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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speech by President Barroso: Why Europe believes in GAVI
GAVI replenishment launch meeting
Brussels, 20 May 2014
Dear colleague from the Commission, Andris Piebalgs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be with you today to follow up from the conference last year in Abu Dhabi and ahead of GAVI's new pledging round for 2016-2020.
As you know, the European Union and its Member States attach great importance to development policy and human development in particular, as part of our comprehensive approach to our international relations. I couldn't be more proud of what Europe does for citizens across the world, especially in these testing times.
I would like to take this opportunity to give my personal thanks to Commissioner Piebalgs who has worked with enormous dedication over these last five years to make sure that the European Union has shown global leadership in the cause of development.
Our support to our developing partners has - and will always be – unwavering. Even during the recent period of economic crisis, we remained steadfast in our financial contributions – and I can tell you, these talks on our new multiannual budget until 2020 were not easy. According to the OECD, the EU and its Member States provide more than half of official development assistance worldwide, and we have actually managed to increase our collective effort this year, which is, I would say, really important considering the pressures on the budget of many of our Member States
Development cooperation is inextricably linked to our shared values, to protecting Human Rights, and promoting democracy in its broadest sense. This includes not just elections and good governance but also inclusive and sustainable growth, and true solidarity.
That is why, as part of our Agenda for Change, we are engaging with our global partners to fight for a better quality of life, a decent life for all by 2030.
Only by acting together, as equal partners, across public and private sectors, can we tackle our global challenges and deliver a forward-looking vision and strategy for a sustainable, poverty-free future for our children, grandchildren and their own children.
His Excellency, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Mr Mulatu Teshome, who I really want to welcome here, understands this more than anyone, and I would like to congratulate him on his country's achievement last year of reducing by two thirds child mortality, meeting the 4th Millennium Development Goal.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and what we do collectively after 2015, is part of that solution; and health is, of course, at the heart of our policies. Because we cannot gain a good education or secure a good job, prosperity and growth, without making sure we all live in a healthy society.
Without good health, in fact we cannot deliver.
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, a front-runner in Aid Effectiveness, was the first country in 2008 to sign with international partners an International Health Partnership Country Compact in 2008.
And I am pleased that the European Commission has been able to contribute to the health extension programme and is currently joining the MDG Pooled Fund in Health through UNICEF. Health is going to be one of three focal sectors in our bilateral support under the 11th European Development Fund, so the fund that runs from now, 2014, until 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over two hundred years ago a young Edward Jenner observed that limited exposure to an illness could actually prevent disease. He noticed that a dairywoman's exposure to cowpox could prevent from her contracting smallpox. This helped us to revolutionise our medical approach.
This is why, in the modern day, the European Commission has supported GAVI from its inception and is proud to be associated with GAVI's success in helping countries maintain and increase immunisation coverage. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of those who work in GAVI and are, through their actions, reducing mortality and helping so many people, so many children around the world.
So I am very pleased to announce today, as part of GAVI's pre-pledging conference, that the European Union is pledging to more than double its existing contribution, to €25 million a year from 2014. This represents €175 million over the next 7-year European budget between 2014 and 2020.
Because we understand that we all need to do more. And I would like also to call on others to increase their contributions for this critically important cause.
We can ask the question – why do we need to invest more? - but the answer is as clear to everyone today as it was to Edward Jenner back then.
Let me briefly set out the five main challenges facing us, and why we have increased our support for GAVI.
First, prevention is certainly better than cure.
Vaccines are the cheapest and the most cost-effective way of saving lives; they fight against disease before it has a chance to attack, and they give people the chance to live in dignity, free from pain and suffering. And this applies to people not just in areas of peace, but also in areas of conflict, where people need protection the most. Through the bravery of doctors, nurses and health workers, we managed, for example, to help Yemen to reach two thirds of the children with essential immunisation. And we have had similar successes elsewhere, namely in Africa.
Secondly, we need more dedicated funds, particularly for low and lower middle income countries, so that they can meet their increasing costs.
Despite all our efforts, millions of people are still dying worldwide from diseases we have the knowledge to prevent. 1.2 billion people still live in poverty, with pregnant women unable to access healthcare and young children exposed to disease. 1.5 million children still die each year from diseases which could be prevented by a simple vaccine. That is unacceptable, politically and morally.
