Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; President Manastirliu of the 71st Regional Committee; Dr. Tsoy, outgoing President of the 70th Regional Committee; WHO Director-General; Professor Mario Monti, Chair of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development; excellencies; ladies and gentlemen,
It is my dearest wish that this Regional Committee will fill us with the energy and conviction to quickly, collectively, regain control of the pandemic, and never lose it again. And that this crisis is the last one which takes us by surprise.
We at WHO/Europe carefully listened to your very important messages at the Regional Committee last year, at the World Health Assembly, at the Executive Board, and at the sessions of the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee (SCRC). Your messages were instrumental to now proposing future health and health system policies and actions beyond the pandemic, incorporating the lessons. We at WHO/Europe listened to you, we heard you and we acted.
My talk today on the state of health in Europe will have 3 parts. First, we will look at the present. Where are we with COVID-19? The second part is the future. How do we move towards better health and well-being? And the third part will be on the how. So, let’s start with the present.
Ladies and gentlemen, today I stand here to tell you that this pandemic, like all other pandemics, will pass too. I cannot tell you when, but I can tell you how. Collectively, today we must refocus and reassess, which means asking 3 questions. Number 1: Where are we today? Number 2: Did we learn enough to change the course of events? Number 3: How do we anticipate the end?
First, the pandemic picture today is not so different than the one last year. Overall in the Region, we have a steady increase of cases. We have a succession of pandemic waves, with a set of measures taken in a reactive mode until a period of tranquillity allows for some kind of relaxation. The various indicators disaggregated by age, severity, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions did not change very much – until vaccination started.
With the increase in vaccination coverage, we saw that the incidence of severity and mortality drastically dropped. So did the pressure on our healthcare systems, even though, as we always expected, transmission continues in unvaccinated populations.
While the vaccine has been the game changer of the year, the emergence of more transmissible, more virulent variants of concern were the evolutionary response to our great efforts. But the equilibrium is still at our advantage because the tools to control SARS-CoV-2 or the variants remain the same, including vaccination.
Second question: lessons learned. Let me point out 3 lessons learned from the pandemic.
The first one is that the pandemic has been a huge stress test for multilateralism and international solidarity. Vaccines work. Vaccines save lives and many lives, and they even have the potential to bring down transmission if everyone participates. That’s why the huge vaccine inequity is not good.
In the WHO European Region, 58% of the eligible population in high-income countries got a full dose, and only 29% in the upper middle-income countries. In the lower-middle-income countries, only 9%. If we look globally to the low-income countries, only 2%. We in our Region have always felt global solidarity. And that’s why I invited the WHO regional directors of the African and the Eastern Mediterranean regions to address you today. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
The second lesson is that every pandemic fight starts with the people and by the people. The pandemic everywhere in the world is ultimately local. That’s why we need to increase community empowerment and community engagement and take care of the mental health of the people, and first and foremost the mental health of the youth and the health-care workers.
The health-care workers, we will need them until the end of the year and beyond, and they are really the heroes of the pandemic. In fact, COVID-19 has been the cruellest reminder that no health system survives unless it has strong primary health care. And in the 21st century, a health system will not serve much unless it is fully digitalized.
The third lesson is that the pandemic has been a huge stress test for public–private partnerships. Public organizations like WHO need to work with the private sector, not only to increase technological innovations and ensure their equal distribution, but also to guarantee their affordability for every individual in the world.
Learning lessons is one thing, but in order to implement those lessons WHO itself as an organization needs to look at its own institutional fitness. The worst thing WHO can do today is to be self-defensive. For me as Regional Director, the diagnosis is crystal clear. We need to do 3 things.
First, we need to focus more on regionalism; second, we need more political participation by Member States under the International Health Regulations (IHR); and third, we need more flexible financing.
The first one. Every region is a pillar of global influence. The reason, and let me insist, please, is that WHO has the unique constitutional advantage of being federated in 6 interlinked regions. Politically, we are a proxy to the Member States.
