Lao PDR's Minister of Health calls for unity as he joins leaders of UN, WHO and other Member States in opening World Health Assembly
15 June 2020
This was reflected in the line-up of high-Level speakers who addressed the Assembly including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados, President Xi of China, President Macron of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, President Moon of the Republic of Korea, President Ramaphosa of South Africa and President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all these addresses took place remotely via video-conference. Dr Bounkong addressed the Assembly from the Ministry of Health in Vientiane.
Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Minister of Health, began his opening speech building on UN Secretary-General Guterres’ call for unity.
“Now is a time for unity. The COVID-19 pandemic affects every person in the global community from all aspects of life. Personally, nationally and globally, our health, well-being, social-lives and economic viability are challenged, even threatened. We need to work together in fighting the pandemic, not as individual countries but as a global community.”
Economic recovery is likely to take a long time and be more difficult in middle-income countries such as Lao PDR. They have less ability to raise taxes or borrow money to restart economic growth. Dr Bounkong called on development partners to be mindful of this in the coming months and years.
Other government leaders echoed Dr Bounkong’s call for unity and solidarity. UN Secretary- General Guterres emphasized “unless we control the spread of the virus, the economy will never recover”. President Xi of China pledged to provide USD 2 billion over two years in aid to nations around the world respond to and recover from the pandemic. He offered to share any vaccine developed by China as soon as one became available. Chancellor Merkel of Germany said she was convinced a solution to the pandemic could be found much quicker if countries work together. While President Macron of France stated that sharing a COVID-19 vaccine was a matter of principle, over and above economics “Human health cannot be quarrelled over, cannot be appropriated, and cannot be bought and sold."
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros said the pandemic had shown both the strengths and vulnerabilities of the international system. Progress is being made but the months ahead will not be easy “It takes hard work, fidelity to science, learning and adapting as you go, and difficult decisions, of course.”
WHO’s governing body – the World Health Assembly
Meeting every May since 1948, the World Health Assembly consists of delegates from the Member States that make up WHO. As WHO’s governing body, the Assembly agrees on the Organization’s priorities, leadership, and budgets. Delegates are health minister and senior officials. They set new health goals for WHO, and assign tasks to reach those goals. Delegations consider and provide guidance on policies and courses of action, which are then coordinated and overseen by the secretariat.
This 2-day assembly is focusing on strengthening global response to the pandemic which has affected 4.6 million people and killed 312,000 people globally. WHO continues its work to promote actions based on science, and is guided by the United Nations’ principles of neutrality, impartiality, human rights and equity.