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HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell’s Remarks at Global Health Security Agenda Side Event
May 18, 2015

  • Global Health Security Agenda side event
    Word Health Assembly
    United Nations Geneva,
    May 18, 2015

  • Thank you, Ambassador Kairamo and the Government of Finland for your strong leadership in convening this session and so ably carrying the Global Health Security Agenda forward.
    When Finland announced its priorities as Chair of the Global Health Security Agenda, it named 2015 “the year of action.”  And I couldn’t agree more.
  • Given our collective experience with the Ebola crisis and its impact globally, concrete action is needed now, not only to address Ebola, but also to address the underlying vulnerabilities in health systems highlighted by the outbreak.
  • I would also like to thank Director General Margaret Chan for her vision and leadership in supporting the Global Health Security Agenda and working with all participating Member States on this effort.  WHO’s collaboration on GHSA is essential to ensure good alignment with efforts to implement the International Health Regulations (IHR).
  • From the beginning, the Global Health Security Agenda was envisioned as a platform to facilitate multisectoral collaboration among countries, international organizations, and non-governmental partners to accelerate progress on IHR implementation.
  • Under the IHR framework, countries are obligated to work together and with WHO to build core public health capacities. And much work has been done over the past eight years.  But more needs to be done.
  • With only one-third of countries reporting that they have met their IHR requirements, we strongly endorse a commitment during this Assembly to support West and Central African and other at-risk states to achieve full implementation of the IHR by 2019.
  • In support of national efforts to increase these critical capacities, the Global Health Security Agenda has been able to pull together partners across multiple sectors to agree on specific targets to achieve specific, measurable progress toward full IHR implementation.
  • The Global Health Security Agenda has also succeeded in elevating these issues to the level of national leaders. And this is a priority for President Obama, as he indicated during the September 26 GHSA meeting at the White House.
  • I am excited to hear that countries around the globe are finding new ways to work together, strengthening national and regional capacities, sharing best practices, and building collaborations based on shared priorities.
  • Some countries have developed “twinning” models, working intensely with partners to build and strengthen capacities and institutions in support of the IHR.  Later on, we will hear an example of this effort from Norway.
  • For our part, the U.S. has committed to assist at least 30 countries to meet all of the targets of the Global Health Security Agenda to achieve full IHR implementation.  We are asking you to join us and to really synchronize our approach to reach measurable, common targets so that all of West and Central Africa and other at-risk states can achieve full coverage.
  • Importantly, as we say – “what gets measured, gets done.”  And GHSA partners, with strong leadership from Finland, have developed and tested external assessment of GHSA capabilities.
  • These pilots have demonstrated the willingness of countries and international organizations to work together and think innovatively about measuring progress to achieve specific targets.  On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank all those partners involved in the pilot assessments for their commitment and openness.
  • And I would like to take a moment to thank Uganda for the wonderful collaboration with the United States, Finland and others on the GHSA pilot assessments.
  • Through the GHSA pilot assessments, we have seen firsthand the value of an external assessment process in the context of global health security. External assessments, as we will hear from the participant countries and WHO, are a vital collaborative tool to ensure progress toward increased capacity.
  • We recognize that some countries have expressed concerns about “assessment fatigue.” However, we believe that a continued, transparent, objective assessment process is necessary to document our collective success in GHSA implementation and to effectively identify and address needs.
  • We endorse the proposal the of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel that peer review or other equivalent external validation be part of the IHR assessment process and believe that the lessons learned through the GHSA pilots and other similar activities will be invaluable in informing the longer term approaches for IHR implementation.
  • Such a process, however, must be paired with a clear mechanism for matching gaps in capacity with needed resources. This will require continued multilateral and multisectoral engagement, built on a foundation of transparency and trust.
  • We should also remember that governments and international organizations are not the only partners with a critical role to play in global health security.  Non-governmental organizations, such as foundations, are already active in this arena.  And they will be essential in helping to close the gaps in capacities.  I welcome the presentation from Fondation Mérieux, highlighting their efforts in this area.
  • The Ebola epidemic is a stark reminder of our collective responsibility here today and over the coming years to build capacity globally to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats.
  • In closing, I would like to thank Ambassador Kairamo, Minister Tumwesigye, Deputy-Director General, and all the participants here today.  Together, we can make this year the year of action.


(end remarks)