Opening remarks by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization

Media briefing on the UN High-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response

UN HQ – New York, USA
20 September 2023

Dear colleagues and friends,

First of all I would like to thank the members of the press for joining us today.

As you know, this morning, the 193 Member States of the United Nations approved the political declaration on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The declaration is a strong signal from countries that they are committed to learning the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to strengthening the world’s defences against pandemics.

For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect. When an epidemic or pandemic strikes, countries have responded in crisis mode, and when it passes, they move on to the next crisis, and fail to learn the lessons that could prevent or mitigate the next epidemic or pandemic.

We owe it to those we have lost to learn the painful lessons COVID-19 has taught us, and to make the changes that will keep our children and grandchildren safer from the pandemics of the future.

Because we know that the next pandemic is a question of when, not if.

In the declaration approved today, Member States have demonstrated that even at this time of division and polarisation, it’s still possible for countries to come together to agree on a shared response to shared threats.

It is that same spirit of collaboration that we urge countries to demonstrate as they continue their negotiations on the Pandemic Accord and the amendments to the International Health Regulations.

COVID-19 is a devastating reminder that for everything that divides us, we are one humanity, sharing one planet.

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