WHO – 75th World Health Assembly – Item 3 – Address by the Director-General – EU Statement

(Source: EEAS)

Chair,

Director General,

Excellencies,

Colleagues,

I am delivering this statement on behalf of the EU and its 27 Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia[*], Montenegro* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA countries Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

Director-General,

You chose “Health for peace, peace for health” as the theme for the general discussion of the 75th session of the World Health Assembly, which we greatly appreciate.

Sadly, the horrific events of the past few months illustrate the relevance of this topic. In our region, Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine seriously affects the lives, health and well-being of countless innocent civilians. This aggression also grossly violates international humanitarian and human rights law, the UN Charter, and undermines international peace, security and stability. This is why the EU supported the organization of the Special Session of the Regional Committee for Europe held on May 10th to discuss the health emergency in Ukraine and neighbouring countries and request the DG to report upon it to this Assembly. The EU and its Member States demand that Russia immediately cease its military action, withdraw all its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognized borders. We call once again on Russia to immediately stop attacks on health care and to allow the safe evacuation of civilians. We condemn the failure to establish and respect humanitarian corridors with the necessary ceasefire assurances. Free and safe access for those delivering medical and humanitarian assistance must also be ensured, in line with basic human rights principles and international humanitarian law.

Director-General,

These fundamental principles apply to any situation of conflict. Wars and conflicts have profound and lasting negative impacts on the health of populations. They always leads to the same dire consequences:

–        loss of life, physical trauma and injury, psychological trauma, and various forms of abuse against civilians. We condemn in particular the practice of sexual and gender based violence by combatants and urge the WHO to continue its efforts to support survivors with essential care;

–        disruption of essential health services – including for sexual and reproductive health and rights, as per the new European Consensus on Development[†] , treatment of chronic conditions, maternal and child health, health promotion and disease prevention, including routine immunization campaigns;

–        disruption of medical supply chains, destruction of infrastructures including health facilities, as well as displacement of populations.

We wholeheartedly commend WHO for its work in the field and the tireless efforts undertaken in very complex and dangerous settings. We are also conscious that effects of wars and conflicts on the health of populations continue to be felt sometimes for generations, with reduced access to schools, problems in accessing safe drinking water and food jeopardize the health of all populations, in particular women, children, new-borns and the elderly.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic reminds us all of the need for trust and cooperation among all nations so we can better withstand and respond to shared health threats. Peace is conducive to the flourishing of science and technology, to the sharing of information and knowledge, to solidarity and to sustainable economic, social and environmental development. Peace, communication and trust at all levels are needed to facilitate the last mile required to vaccinate people and deliver health services in remote areas. The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the need for coordinated responses between peacebuilding, development cooperation and humanitarian actors in the strengthening of health systems, based on normative guidance of WHO. In short, the world needs multilateralism in action to ensure health security, and multilateralism in action requires peace and trust.

Director-General,

Like you, we believe that peace is a prerequisite for healthy populations, and that a focus on health is conducive to peace. The EU launched various programs in view of strengthening health system capacities and to support the local production, distribution and administration of vaccines and other medical products in partner countries. With these initiatives, the EU aims to contribute to the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Peace and health need to be at the core of the global health architecture. In that regard we welcome the vision that you have outlined ahead of this WHA and insist on the need for a safe and secure environment for global health actors, with the WHO at its center.

Thank you.

 


[*] The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

[†] Para. 34 of the New European Consensus on Development : « The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context. Having that in mind, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The EU further stresses the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health-care services ».

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