The cost of immunisation is also increasing due to the arrival of combination vaccines, the cost of transportation to increasingly remote areas, and storage. And there is also a need to increase awareness, increase training and find a way to tackle the global shortage of health workers.
Thirdly, just as it was evident to Edward Jenner who had to wait for years to test out his theory, and to Louis Pasteur, half a century later, it is crucial that we invest in research and innovation. Because we still don't have the answers to all the challenges we face, including some of the most infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are affected by neglected infectious diseases, some with a fatality rate of 100%, with very few drugs available.
That is why vaccine research and innovation is at the heart of Horizon 2020 - our new, and bigger, seven-year research and innovation budget for the EU – that is also giving a very important priority to health issues, to research and innovation in the field of health. And this is also the reason why we are the third largest provider of funds from basic research to drug and vaccine development in poverty-related and neglected infectious diseases.
But it's not just about the vaccines themselves.
Millions of children are missing out on vaccinations simply as a result of not being able to store vaccinations properly. The traditional cold-chain is logistically very difficult to guarantee, especially in regions where disease is rifest. It is because of this that we recently awarded a €2 million inducement prize to a pioneering company, CureVac, which is developing a promising method to produce thermo-stable vaccines.
Fourthly, we need to make sure that we are all working together more effectively.
Our brightest and best brains must work together. We must all forge partnerships, between public bodies and private entities, between countries, sectors and disciplines; complementing our activity and adding most value where we can each have most impact and change people's lives.
Let me give you two quick examples of how the EU is working together in partnership with other organisations, both as part of Horizon 2020.
The Innovative Medicine Initiative is the largest public-private partnership in health research. Its successor project, IMI2 will combine investment from the European Commission and the industry expertise of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and will be open to other industries including vaccine manufacturers as well as SMEs and academics.
It is only through this partnership that the programme can encompass the entire value chain of health research.
The second major partnership is the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership. 16 European countries and the European Commission have partnered up with countries from sub-Saharan Africa to support clinical trials - the single most important step in the validation of new drugs and vaccines.
We all know we can't get anywhere on our own.
This is why we have invested in building these partnerships and why we invest in the GAVI Alliance, because it embodies the public-private partnership so well.
I was pleased, in the meeting with the chair and CEO of GAVI, to know they are happy with the way our teams have been cooperating together and also working together on the ground.
Finally, we are increasing our investment in GAVI because immunisation is part of an overall, comprehensive and sustainable approach to human development and health.
We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball or sit back and relax once we believe we have overcome a disease. And we cannot just focus on vaccinations in isolation without developing better, more comprehensive health systems and better infrastructure.
All of you – those of you connected with the issue of development and who know the situation on the ground – know that very often the most important problem is a logistical one, and that's why we have always - and that is our doctrine in the European Commission - looked at these issues in a comprehensive, holistic fashion, trying to look at the different steps in the process to be sure that in fact our aid reaches those that really need it.
Our overall new seven year EU development programme focuses even more on this approach. We have put a real emphasis, through the Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Development Fund, on working with host governments, in line with their priorities and needs, so that our contribution goes with the grain, avoids duplication, and ensures that our money can go further, in a smarter way, and have a real impact on people's lives, for the better.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ever since its creation in 2000, and since the last pledging round in 2011 in London, a lot of progress has been done. Alliance partners have collectively immunised nearly half a billion children - a number that represents nearly the entire population of the European Union. This is indeed an excellent achievement. But there is more to do.
We can go further and must go further, both in the public and private sector;
We need to continue our efforts to coordinate our activity;
We need to offer certainty and financial support to the organisations, researchers and health workers who carry out this work;
We need to make further progress in the way we shape the vaccine market so that the vaccines we have, and the new vaccines we develop, are affordable and available for everyone;
We need to continue to show we care and that we are willing to help those children and adults who are fighting off disease, and who are wanting to build for themselves a better future;
We need to invest more widely, increasing our investments to support countries with complementing support to initiatives to address the most problematic issues of child mortality, and specifically women's health.
Until access to basic health services is possible for all people, whatever progress we have made is not enough. Health is key to a functioning and fair world.
And if we all pledge our support today, we will have made the first step towards a healthier world tomorrow.
I thank you very much for your attention and I wish you great success in your work today.