-General’s Remarks on Global Public Health Issues at Civil Society Development Forum in New York

20 October 2009

Deputy Secretary-General’s Remarks on Global Public Health Issues at Civil Society Development Forum in New York

20 October 2009
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General’s Remarks on Global Public Health Issues

at Civil Society Development Forum in New York


This is the text of remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro at the Civil Society Development Forum, 2009, in New York, on 15 October:

I am pleased to be here with you, civil society partners.  You are at the forefront of delivering services to communities in need.  You understand the needs of communities.  So from the outset, let offer my heartfelt appreciation for the important role you play in bettering the lives of people around the world.  You are indispensable partners to the work of the United Nations, beyond global health.

This Forum has taken on the important task of following up on the Ministerial Declaration on global public health, adopted by the Economic and Social Council in July.  Against the backdrop of multiple crises, senior Government officials endorsed a call for political leadership and for global solidarity behind the Millennium Development Goals.  Since then, we have worked hard to sustain that momentum.  But the crises have not passed.

Public health systems in many countries are still severely strained.  Skilled health professionals continue to emigrate from developing countries.  Clinics and hospitals lack resources.  HIV and AIDS continue to spread.  The H1N1 virus remains a threat.  Tropical and other chronic illnesses continue to take a heavy toll.

It may seem idealistic to speak about global solidarity, but solidarity is the only realistic way to address these challenges.  Global interdependence is the prevailing fact of our times.

We saw this in our response to the emergence of the H1N1 virus.  The United Nations, in coordinating the global reaction, did what the United Nations does like no other organization:  bring together all relevant partners, forge international consensus, devise a comprehensive plan of action and then carry it out.

The Ministerial Declaration on public health urged States to renew their commitments to strengthening health systems and cutting maternal morbidity and mortality.  It urged investments in health and development institutions.  Most importantly, ministers agreed that we need an integrated approach to public health issues to foster synergies and sustainability.

We face many challenges in this effort, but we must persist.  Universal health is not a vague concept or a privilege reserved for the rich.  It is a concrete and measurable goal and a basic human right for all.  Access to health care is a public good.

The Secretary-General has made a strong personal commitment to reaching Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which focus on children and mothers.  Indeed, resources devoted to women’s health yield far-reaching benefits, not just for families, but for whole economies.  The inverse is also true:  the cost of doing nothing can be astronomical.  The financial impact of maternal and infant mortality alone accounts for an estimated $15 billion each year in lost productivity.  This comes on top of other social and human costs.

The Secretary-General’s Task Force on Innovative International Financing for Health Systems says we need to invest $36 billion to $45 billion globally by 2015 to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals.  Official development assistance is critical.  But it will not be enough to close the funding gap.  The global economic crisis has exposed vulnerabilities that were unthinkable and unchallenged even a year ago.

While we may have passed the crisis point and are making a slow recovery, we cannot rely on any single source of financing for answers.  We have to be creative.  There is much to learn from proven innovative financing mechanisms such as the International Finance Facility for Immunization and UNITAID.

The United Nations system has embarked on a number of joint initiatives aimed at addressing the major economic and social challenges facing our world.  We are channelling additional funding and operational capacities to the hardest-hit economies.

The Food Security Initiative, led by the Secretary-General’s High-level Task Force, is addressing the global food crisis.  The United Nations Trade Initiative is countering protectionism and striving for a successful conclusion to the Doha Round.  The Green Economy Initiative is promoting investments in “green” sectors to simultaneously boost sustainable growth and preserve the environment.  The Global Jobs Pact is focusing on employment and decent work as the foundation for long-term recovery.

We are hard at work for people on the big issues of the day.  But we need a variety of actors and stakeholders to enhance health care for communities around the world.

Civil society is an indispensable partner in all of these efforts.  We appreciate the many contributions you have already made.  And we are looking to you to do even more now as we race to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

We need your energy.  We need your activism.  Most of all, we need your ideas.  The United Nations stands ready to do all that we can to support your work, so that, together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.

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