Remarks by Assistant Secretary Kolker at WHO Executive Board Special Session on Ebola

The U.S. Delegation at the WHO Executive Board Special Session on Ebola

The U.S. Delegation at the WHO Executive Board Special Session on Ebola – Photo courtesy of WHO

Statement by Jimmy Kolker

Assistant Secretary, Global Affairs
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Special Session on Ebola
World Health Organization
Executive Board

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Note: These remarks were delivered during the World Health Organization Executive Board discussion of a resolution co-sponsored by the United States aimed at improving WHO’s capacity to respond to global health emergencies such as Ebola.  The consensus resolution, finalized during 4 days of intensive negotiations by a working group co-chaired by Assistant Secretary Kolker and Precious Matsoso, Director General of South Africa’s Department of Health, was unanimously adopted January 25, 2015 by the body’s 34 member Executive Board.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

The WHO that we have is not the WHO we need.  It’s not the WHO we needed to respond to outbreaks and health emergencies of the magnitude of Ebola.  And it is with that in mind that the U.S. has taken an active role – and I give credit to our lead co-chair Precious Matsoso from South Africa – both in the drafting, and then chairing the informal group.  We’ve taken an active role to see that this special session comes up with concrete results and suggestions that will, we hope, give the Director General a strong mandate to take the measures she already has authority to take to improve the organization.  And also that we provide a way to improve the emergency response capability in a number of systems which we think are necessary for the WHO, to be the lead and coordinating organization where health is uniquely now the cause of an international humanitarian effort.

It [the resolution] also asks the Director General to come to us in May at the World Health Assembly with specific, far reaching measures that we’ve outlined in the resolution that we believe need to be proposed in a comprehensive way taking account of all that’s going on with other organizations and other mechanisms, but for which WHO has a crucial role to play, and we’ve given some structure to what we expect in May that will be far reaching reforms.  We’ll be following actively and favorably the progress that WHO is making in implementing those reforms, and with that in mind we join with the United Kingdom in saying we will not wait for a specific fund to be created or a specific mechanism to be established in order to consider favorably funding the important work that WHO continues to do.

To echo the minister from Liberia – I think one other group we need to pay attention to —  not necessarily in this resolution, but WHO and its member states and the Executive Board —  are the Healthcare workers who have lost their lives in this tragedy. We know their names, and I guess one modest suggestion we’d have that in addition to the structural changes we’re making to make WHO the organization it needs to be, is that we should think creatively about how WHO and all of us collectively can honor those healthcare workers as we go forward.  Thanks to all who worked on this resolution.  We as the U.S. are very proud to be sponsors of it and we commend it to the Executive Board to pass.

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