Second, there is a need for urgent revision of the IHR – or, to be more ambitious, for a new treaty incorporating additional provisions on consequences for non-observance by its signatories. If Member States themselves will not address this elephant in the room, no IHR, no new treaty, will make the world a safer place.
Third, for WHO we need more flexible financing. This does not necessarily mean more Member State contributions. It could be, for example, a 20–30% benchmark for flexibility on all earmarked voluntary contributions, and, for our Region, definitely more regional autonomy in fundraising and financing.
This brings us to the third question: how do we anticipate the end? We cannot stay out of the pandemic, but we can move towards sustainable control of transmission. What does that mean? It means no more major disruptions of health systems due to COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. And it means the waves of the pandemic moving into seasonality or predictability with low-level endemic transmission, and all of this without the cost of societal lockdowns.
In response to your repetitive requests, we strengthened the normative technical function of the Office, and I asked Professor Antoine Flahault, Director of the Global Health Centre at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, a couple of months ago to lead a top-notch technical group to come up with a 2-page document, which is on our website, with guidance on how to get out of the acute phase.
And there are 3 strategic directions to get out of the mayhem. First, to equitably roll out the vaccines. Second, we need a holistic approach to increase the uptake, the production, including more diversity in geographic production. Third, more sharing. And we should leave no opportunity untouched. And it does not matter whether it is multilateral or bilateral. And we have to do it with the private sector.
And yes, decreasing vaccine scepticism is a top priority, by engaging and empowering communities based on solid data, which our teams, including the behavioural science team, are working on.
If ministers decide to go for mandatory vaccination, we will stand with them to express appreciation and also to point out some caveats like, for example, they must anticipate that already overstretched health systems may be even more burdened. This is the first strategic direction.
The second strategic direction is to implement nuanced approaches in the European Region, including expanding vaccination programmes for children and for additional doses. We can no longer see that additional doses are so-called luxury boosters. It is an essential way to protect the most vulnerable in our society. If we consider that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to mutate, and that it will stay with us forever, like influenza, we had better adapt our vaccination programmes to endemic transmission.
We desperately need information on the impact of additional doses to vulnerable people. I discussed this with Dr Anthony Fauci in August during my mission to the United States of America, and also recently with the Minister of Health of Israel and the Ambassador of Israel in Geneva. And I would like to really thank them. Because we need those pioneers to give us this very important information.
Finally, under the second approach, we need much more development of therapeutics. If tomorrow there is a mutant which escapes immunity, our hope to change the prognosis is a good therapeutic and also second-line vaccines.
The third strategic direction is to maintain proportionate pressure on the virus, even during periods of tranquillity: not surrendering on masks, ventilation, cross-border mobility control, and intensified testing policies, including genomic sequencing. And let’s remember, the first step is to transparently share data from countries and between countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, we know more, and we can do more if we implement those 3 strategic directions. We will anticipate the end, but only if, once and for all, the politicians, the scientists and the people pull in the same direction. All crises will end. This one, too.
Now, let’s move to the second part: the future. How do we leapfrog towards better health and well-being collectively in our Region, and towards a culture of health where every individual is empowered to take healthy lifestyle decisions – decisions independent of age, gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic capabilities? Again, I’m very optimistic, because we have 3 very important levers: we have a compass, we have a toolkit and we have innovation.
First, the compass. The compass to leapfrog towards health and well-being is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 Goals are the blueprint to a better and more sustainable future. Six years after their adoption, it is time to take stock.
In November, this Office will publish the next European Health Report. We know already that some SDG indicators are not on track. We are not on track to finish off AIDS by 2030. For tuberculosis (TB) in countries: a 20–30% drop in case detection. We have to finish the unfinished business. That’s why I appointed a special envoy to the Regional Director on TB, AIDS and hepatitis: Professor Michel Kazatchkine.
On environment and climate change: We know that every year in our Region, 480 000 people die due to ambient air pollution linked with chronic diseases. I am very proud that the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn next week will launch the new WHO global guidelines on air quality. And thank you, Germany, for the fantastic support to the Office. We are going to strengthen the data monitoring and analysis unit in the Office, which is a direct response to your call for WHO to be more normative and scientific so that you can use solid data to feed policies and actions.
