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John Dalli

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Health and Consumer Policy

Opening speech

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

High level event on Global Health

Brussels, 10 Juni 2010

Excellencies, Ministers, Ambassadors, Dr Chan, Commissioner Gawanas,

Let me first welcome you all to Brussels and thank you for taking the time to come to this Conference.

I particularly want to thank Dr Chan for taking time out of her very busy agenda to be with us today.

Looking around, I see a global meeting on Global Health with distinguished participants from all over the world. This shows that citizens' health is a shared concern for us all.

Each and every one of us wants to live in good health; and each of us wants to do everything in our power to improve the Health of our citizens.

Access to good health is a right for all, in Europe and beyond. But it is a right that too many people still cannot enjoy today. The Millennium Development Goals related to health, on child mortality, on maternal mortality, and on HIV/AIDS are among those most off-track.

And here, we have to face the facts: progress towards health-related development goals is insufficient.

I would like to share with you some facts which I personally find unacceptable:

  • in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 7 children does not live to his or her 5th birthday. 9 million children under 5 die every year from lack of access to essential health care.

  • in sub-Saharan Africa, Maternal mortality is 200 times higher than in Europe. This is clearly the Millennium Development Goal that is most off track.

  • sub-Sahara Africa only has 3% of the world's health workers but it has 11% of the world's population and 24% of the global burden of disease.

This is bad enough; but the worse is that there has been little improvement in the past few years. We cannot be complacent about this. As the main partner of developing countries, the EU has a responsibility to play a leading role in addressing global health challenges.

Working with the world's poorest countries – for example through research partnerships – to improve access to new knowledge and to lifesaving treatments is a moral obligation. And it is also in Europe's interests: for example communicable diseases that affect African citizens, do not stop at African borders.

I believe every one of us should aspire to live in healthy conditions and to have access to quality healthcare.

Spending on health should not be seen as a cost, but rather as a long-term investment. Health is a prerequisite for economic development.

A population in good health represents a strong workforce that can drive a country's productivity and growth. A population in bad health means poverty and stagnation.

With a life expectancy 30 years lower than in Europe, can we realistically expect Sub-Saharan Africa to prosper? Health and prosperity go hand in hand. Illness and poverty too.

Turning to Europe for a moment, let me say a few words about our Health Strategy. It focuses on four principles.

  • To promote shared health values, putting patients at the centre and reducing inequalities;

  • To stress the links between health and economic prosperity.

  • To integrate health into all policies.

  • To strengthen the EU's voice in global health through greater cooperation with international organisations.

The EU is the first partner of developing countries. This position gives us responsibilities; and enables us to play a leading role in tackling global health challenges.

When we started to develop a framework on Global Health last year, we first took a close look at what the EU was already doing.

We saw that we were doing quite a lot. But it was not packaged as global health; it was not visible; it was fragmented. When we looked closer, we saw this situation everywhere we looked – inside and outside the EU.

We need more vision, coherence, leadership and progress in our aid. Most of all, we need our aid to be effective and to deliver results were they are most needed.

That is why, in March this year, the Commission adopted a policy framework on the EU role in global health.

This new policy framework focuses on six main challenges: equity, coherence in response to globalisation, access and innovation, health as a human right, governance and research.

I am please that European governments have endorsed this policy framework by adopting Council Conclusions on the EU's role in Global Health.

Now we need to take discussions one step further. This conference is the first opportunity to discuss together how to work together for Global Health.

Today we are all partners working for Health. We are not donors or recipients, developed or developing, public or private.

I am here to listen to you. I would like to ask your feedback. To ask how we, the EU, can work more effectively and more strategically with you on global health in the future.

Let me ask you some direct questions:

  • are the existing international instruments sufficient to reduce the burden of communicable diseases?

  • how can we select the best policy instruments and partnerships to reduce the growing global burden of non-communicable diseases?

  • how can we balance the need of countries to retain a health workforce with the rights of individuals to migrate?

  • how can we best respond to multi sectoral challenges?

This Conference provides a good opportunity for key actors, key leaders, leading figures from all over the world, civil society and the UN – particularly the WHO – to come together…

  • To discuss extensively inequalities and their causes in relation to global factors.

  • To analyse global opportunities.

  • To improve global health equity.

  • To explore the best alliances and strategies for global action towards universal coverage of basic health services.

This forum is unique. Unique in the breadth of your experiences, insights, knowledge and diversity. Unique in giving us an opportunity to discuss strategies for health.

I would like to thank you all for your input in yesterday's working groups which, I learned, led to productive results: on the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action for Public Health and on how to strengthen scientific cooperation between the EU and the rest of the world. These discussions will feed into the plenary meeting today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The time has come to take Global Health challenges seriously. This is why we are here today.

I believe that, together, we can improve Health where it needs to be improved the most.

I believe in All for Health, Health for all. Together we can make it happen.

Thank you.

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