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Speech by President von der Leyen at the World Health Assembly

Speech given yesterday by President von der Leyen at the World Health Assembly.

Thank you very much,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to salute the determination and the commitment of WHO Members, as well as yours personally, dear Dr Tedros. You and your team have worked tirelessly to uphold the multilateral framework that is so essential for Global Health Security – even when it was difficult to do so. The spirit of collective action is the only true robust answer to fight this pandemic and to fight future pandemics.

We started some of that work at the G20 Global Health Summit in May, where the world's major economies vowed to work together to make this the last global pandemic. With the Rome Declaration signed on that day, we committed to learning the lessons from this pandemic and to be better prepared for the future.

This is why I welcome the World Health Assembly's decision to start negotiations towards an international agreement or other international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. I also support targeted improvements to the 2005 International Health Regulations, an overall strengthening of the WHO – so important – and the establishment of a new financial intermediary fund for global health security and pandemic preparedness. From our side, the European Commission looks forward to inclusive multilateral negotiations starting next year.

But there can be no standstill in a pandemic and we still have urgent tasks ahead of us. As we speak, the global community is faced with the threat of a new, highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, Omicron. This is not the first variant – and this time the world showed it is learning. And I want to say explicitly that I am personally grateful to the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa for that. South Africa's analytical work and transparency in sharing its results was indispensable in allowing a swift global response. It, no doubt, saved many lives and it is a model of how international cooperation should work in the face of cross-border health threats. Because only collective, effective and immediate responses can work against viruses that, of course, do not respect either borders or good intentions.

At the Global Health Summit in May, we agreed to uphold the principles of equity and good governance. We agreed to make multilateral cooperation and solidarity the only viable way forward. The G20 Summit repeated that pledge last month in Rome. And you can count on the European Union to make good on that. The European Union and its Member States will work very hard to achieve the global vaccination target of 70% in 2022 agreed at the recent G20 Summit. And we will support capacity building for sequencing, testing, treatments and, of course, vaccination. We know we can get there and we will make sure we do.

This is why Europe aims at sharing at least 700 million doses of vaccines by mid-2022 with low- and middle-income countries. It is why we helped create the ACT-Accelerator and provided EUR 3 billion of funding, especially for global vaccination through COVAX. And it is also why we are investing heavily in vaccine manufacturing in Africa. And we are also engaging on vaccine manufacturing with South America. Together with our partners, we will do everything needed to overcome this pandemic and to be better prepared for the future.

I wish you a successful World Health Assembly, you have an important work ahead of you, and I thank you very much for your attention.

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