Second, the toolkit – the European Programme of Work (EPW), which all of you approved last year and which has proven its suitability to the challenges of the pandemic, particularly its 4 flagships: mental health, immunization, behavioural insights, and empowerment through digital health.
Time and time again, ladies and gentlemen, you have insisted that we revisit primary health care as the cornerstone of better health and well-being – taking care of both the clinical needs of the people and their social determinants of health by building bridges between primary health care, essential public health functions and social services, particularly for the elderly and the most vulnerable.
Primary health care deserves to be the flagship of the flagships to realize the principles of the Alma-Ata and Astana declarations, reaffirmed in the operational framework in 2020. And thank you so much, Dr Alexey Tsoy and the Government of Kazakhstan, for the strong support to the WHO European Centre for Primary Health Care in Almaty, which gives us the resources to assist the countries.
The key lesson we learned from primary health care in the last 43 years is to recognize that one size does not fit all. The art of closing the implementation gap between our huge ambitions and concrete results on the ground lies in tailoring good practices to national and local contexts. We need to increase the prestige of the primary health-care workers, and the trust of the people in the system. How do we increase trust? We enhance trust by enhancing the quality of care and patient safety.
And thank you so much to the Government of Greece, particularly Minister of Health Dr Vasileios Kikilias, and my new friend Minister of Health of Greece Dr Thanos Plevris, for giving us the resources to finally put quality of care on the European agenda through the WHO Athens Sub-Office on Quality of Care and Patient Safety. The good news, ladies and gentlemen, is that modern, quality primary health care is happening already.
I had the great privilege of participating in a fantastic high-level conference on innovative health systems in mid-July, organized by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. And as I always do when I go to a country, I went to the Community Health Centre Ljubljana, a great simulation centre and primary health care centre, and I spoke to the patients.
The patients wanted to go to primary health care first. I asked them: why? Because the centre was managed by friendly, skilled, motivated health-care workers offering the whole range of services, including prevention, promotion, curative care, rehabilitation and social services. And all the necessary equipment, including digital equipment, was in place.
Congratulations, Minister Janez Poklukar, for putting primary health care at the heart of the European agenda. And also, congratulations for being a health champion yourself by regularly showing your physical exercise.
If, as a Region, we want to reach the health-related SDGs, there are 2 technical areas in particular that we have to link with primary health care. The first is financial protection in line with the Tallinn Charter and the WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Financing – and thank you Spain for the great support to the Office. They now have data from 33 countries answering the question: can people still afford to pay for health care?
We know that in our Region, the percentage of households being pushed into poverty because they can no longer pay for innovative medicines for chronic diseases goes from 0.2% up to 10.8%, with a mean of 2.7%. The good news? It is possible to go towards 0% with sound policies. And that’s exactly why we established, with Norway, the Oslo Medicines Initiative – to work together towards a new social pact between public and private sectors that we hope to sign off on at a political conference in June next year in Oslo.
I extend particular appreciation to Norwegian Minister of Health Mr Bent Høie and Dr Bjørn-Inge Larsen, with whom I carried out consultations with Member States, civil society and the private sector. On 22 June, I was invited to the Biopharmaceutical CEOs Roundtable, which was followed by a visit last week of the Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, and we got a commitment to work towards a new, value-based social statement.
The second technical area to link with primary health care is that of healthy lifestyles and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Exactly 10 years ago, ministers of health and leaders of 167 countries came together in Moscow to sign off on the Moscow Declaration on Healthy Lifestyles and NCD Control. Today, ladies and gentlemen, it is the time to renew this commitment.
That’s why in December 2020, I established the NCD Advisory Council on Innovation for NCDs to quickly come up with a number of signature initiatives, which would have quick, visible impact at the country level. Some of those are childhood obesity, digital marketing, hypertension and salt. This is a quick win. We can save tens of thousands of lives with greener cities and a health tax on alcohol, among others.
