Director-General's Office

First meeting of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General of the World Health Organization

WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
10 September 2018

Good morning and welcome to WHO. It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to the first meeting of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board.

I want in particular to welcome my friends, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland and Secretary-General Elhadj As Sy, who have kindly agreed to be the Board’s co-Chairs. I have every confidence in their leadership and vision.

I also see other friends and colleagues here –thank you for committing your time and expertise to the GPMB.

This meeting has its origins in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which devastated thousands of families, damaged economies and shook the world.

It was also a wake-up call for all of us. WHO itself has undergone major transformation since then, with the establishment of its health emergencies programme, led by a Deputy Director-General, Dr Peter Salama.

For the first time, WHO can confidently say that it is now an operational response organization, especially in relation to emergencies, in addition to its longstanding roles of providing normative and technical assistance, which will continue to be a major part of WHO’s mandate.

We recognize that emergencies can cause social, economic and political upheaval, which is why we have a relentless focus on emergencies - it's a 24/7 business, starting with myself.

That’s why with both of the recent Ebola outbreaks in DRC, I was determined to be on the ground as soon as possible, to witness the state of the outbreak and our response for myself.

I now receive a daily briefing note on all emergencies. We maintain a dashboard with near-real time data on emergencies. And we have instituted the WHO Health Security Council, a fortnightly meeting chaired by myself and the DDG for Emergencies. I’d like to thank Pete for all the progress we’re making on this.

Our new General Programme of Work includes the three “triple billion” targets that we want to achieve by 2023. One of them is to see 1 billion people better protected from health emergencies.

We have also adopted a new mission statement: “Promote health, keep the world safe, serve the vulnerable.” But in fact, keeping the world safe is part of our core mandate, and always has been – it’s in WHO’s constitution.

Our sister organizations in the UN have also answered the call, with the Interagency Standing Committee adopting the protocols for infectious hazard management and integrating health crises into our overarching priorities.

In particular, the World Bank – the co-convener of this Board –established the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, or PEF.

Most importantly, countries and communities have embraced the need for preparedness, with Member States recommitting to establishing the capacities required under the International Health Regulations and dozens requesting Joint External Evaluations to ensure that that happens.

The private sector is also working to ensure that adequate procurement and logistics capacity is in place to prepare for and respond to health crises.

However, despite all the progress we have made, the world remains vulnerable. Developing health systems, partnerships, sustainable financing mechanisms and maintaining preparedness will take time. We are only at the beginning.

Our collective response to the recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has proven that we have taken the right first steps, but it has also reaffirmed the need for continued joint commitment and work to ensure preparedness at all levels.

This is a historic moment – the first meeting of the GPMB. This is a unique initiative. It is independent, answering only to itself, with a mandate to speak “truth to power”. It is authoritative – and you can see that just by looking round the room.

But most importantly, its scope is broad. You are tasked with monitoring all of us, public, private, communities, countries – everyone. We’re all responsible for preparedness, but it is your responsibility to make sure that we follow through.

This was the intent when I and my friend Jim Kim responded to the recommendation of the Secretary-General’s Global Health Crises Task Force to establish a mechanism to monitor and hold the global community accountable for emergency preparedness.

Your job is to determine what is being done, what remains to be done and where the gaps are in our collective efforts. You also have a key role in advocating at the highest levels for continued, sustained and sufficient commitments – political, financial and social – to health emergency preparedness.

I look forward to hearing and supporting your voice. I know you have access to some of the key decision makers in the world. When you communicate your messages and impart your recommendations, I hope you are brave. I hope you are bold. I hope you ask countries, agencies and the private sector to put health first, to prioritize preparedness and find the money, human resource and political capital to make that a reality. I hope that your messages are detailed, direct and clear.

I can promise that I, WHO and our partners will support you in your efforts.

I am confident that you will make a measurable difference in ensuring a safer world.

WHO and the World Bank stand ready to provide whatever support you will need to make this a reality and look forward to watching your work unfold in the coming years.

I wish you all the best in your efforts today.

Since I know each and everyone one of you, I want to say I’m confident in you and I believe in you. I’m sure you will make a difference in global preparedness.

Thank you.