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U.S. HHS Secretary Becerra: Remarks at the 74th World Health Assembly
Xavier Becerra Secretary of Health and Human Services
May 25, 2021

Assembly President, Director General Tedros, fellow ministers, and distinguished leaders:

On behalf of the United States, I want to extend our thanks to the leadership of the World Health Organization and the staff who have worked tirelessly for the health and well-being of all humanity.

I want to thank the Pan American Health Organization for leading efforts to combat the pandemic and deliver much needed supplies and vaccines to our neighbors in the Americas as well as AFRO and its concurrent work to respond to multiple Ebola outbreaks on top of COVID-19.

And I want to express our gratitude and support for our frontline workers, whose sacrifices and service are appreciated more than I can express with words.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only stole a year from our lives, it stole millions of lives.

Now we must honor our departed by taking urgent action this year – to strengthen health security and pandemic preparedness so that we are better prepared for the next global health crisis.

This means improving global triggers, so all countries take swift action toward the next biological threat.

This means establishing a global health security financing mechanism that is sustainable – with strong accountability and oversight.

And this means developing surge capacity for the global manufacturing of personal protective equipment, vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and the healthcare workforce.

We cannot forget that people are the backbone of any response and must ensure and increase investments in our healthcare workforce.

And we must also do more to understand our current pandemic and look forward toward detecting, preparing, and responding to future biological threats.

Phase 2 of the COVID origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.

As Member States of the WHO, we need to come together and finish this fight against COVID, our greatest test.

We need to fully implement and adhere to obligations under the International Health Regulations.

We need to improve transparency, immediately share critical information about outbreaks with pandemic potential, and strengthen health systems to withstand shocks.

Global collaboration will be key in tackling the many challenges still before us. Collaboration with non-state actors must continue, and we must invite Taiwan to be a part of the World Health Assembly as an observer.

The challenges before us are many, but not insurmountable.

They begin by ensuring the resilience of global health systems through sustained investments – and by addressing inequity and helping all people realize their right to health.

Together, we must address racial, gender and other forms of inequality, promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, and strive for equity across society.

An inclusive global public health approach must include the voices of minorities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex populations.

We must continue promoting critical nutrition and vaccinations, fighting HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and addressing climate change.

And we will do this together with a strong and agile WHO.

Together we will beat this pandemic.

Together we can help all people realize their right to health.

Thank you.