Forty percent of cancer in our Region is preventable through vaccines and healthy lifestyles, and the other 60% we can start to manage much better. That’s why I launched on World Cancer Day the pan-European movement United Action Against Cancer, and I appointed Cancer Ambassador Mr Aron Anderson, Swedish cancer survivor and inspirational speaker.
With political support from many countries, I would like to express here my most sincere appreciation to Minister of Health Dr Mikhail Albertovich Murashko of the Russian Federation, and to the Russian Government, for their very strong support through the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which benefits the Region and the world. Thank you, Albertovich!
So we have the compass, we have the toolkit and we have the innovation. I would say the innovation of the year is the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, created to rethink policy priorities in the light of pandemics. What was the idea? The whole idea was for WHO to go beyond the traditional remit of speaking to the converted public health community and to target heads of state and ministries of finance to convince them of upfront investment in health and One Health as a global public good.
We could only do this with a Chair of a real, robust calibre. I am very indebted. I would like to salute the Chair of the Pan-European Commission, Professor Mario Monti, former Prime Minister of Italy, Minister of Finance and European Commissioner, Italian Senator for Life and President of Bocconi University, for his outstanding political, academic and diplomatic skills, which, combined with his individual impressive investment, led to the successful outcome of a unique commission. Grazie mille, dear Mario.
With the help of Professor Monti, the preliminary recommendations were already presented to 20 heads of state, to the President of the European Commission, to the President of the European Union, and to the G20 Presidency. Thank you so much for inviting me into discussion with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at one of those very inspiring meetings.
The recommendations were presented at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. We also had the opportunity during my most recent mission, my first mission to the United States, to present it to the National Security Council at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Here I would also like to thank Professor Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Chair of the Commission’s Scientific Advisory Board. This report is underpinned by very solid evidence that Professor McKee took the lead on with the Scientific Advisory Board. Thank you to Professor Elias Mossialos, Scientific Coordinator, and to Professor Aleksandra Torbica from Serbia for being Special Adviser to Professor Monti.
Ladies and gentlemen, now I come to the third part. We spoke about the present COVID-19, how to get out of it, about the future, about our health and well-being. The third part is about WHO being fit for purpose – the how. How are we going to assist you? Because I promised that during the pandemic we would also learn the lessons to sharpen our intervention methods.
The pandemic has led to a deepening of the 3 dimensions of our work that will be amplified in the future. The first one is direct country contact. Every single day during the pandemic, we kept direct country contact with you. A prime example, I would say, is what I call COVAX+. COVAX has delivered 13 million doses out of 26 million, and was very important and remains very important, but particularly at the start. As of today, we have 20 million doses through bilateral donations. So I appointed a special envoy on the COVID-19 vaccination roll out, Dr Clemens Auer, so that this Office can be a match-making forum. We have a detailed list of the countries with surplus, the vaccines and the expiry dates, matched with the need in the other countries.
I would really like to thank the main countries and bodies supporting those bilateral donations – the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, Romania, Germany and many more. Particularly thanks to Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, with whom we are in constant contact; to Ms Sandra Gallina from the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety; and to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Mr Alexander Schallenberg, for his coordinating role.
This is a prime example of “United Action for Better Health”. Every single day during the summer, I knocked on one of the doors of your presidents, of your prime ministers. I am so proud as Regional Director. Whenever I knocked on your door, and that of your presidents, not one time did the door remain closed.
This direct contact with countries was facilitated by our country offices and the many field visits. I feel very proud. I have the best staff in the world. I really want to pay tribute to the staff in the country offices, in the geographically dispersed offices (GDOs), in the Regional Office in Copenhagen, and to their families, including mine, who were very worried because not one day did we stop going to the countries during the pandemic, to red zones, when you requested us. Even when we were, for months, not vaccinated ourselves. We could have been, but we decided for the principle of equity not to jump the queue and favour ourselves.
Thank you very much to all the colleagues of WHO. This direct country contact we supplemented with what I call a new brand of WHO/Europe: a subregional approach. A good example is the development of the Roadmap for Health in the Western Balkan 2021–2025, which will be the political, financial and technical instrument to close the health gaps between the Western Balkans and the surrounding countries. And thank you so much to Prime Minister of Slovenia Dr Janez Jansa, who immediately supported its launch.
