Strengthening our collective health security infrastructure is an urgent task

Luxembourg’s Health Minister Paulette Lennert, European Commission Director-General for Health and Food Safety Sandra Gallina, European Parliament Special Committee Representative Kathleen van Brempt, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control Director Andrea Ammon, and European Medicines Agency Director Emer Cook, dear colleagues and friends,

Dear Sandra, Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today, another example of our productive collaboration.

I am sorry that I am unable to be present with you in person. I’m calling from Ukraine on my 4th mission this year, currently on the road to Dnipro. Right now the temperature is hovering around the freezing point, but it could drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius in the coming months.

For the people of Ukraine, this winter will be about survival on many fronts as they face a devastating energy crisis, a deepening health emergency, a lack of access to health services and supplies, and the risk of viral infections.

This focuses on our agenda today, and the fact that we, the pan-European region and the world, must take effective steps to manage this so-called permanent crisis of pandemics, wars, new emerging diseases and the climate emergency.

Strengthening our collective health security infrastructure is an urgent task for all of us. So, in the short time I have today, I would like to touch on 3 areas:

  • To provide updates and share some views on amendments to the Global Epidemic Convention and International Health Regulations (IHR);
  • to explain the actions we are taking to advance health security in the pan-European region; And
  • How do these developments complement the action you are taking at European Union (EU) level as part of the health protection framework?

COVID-19 underscored known, and new, failings in our global health security landscape, including limitations in the existing IHR, last updated in 2005. Delays in reporting, lack of accountability, and weak mechanisms for inland cooperation and access to countermeasures hindered the pandemic response, and cost lives.

To address this, in May 2022 the WHO Director-General set out 10 proposals to strengthen the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience, building on more than 300 recommendations from various independent reviews.

In addition, 2 key Member State-led processes have been launched:

  • Working Group on Revision of the IHR (WGIHR); And
  • Intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on epidemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The WGIHR met for the first time last week, and is set to present its results to the World Health Assembly in 2023, with a view to adopting their recommendations unanimously in 2024.

One proposal that has gained significant interest is the introduction of a new global target called 7-1-7, meaning that each suspected outbreak is identified within 7 days of emergence, reported to public health officials within 1 day. Reported with the initiation of investigation and response efforts. , and responded effectively – as defined by objective benchmarks – within 7 days.

Its proponents argue that the goal would strengthen global accountability, enable countries to more easily assess their performance and see where to improve, and direct action and donor support to areas of need.

The second process began about a year ago, when WHO member states agreed to establish the INB to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on epidemic prevention, preparedness and response – the so-called pandemic treaty. had agreed.

Its rationale is to cover areas outside the purview of the IHR. Some of the proposed topics – subject to negotiation – include global supply chain and logistics, access to technology, increased research and development, health workforce, community engagement, one health and public health literacy.

Over the past year, the INB has made impressive progress, including agreeing that the new instrument should be legally binding with non-legally binding elements. Based on the extensive consultations held so far, a conceptual zero draft was shared last week, and it is estimated that this conceptual draft could be converted into an actual zero draft by the end of February next year. Again in 2024 a proposal will be placed before the World Health Assembly.

These global member state-driven processes require extensive consultation and consensus building. This takes time and requires additional effort to ensure that all countries play an active role.

Which brings me to what we are doing in the 53 countries of the WHO European Region – covering Europe and Central Asia – to strengthen health security. Our vision is to play a leading role in driving forward the global health security agenda, while at the same time moving forward with our pan-European plans. To help our member states engage in global processes, we have established a regional secretariat. It also serves to avoid repetition and speed up progress.

I have spoken on several occasions about the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, led by Professor Mario Monti, whom I called upon to reconsider policy priorities in the light of the pandemic. At the request of our member states, we are now taking forward a number of its specific recommendations.

One of these is to establish a pan-European network for disease control. The network will share key capabilities and knowledge across the region through collaborative operational research projects, professional exchanges and twinning programs that will culminate in a regular conference.

We expect to launch this network during the second half of 2023. I thank the Member States who have reached out to WHO in support of this initiative – we will count on your support, as well as that of the EU health institutions.

As part of our efforts to deliver the European Program of Work, we are now starting the process of developing a new strategy and action plan for 2024 to 2029 to strengthen health emergency preparedness, response and resilience. We call it Preparedness 2.0.

Informed by extensive lessons learned from recent health emergencies and wider consultations, Preparedness 2.0 aims to create a European region with the necessary capabilities and pan-European networks to rapidly detect, verify and validate new and evolving health threats Can go and inform each other. , and to effectively respond to emergencies caused by any threats.

With an all-risk, multisectoral, one health approach as its backbone, the strategy will be structured around the identified gaps and priorities of the Member States, including:

  • Addressing the threat of antimicrobial resistance
  • Creating a Regional Health Emergencies Task Force
  • Dealing with Infodemics and Building Community Trust
  • Taking forward the work of the Pan-European Network for Disease Control.

All these developments show that the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety and WHO/Europe have a shared vision to provide a strong health security architecture for our citizens, based on the principles of solidarity, transparency and accountability.

We welcome your leadership to enhance EU health security through proposed changes within all 4 elements of the health security framework, including new rules, updates to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency Mandates and the creation of European Health. Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

We appreciate that the new framework underlines the value of the IHR and the role of the WHO, and we look forward to exploring how a pan-European network can catalyze these reforms beyond the borders of the EU.

We are ready and committed to accelerate our cooperation with you and support your initiatives. Our tools, methodologies and technical capabilities can prove invaluable in working with member states within the EU and the wider pan-European region at national level to ensure that their national preparedness plans and capacities are fit for purpose. Huh.

Dear Colleagues and Friends, In today’s complex world, we cannot know what health threats lie ahead, or when and where they will come from. But what is absolutely certain is that to deal effectively with our perpetuity, we must work in that direction, strive for pan-European unity, and never leave any country or any individual behind. .

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