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October 5, 2020
Contact: HHS Press Office
[email protected]

Statement from Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giror: Update on Implementation of Resolution WHA73.1 on the COVID-19 Response

World Health Organization Special Session of the Executive Board Geneva, Switzerland and Virtual

October 5-6, 2020

United States Statement:

  • Thank you Honorable Minister Vardhan [VAR-dun], Director-General Tedros and Fellow Executive Board Members.
  • The enormity of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is stunning. I know firsthand because I am on the front lines of U.S. domestic response as the Assistant Secretary for Health, and also lead the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, thousands of whom are deployed across the United States serving in this crisis.
  • I also lead US domestic public health and prevention policies, including a new initiative for sickle cell disease, where I led the formation of a United States interagency task force with the goal of normalizing the lives and lifespans for Americans with sickle cell disease within 10 years, and.
  • Supporting global efforts to save lives of those living with SCD around the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • We cannot let COVID-19 set us back on these and other public health efforts, there are too many lives at stake.
  • After the 1918 influenza pandemic, our public health predecessors pledged that such a public health emergency would never happen again.
  • Despite the many advances in technology, international cooperation, and instantaneous communication since – and the positive steps in the response outlined by Dr. Ryan today - we cannot overcome the failure of any Member State to provide accurate, complete, and timely information on outbreaks and potential health emergencies as required by the IHRs.
  • Consistent with our long-standing policy, the United States will continue promoting reforms that strengthen transparency and accountability at every international organization, including the WHO.
  • The United States, working closely with G7 partners, developed a roadmap for WHO reform, which I shared with my fellow Executive Board members in August.
  • The Roadmap outlines opportunities to strengthen the WHO by increasing its accountability, transparency, and overall effectiveness, as well as promoting our shared accountability to one another to address new and emerging threats.
  • Germany and France jointly provided a paper also along this lines, and we understand Chile also has recommendations. We all share the same goals of reforming the WHO, fighting COVID-19, and defeating future outbreaks.
  • The U.S. welcomes all good faith efforts to strengthen public health protections, and we hope we can use this special session to begin converting these many good ideas into actions.
  • Mr. Chairman, let me conclude with Resolution WHA73.1, which encapsulates the views of all Member States and directs the Director General to provide a fair and full accounting of the COVID-19 outbreak and responses.
  • A key mandate from WHA73.1 is the mission WHO, FAO and OIE are leading to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population. As this work was mandated by all Member States, it is critical that all Member States receive regular and timely updates, including the terms of reference for this panel or for any field missions, so that we can all engage with the process and be confident in the outcomes.
  • Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to working together to defeat this terrible pandemic and move our people and economies back to normalcy.
  • Finally, I would like to lend support for the proposal in the intervention from Austria today, for a convening of Executive Board Members - with the objective of strengthening the governing role of the Executive Board, as opposed to a limited ceremonial role. 
  • Only by having a strong Executive Board can we increase the transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of the entire organization.
  • Thank you
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at https://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: October 5, 2020

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