The other subregional initiative, which we’re very committed to, is the Small Countries Initiative, and thank you so much for addressing our Regional Committee. And thank you, Minister of Health of San Marino Mr Roberto Ciavatta, for recommitting to be Dean, and congratulations also on your fantastic leadership as Vice President of the World Health Assembly this year – we are very proud.
In order to increase the mutual understanding and knowledge between our Member States and WHO/Europe, I am so proud that despite the pandemic, I can announce the first pilot project this month of the WHO Pan-European Leadership Academy. This was one of my campaign commitments. Remember, I still look to my small booklet to tick off all my commitments.
We received 117 applications in the first pilot project from the Western Balkans, central Asia and the Russian Federation through an independent process. We came up with 11 young prospective professionals, because the idea is to build a cadre of young public health professionals, particularly from those countries which are under-represented in the United Nations. They will come for 1 year to WHO, get formal and informal training, be seconded to country offices and GDOs, and then go back to their countries.
I had a great discussion about this with the new Director of the global WHO Academy in Lyon, whom I invited before the end of the year, and we agreed that the WHO Pan-European Leadership Academy will be the pioneer of the global WHO Academy for direct country contact with a subregional approach.
Second, the modus operandi that will amplify this work is partnership. I believe in the power of positive partnership. The problem is too huge, the resources are too limited – partnership is an ethical duty. The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR), the IHR Review Committee, the Independent Oversight & Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, all the reports of the World Health Assembly went in that direction, encouraging collectively the development of global governance around a strong WHO through partnerships.
Let me point out some of those. First, the Central European Initiative (CEI). I am very obliged to Prime Minister of Montenegro His Excellency Mr Zdravko Krivokapić, and to CEI Secretary General Mr Roberto Antonione. Thank you so much, Excellency, for always giving this Office a prime spot at the meetings of the heads of government, ministries of foreign affairs and ministries of health to unify actions and solidarity across 17 European Union and non-European Union countries in central and eastern Europe.
Thank you so much to Minister of Health of Turkey Dr Fahrettin Koca, and to Secretary General of the Turkic Council Mr Baghdad Amreyev, for close collaboration not least through our GDO, our WHO European Centre for Preparedness for Humanitarian and Health Emergencies in Istanbul, an incredibly important centre. We worked with the centre and the Turkic Council, and also all countries, on advanced trauma-care simulations, including mass casualty management. Thank you, Minister of Health Dr Fahrettin Koca.
I want to thank Ms Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko, whom we saw speaking this morning as Chairwoman of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Member States of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It is so important to work with the speakers of parliament if we want sound policies to combat NCDs, and I’m very much looking forward to interacting with all the speakers of parliament of the CIS countries in St Petersburg at the end of November. Thank you very much.
I would like to thank Minister Viktor Vladimirovich Nazarenko, in charge of the technical regulation of the Eurasian Economic Commission. Together with WHO Representative to the Russian Federation Dr. Melita Vujnovic, we celebrated at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum the first-ever subregional pharmacopoeia in the Russian language. Thank you, Viktor.
And finally, thank you to Dr. Dmitri Pinevich, with whom we will sign a new memorandum of understanding between the CIS Council for Cooperation in Health Care and WHO/Europe in mid-October in Minsk. And I hope to see all the ministers of health of the CIS countries there.
And of course, we continue to strengthen the traditional partnerships with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Recently, with my wonderful colleague Ms Afshan Khan, we had a press conference on safe schooling and COVID-19 with the United Nations Development Coordination Office (UNDCO), whose Director will speak later today.
Thank you so much, Ms. Gwi-Yeop Son, because the collaboration with the 17 United Nations Resident Coordinators within the United Nations reform is so important, and we’re very close now. The same goes for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Ms. Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen was here last week and we signed the memorandum of understanding. Without civil society, we will leave people behind.
