Director-General's Office

Second plenary meeting of the World Health Assembly

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

21 May 2018

Excellencies, ministers, heads of delegation, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be here to open the General Debate.

I had the honour of giving my first address to the Assembly as Director-General this morning.

Our aim was to celebrate our past achievements, and to look forward to the challenges ahead.

I don’t want to repeat the remarks I made earlier, but allow me to reiterate the key points.

The General Programme of Work – our 5-year strategic plan – is an ambitious document that’s designed to focus WHO on delivering impact where it matters most – that’s in countries.

It establishes a clear mission: to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.

At the heart of the GPW are the “triple billion” targets that I’m sure you’re all familiar with:

1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage;

1 billion more people made safer against health emergencies;

1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

This morning I said that I see three keys to success:

A stronger WHO, political commitment, and partnership.

Of the three, universal health coverage is the foundation. Investments in health systems, based on people-centred primary care, are the key to improving health security and in achieving better health and well-being for all, at all ages.

I know many of you attended the Walk the Talk event in Geneva yesterday, which was a tremendous success.

We need to Walk the Talk on physical activity, but we also need to Walk the Talk on universal health coverage. All roads should lead to universal health coverage.

That’s why, at our Executive Board meeting in January, I issued a challenge to all countries to commit to three concrete steps to UHC.

Of course, many of your countries already have very strong health systems. Others have recently taken important steps on this journey.

But no system is perfect. There is always room for improvement, and there are always new challenges that need new solutions. Gains can easily be lost.

UHC doesn’t happen by accident. It takes strong leadership and careful planning.

So my call is for all of us to be proactive and even aggressive, to ensure that all people can access the health services they need, without facing financial hardship.

We all have experiences to share and lessons to learn.

I look forward to hearing your commitments, and to hearing how WHO can support you on the road to health for all.

Thank you so much again, and I wish us a successful debate.

I thank you.