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Statement by Garrett Grigsby, Director of Global Affairs HHS, at the World Health Assembly
November 10, 2020

World Health Organization
73rd World Health Assembly (Resumed) Geneva, Switzerland
Virtual Meeting November 9 -14, 2020

Statement by Garrett Grigsby
Director, Office of Global Affairs
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)


The United States thanks the IOAC, IPPR and the IHR Review Committee for these reports and congratulates Member States on their commitment to identify and support measures to strengthen WHO.

We are quite literally in the fight of our lifetime as the COVID-19 pandemic is causing death and societal disruption, and we must collectively determine how to prevent such a pandemic from ever happening again.

The United States, along with its G7 partners, initiated discussions on WHO strengthening and reform in early 2020 at the pandemic’s onset, building upon the work of the DG and the WHO over the last few years. It was the G7 discussions that created a pathway for WHA73.1 to garner overwhelming support in May 2020.

Several Member States have put forward proposals that reflect our shared views and common values, including increased transparency, accountability, greater global coordination and improved communications. We appreciate Brazil’s decision to co-sponsor the Roadmap with the United States.

There is overwhelming agreement that WHO and IHR State Parties must improve preparedness and response in key ways including:
1) implementing graded PHEIC declaration options, such as a traffic light approach, allowing more time to prepare;
2) creating a universal review mechanism for IHR compliance;
3) revising travel and trade restrictions in a systematic and evidence-based way to better respond to outbreaks and pandemics; and
4) integrating a One Health approach for preparedness and response to public health threats, designed to engage effectively zoonotic diseases wherever they arise.

Member States were made aware of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the investigation into the origins of the virus only a few days ago. The TOR was not negotiated in a transparent way with all WHO Member States. The TOR and the investigation itself appear to be inconsistent with the mandate provided by Member States in WHA73.1.  Understanding the origins of COVID-19 through a transparent and inclusive investigation is what must be done to meet the mandate.

Similarly, we are not taking advantage of all information available to WHO and Member States on how to combat COVID-19. Taiwan is a shining success in how to fight COVID-19, so understanding its response would be highly beneficial as many Member States struggle with another wave of cases. Blocking Taiwan from participating in WHA as an observer therefore is counterproductive.

We must share information and strengthen our own domestic capacities so that together we have a transparent and connected global architecture to detect threats early, prevent further spread, and support each Member State to protect its people.