Director-General's Office

Opening speech for the World Health Summit

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General

Berlin, Germany
16 October 2018

Gesundheit ist ein Menschenrecht!

Your Excellency Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany,

Your Excellency Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway,

My brother Bill Gates,

Excellencies distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a great honour to be here for the 10th World Health Summit. I was proud to attend the first one in 2009 as Minister of Health and Chair of the Global Fund.

I would like to thank Detlev Ganten, President of the World Health Summit, for inviting me.

As a founding member of the council, it’s very gratifying to see the way the summit has grown beyond recognition over the past decade.

And I’m delighted that this year we are able to launch the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being.

I would like to thank Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Solberg and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana, who unfortunately cannot be with us tonight.

Their vision and support are a huge step towards leveraging the enormous reach, experience and expertise of the global health community to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Mahatma Gandhi said: it is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.

Health is the most precious commodity on earth. With good health, anything becomes possible. Without it, getting out of bed can seem an insurmountable challenge.

Good health is the foundation for individuals to fulfil their potential; for families to flourish; for communities to prosper and for nations to thrive.

In short, health is a platform for sustainable development – for ending poverty and for promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.

The SDGs represent an ambitious vision of the healthier, safer, fairer world we all want.

But the reality is, we’re off track.

At the current rate, we will miss the targets on maternal, child and neonatal mortality.

We will miss the targets on HIV, TB and malaria.

We will miss the targets on family planning, child stunting, universal health coverage and more.

Fragmentation, duplication and inefficiency are undermining progress.

None of this is for want of trying. We all have dedicated, talented staff who work hard every day to make a difference.

And we have made good progress in several areas. But in others we are lagging behind.

So we have choice: we can keep doing what we’re doing. But we must accept that the outcomes will be the same.

Let me remind you that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.

We must do something different.

We need innovation and disruption – not just for developing new products, but for developing new ways of delivering those products and new ways of working together to deliver results.

That’s why this moment is so significant. It gives us the opportunity to do something we have never done before.

The fact that 11 heads of agencies have come together to sign a commitment to work together much more closely is unprecedented.

Of course, we have all said many times before that we need to work together.

But the level of personal engagement I have seen from my 10 brothers and sisters in this process is commendable and very encouraging.

It gives us the opportunity to bring the global health community together in a new way.

Together, we have committed to three key actions.

First, we have committed to align.

We all do a lot of the same things, but we do them in different ways – like resource mobilization, procurement, travel policies and other operational processes.

By harmonizing these processes and sharing information, we can do better together.

Second, we have committed to accelerate. We are identifying areas in which we can join forces to drive faster progress in countries and bend the curves towards our shared goals.

Third, we have committed to account. Countries, donors and partners expect results from the resources they entrust us with. So together we have agreed to strengthen our joint accountability.

We are developing common milestones for 2023 – which is halfway to 2030. Our aim is to develop a common results framework, against which investments can be calibrated.

Align. Accelerate. Account.

This is our commitment.

Let me leave you with three concrete requests.

First, for any of us to make this plan work, we all need flexible and multi-year financing. We thank Chancellor Merkel and the German government for the generous contribution they announced earlier this week. That is exactly the kind of investment that we need to succeed.

Second, we call on all countries to generate domestic financing to expand service coverage and reduce out-of-pocket payments.

And third, we must innovate, but we must be smarter and more aligned in the way we innovate. Innovation for the sake of it helps no one. We need innovation that works for people – innovation with a purpose.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I will tell you one story and then finish.

On Sunday I was in Khartoum for WHO’s Regional Committee meeting for the Eastern Mediterranean.

While I was there I visited a cardiac centre run jointly by the Ministry of Health for Sudan and an Italian NGO in a public-private partnership – a model partnership.

The centre provides free treatment for people from Sudan and neighbouring countries.

While I was there I met a 13-year-old boy called Hassab Al Karim, from South Darfur.

Hassab suffers from sickle cell anemia, requiring multiple blood transfusions.

During one of his hospital visits 3 weeks ago, he was also diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease. He was also positive for malaria – imagine the burden.

This caused shortness of breath that meant he was not able to be active, and was sometimes unable to attend school.

Without surgery, Hassab would probably not have survived to 18. And his family could never have afforded to pay for surgery.

But thanks to the free services offered at the cardiac centre, he has just had surgery to replace the valves in his heart with mechanical prostheses.

He now has the prospect of living a full, active, healthy and productive life.

I asked him how he was feeling. He said, “Good”, and smiled. A beautiful smile. This touched my heart

That’s why this Global Action Plan is so important.

It is about saving lives.

It’s not coordination for the sake of coordination. It’s not another plan for the sake of having another plan.

It’s a plan with a purpose. It’s about serving people. It’s about making sure no one is left behind.

As my brother Jim Kim would say, it’s about human capital.

In Ethiopia we have a famous proverb: When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.

That’s what I see happening here.

We are uniting to tie up the lion of inequality. We’re uniting to tie up the lion of poverty. We’re uniting to tie up the lion of disease in our web.

Individually, our webs may not amount to much. But together, we can change the course of history.

Thank you so much. Together we can make a difference. Vielen dank. Takk skal du ha.