Thank you also to other agencies, like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with which the Office and I became much closer through the work of Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Ms. Alanna Armitage on the prevention of violence against women, the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing, and sexual reproductive health and rights.
Finally, let me point out one WHO internal partnership which I think will be crucial for the global reform of WHO – it is the partnership between regions. We have a great group of 6 regional directors. Every region is a pole of global influence and global multilateralism, because the regional offices are politically, culturally, and linguistically close to the countries.
If there is an alert to send out, including for a pandemic, we are on top of it. Every regional director is practising multilateralism on a daily basis. That’s why the strengthening of the WHO regional offices was put forward by IPPR Co-Chair Right Honourable Helen Clark when she spoke to Professor Monti, and many ministers told me personally that the one thing they learned from the pandemic is the importance of the role of WHO/Europe. Not to negate the role of headquarters – on the contrary, to complement it, to strengthen it.
If temporarily needed, of course, we will take the lead. For example, for the last year and a half of leadership for universal health coverage, I would like to thank Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, with whom I am in almost daily contact to anticipate together the health needs of the people of Afghanistan. We are working with Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who will also address you. I invited them and Dr Ahmed on a new narrative of the health of refugees and migrants that we will put forward at the first half of next year in Istanbul at a high-level 3-region political conference.
Looking cross-regionally to the big challenges like climate change, I want to thank Dr Poonam Singh. Poonam was my Regional Director when I was working in Myanmar, and together we organized a fantastic policy dialogue on a sustainable health workforce.
Thank you so much to Dr Carissa Étienne, who was Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Services, and I continue to learn from her. She was a wonderful host together with the US Department for Health & Human Services during my high-level mission to the United States, and we agreed on the tripartite of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO/Europe, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services on the very crucial issue of vaccine disinformation, which most likely Dr Fauci will also speak about today.
And finally, thank you so much to Dr Takeshi Kasai for immediately supporting the invitation I got from the Minister of Health of the People’s Republic of China, Minister Ma, to go to Beijing to start up a tripartite collaboration with the People’s Republic of China, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific and WHO/Europe on the digital health flagship.
Finally, the third modus operandi: WHO/Europe being fit for purpose. I would like to pay tribute to my SCRC. This has been a very uncertain time for WHO and for myself as the new Regional Director. Whenever I called, 24/7, to Ambassador Nora Kronig Romero or to the SCRC members, they were there to guide me. They always gave me trust and the initiative, but it was very important for me to always get the backing that we were going in the right direction in this unchartered territory.
The transformation within WHO/Europe is now finished. We finished this last year when we aligned the organizational structure, resource allocation and programming with the EPW and the WHO Thirteenth General Programme of Work (GPW 13).
I had promised you, no endless transformations. The transformation at WHO/Europe is now transforming itself into what the Japanese industry calls kaizen. Kaizen means continuous improvement involving all employees. Our kaizen will centre around a country focus to deliver on your needs and expectations; around a culture of innovation and collaboration based on values; around digitalization and a leaner administration; and around a healthy and respectful workplace with zero tolerance for harassment, including sexual harassment.
In the 21st century, there is no place for any organization with a culture of fear where people are afraid to speak up. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We have the Ombudsperson, the Committee on Health and Well-being, and the Executive Council, and we’re now putting in place a programme of psychological safety in the workplace throughout the Region so that every staff member, every consultant, every intern, every volunteer will be able to thrive, to learn and to innovate, to serve you better.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with the 3 overarching directions that the Office will take in the next biennium. First, together we need political leadership and coordination to finish off this crisis. Second, we need to strengthen primary health care for resilient health systems. And third, we need more inter-regional collaboration to make WHO globally stronger.
The deaths and the suffering from the pandemic will be imprinted in universal memory for a long time to come. But the pandemic has also enabled society to see the paramount importance of health and its interlinkages with other sectors, particularly with the economy and education. And let’s not forget, it created a bond between all inhabitants in the world.
Whether solidarity will come from the heart or from the brain, it is an essential dimension of future societies. Leaving no country behind, leaving no individual behind, is not a slogan. It is our collective duty. Thank you.