Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be able to join you today, on the initiative of President Biden, in our common fight against a pandemic that literally changed the way the world thinks and acts.
COVID-19 may have struck indiscriminately, but its impacts have not been felt equally by everyone. Those who were the most disadvantaged before the pandemic have also suffered the most from the pandemic.
We must therefore intensify our efforts to expand access to safe and effective vaccines everywhere. If we are to minimise COVID-19’s effects in the years ahead, then intergovernmental organisations, governments and the pharmaceutical industry must lead the charge now, by pushing coordinated action for global vaccine access and equity over the next few months.
I’m proud of course of the part Greece has already played in the international effort to create a global “wall of immunity”. From Ukraine to Rwanda, from Libya to Jordan, we have donated 1.3 million doses of vaccine so far, with a million more to follow in the coming weeks. We have done it either bilaterally or through COVAX and we have an additional 3 million doses planned in the months ahead.
I’m proud too of the efforts of our scientists, doctors, engineers, and innovators – not just in the daily battle against COVID-19 at home – but in their volunteer efforts across the globe. Brilliant people like those behind the design and patenting of a low-cost ventilator, for manufacture in countries facing acute oxygen shortage.
Ladies and gentlemen, if this disease has taught us anything it is that in today’s interconnected world we cannot act alone. Only by learning from the experience of the last 18 months, working together and engaging now, can we better prepare for the challenges of tomorrow – challenges that can no longer be viewed in isolation.
That is why a One Health approach, that recognises the link between people, plants, animals and their shared environment, and brings together organisations and stakeholders from different sectors, is vital at all levels of policymaking.
It is an approach that takes into consideration the consequences of climate change, not only on the environment but also on our health and wellbeing through changes to the likes of food supplies, living conditions, air pollution, and human migration patterns. It also realises the threat that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses to the incredible progress we’ve made in modern medicine – progress epitomised today by our fight against COVID-19.
In addition, we must consider how development finance institutions can increase the share of funding committed to health and the global public good. The establishment of a Global Health Board can and should be part of the answer, fostering improved coordination between governments and international bodies on health, economic, and financial policymaking.
As a global community we have suffered unimaginable loss in this pandemic, but we have also scaled new heights in research and development and scientific achievement. Now, more than ever, we must continue that work, together, in order to address this challenge and better prepare for the next one; strengthening global health governance, transparency and accountability; making smarter investments and creating the resilient health systems of the future.