WHO Director-General’s keynote speech at the Opening Ceremony of the World Health Summit – 16 October 2022 – World

Your Excellency Chancellor Olaf Scholz,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good evening, it is my honor to be here.

Many thanks to you, Chancellor Scholz, and to the government and people of Germany for your hospitality.

Thank you also for your patronage of the World Health Summit, along with myself and our fellow patrons, President Emmanuel Macron and President Macky Sall.

I would also like to thank Professor Axel Pries and your colleagues for your partnership as the inaugural co-hosts of the World Health Summit.

About 14 years ago I received a call asking if I would be interested in joining a committee to start a new health conference in Germany.

Many thanks to dr. Detlev Ganten, the former President, for this surprise many years ago and for your leadership.

The first World Health Summit was held in 2009 which, as you recall, was the same year the world last experienced a pandemic of H1N1 flu.

We are now at a similarly pivotal moment as the world emerges from the worst public health crisis in a century.

The theme of this year’s World Health Summit is “Taking Global Health to a New Level”.

It sounds great. But what does it mean?

Let me suggest three things.

First, to take global health to a new level, we need a new global agreement or deal based on a shared vision.

Just when the world needed to come together to collectively confront this common threat, the COVID-19 pandemic has been marked by a lack of collaboration and coordination.

We can only face common threats with a common response, based on a shared commitment to solidarity and justice.

That is what the Pandemic Accord countries are now negotiating is about: an agreement among the world’s nations to work together – not in competition – to prepare for and respond to epidemics and pandemics.

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In 1968, at the height of the Cold War, countries across the ideological divide came together to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Today it is as relevant as ever.

Likewise, the global deal currently being negotiated will underpin the global approach to epidemics and pandemics for decades and perhaps even centuries to come. That’s why we call it an intergenerational contract.

I have to be very clear: this agreement is being negotiated through Countries, to the countries and are adopted and implemented through countries, in accordance with their own national laws.

The claim by some that this agreement is a violation of national sovereignty is simply false.

There will be no powers for the WHO to do anything without the express authorization of sovereign nation states.

If nations can negotiate treaties against threats of our own creation, such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, tobacco and climate change, then it certainly makes sense for countries to agree on a common approach to a common threat that we do not fully understand created cannot fully control – a threat that emanates from our relationship with nature itself.

Such an agreement will provide an essential framework and foundation for other initiatives to protect the world.

Which leads me to my second suggestion.

Taking global health to a new level requires a new global architecture that is coherent and inclusive.

Just as the pandemic has exposed political vulnerabilities, it has also exposed technical and operational vulnerabilities in the world’s collective ability to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks and epidemics.

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It is clear that we need new and better tools to build a new and better architecture.

Several parts of this architecture are already being built:

Increased funding from the newly established Financial Intermediary Fund, as indicated by His Excellency the Chancellor – and thank you for your generosity;

Stronger global surveillance through the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, which opened here in Berlin last year;

Greater accountability through the Universal Health and Preparedness Review, currently being piloted in four countries;

And a stronger WHO thanks to Member States’ historic pledge at this year’s World Health Assembly to make our funding much more predictable, flexible and sustainable.

A new agreement and a new architecture are essential. But we also need fundamental changes in the conditions that shape the health of the world’s people.

Which brings me to my third suggestion:

Taking global health to the next level means a new global approach that prioritizes promoting health and preventing disease, rather than just treating the sick.

By and large, the world’s health systems do not provide health care. They provide nursing care.

Many countries spend huge sums to treat preventable diseases at a fraction of the cost.

Therefore, I call on all countries to make a paradigm shift towards health promotion and disease prevention, recognizing that health does not begin in hospitals and clinics, but at home, on the streets, in schools and in the workplace.

This change requires a reorientation and reorientation of health systems towards primary health care as the basis of universal health coverage and health security.

It also requires changes in the way governments manage and fund health.

Health can no longer be a matter for the Ministry of Health or the health sector alone, but for all government and society as a whole.

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Health must be a priority in urban planning, fiscal policy, transport, education policy, trade, commerce, finance, infrastructure, etc.

This means that health can no longer be a subordinate department of government, as is the case in many countries, but must be a higher priority, as healthy and safe populations are the basis of healthy and safe societies and economies.


Chancellor Scholz, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

We live at a time when global peace around the world is threatened and must be protected and promoted by strong and principled leadership.

Likewise, we live at a time when global health is under threat and must be defended with equally strong and principled leadership.

In the next 48 hours we have the opportunity to advance the path together.

Importantly, this week we also have the opportunity to provide the resources to complete the task of putting polio in the history books.

Thank you Chancellor for announcing the funding from Germany. Many Thanks.

We’ve come this far. we are so close Now is the time for all of us to work with determination, collaboration, and innovation to bring the gift of a polio-free world to future generations.


So what does it mean to take global health to the next level?

A New Global Agreement;

A new global architecture;

And a new global approach.

Because health is not a cost factor, but an investment;

It is not simply a result of development, but the means;

It’s not a luxury, it’s a basic human right.

As I often say: health is a human right!

Many Thanks. I thank you.


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