Adopting Text on Global Health Challenges, General Assembly Urges Cross-sector Engagement in Tackling Ebola, Zika, Other Viruses

Adopting a draft resolution on global health and foreign policy that focused on the role of health employment in driving economic growth and helping Member States move toward sustainable development, the General Assembly also held a debate on the culture of peace and elected members to the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Global health and foreign policy: health employment and economic growth,” adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged Member States to continue to consider health issues in the formulation of their foreign policy. It also called on Member States to strengthen their dialogue with civil society, academia and the private sector to maximize engagement to solve global health challenges, while safeguarding public health interests from undue influence or potential conflict of interest.

The Assembly urged Member States to promote equal access to health services and the development of resilient and sustainable systems capable of responding effectively to outbreaks and emergencies. It called on States to make greater investments and promote decent work with adequate remuneration in the health and social sectors and to enable safe working environments and conditions. The Assembly committed to support technology transfer arrangements on mutually agreed and advantageous terms with the objective of increasing the availability and affordability of medicines and related technologies.

The Assembly also decided to hold a high-level meeting in 2018 on the fight against tuberculosis and requested the Secretary-General to propose modalities for the conduct of such a meeting.

Addressing Member States prior to action on the text, General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said that recent global outbreaks of Ebola and the Zika virus had shown how quickly global health crises could cross borders, divert limited resources and wreak devastation on families and communities. The impact of such pandemics had stretched far beyond the health sector, undermining socioeconomic development, weakening social cohesion and threatening national and regional security. “We need to accelerate our pace of progress,” he said.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates touched on various aspects of the global health system, including the need to train medical professionals to cope with major outbreaks. The United States’ representative said as a country that employed millions of health workers and deployed many others to missions worldwide, cultivating a strong employment base was critical to dealing with modern outbreaks. Health professionals faced many dangers in responding to emergencies and “we owe it to them to have effective shared procedures for human resource preparedness,” she said.

Echoing that sentiment, the Russian Federation’s delegate said recent international epidemics had put immense pressure on medical staff. Implementing a comprehensive strategy to enhance training and capacities was in line with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. On a national level, the Russian Federation put forth a medical personnel initiative to boost the number of doctors in rural areas. That programme had successfully encouraged young doctors starting their careers to work in villages by providing them financial incentives.

Speakers also called attention to the needs of women and girls. Canada’s representative, who spoke on behalf of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, expressed concern over the deliberate exclusion of language on universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and women’s and girl’s full enjoyment of all human rights. Member States had a duty to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights aimed at protecting women and girls, she added.

Women and girls also made up the majority of workers in the health sector, said South Africa’s delegate, who had also introduced the draft on behalf of the Foreign Policy and Global Health Network, comprising Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, Thailand and his own country. Yet, too much of that work was unpaid. Investments in the health sector had to focus on enhancing women’s economic empowerment, including transforming unpaid and informal care roles into decent work and promoting opportunities for enhancing skills.

Earlier in the morning, the Assembly took up its agenda item on the culture of peace, holding an open debate during which several delegations stressed the growing need for countries to come together to counter extremism and intolerance. Iran’s representative said absurd mentalities and the pursuit of short?sighted political gains and cultural and military hegemony were threatening peace every day. As such, he stressed the importance of confronting cultures that spread hatred and intolerance.

Deploring the rise of xenophobia in the world, Morocco’s delegate said his country had recently hosted a forum on the rights of minorities living in Muslim lands, an event reaffirming that dialogue among all people was necessary. Combating religious extremism required a holistic approach that included social and religious leaders. Morocco had already reformed school programmes and parts of the media to promote and teach a message of peace in line with moderate Islam.

Several delegations recognized the importance of empowering youth to prevent them from falling into the “trap of extremism”, with Cambodia’s representative emphasizing that the political participation of young men and women would lead to inclusive societies. “Young people are the hope for a better world,” he added.

Delivering statements were the representatives of Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Cuba, Thailand (also on behalf of ASEAN), Qatar, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Israel, Japan and Mexico, as well as the European Union. The representatives of Switzerland and India spoke in explanation of position.

The Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary-General titled “Promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/71/407) and two notes of the Secretary-General titled “Global health and foreign policy” (document A/71/601) and “State of health security” (document A/71/598).

In other matters, the Assembly elected Colombia, Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia and Mexico as members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission for a two?year term of office beginning on 1 January 2017. The Assembly also took note of two letters dating back to 28 November 2016 (document A/71/664) and 8 November 2016 (document A/71/610), the former deciding that Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan and Norway would serve a full two?year term from 2016 to 2018 on the Organizational Committee, and the latter deciding that Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda would serve from the troop?contributing countries category of membership for a term of office beginning on 1 January 2017 and ending on 31 December 2018.

The Assembly today decided to postpone the date of its recess to Friday, 23 December 2016, also extending to that date the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Friday, 16 December to take up its agenda items on sport for peace and development and strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, addressed agenda items on the culture of peace and on global health and foreign policy. He said racism, xenophobia, intolerance and other manifestations of hate were driving many of today’s conflicts while motivating violent extremism and inspiring acts of terrorism. They also lay behind the persecution and targeting of ethnic and religious minorities, migrants, refugees and other vulnerable and marginalized people. “Far too often, hate is used as a tool by leaders seeking, for their own gains, to exploit the insecurity of people, disunity of societies and injustices of our world,” he stressed, adding that fostering a culture of peace required dedicated attention to the promotion of intercultural understanding and strengthening of interreligious dialogue, inspiring people’s hope for the future and motivating them to unite for peace.

Commending the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Alliance of Civilizations in that regard, he said such targeted projects were rebuilding fragmented societies and should be scaled up and supported. Building long-term, sustainable peace also required comprehensive approaches that brought together peace and security, human rights and sustainable development, he said, emphasizing that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a fundamental tool. Expressing his commitment to deepening understanding at the United Nations itself, he announced his intention to convene a high-level informal dialogue on 24 January 2017 on the subject “Building Sustainable Peace for All: Synergies between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustaining Peace”.

Turning to the agenda item on “Global Health and Foreign Policy”, he said the recent global outbreaks of Ebola and the Zika virus had demonstrated all too clearly how quickly global health crises could cross national borders, divert limited health resources and wreak devastation on families, communities and entire regions. The impact of such pandemics stretched far beyond the health sector, undermining socioeconomic development, weakening social cohesion and ultimately threatening national and regional security. Noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated the annual global cost of “moderate to severe” pandemics to be around $750 billion, or 0.7 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), he said addressing global health was therefore not only a goal in itself, but also a cross-cutting precondition for achieving the rest of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We need to accelerate our pace of progress in fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, Ebola and other communicable and non?communicable diseases,” he said, adding that more dedicated attention should also be paid to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Specific mechanisms should be established to ensure that the needs of women and girls, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups were not overlooked. Also critical were well-functioning, resilient national health systems that had the necessary service delivery, finance, human resources, infrastructure and information.

Culture of Peace

DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reaffirmed a commitment to security and stability in the region and to the peaceful resolution of disputes. ASEAN would continue to play a central role in developing a rules-based regional architecture that emphasized tolerance and non-violence. With that in mind, it had incorporated the 2030 Agenda into its holistic approach to building an inclusive, people-centred community. Meanwhile, as the world faced borderless threats defined by extremist ideologies, terror attacks had underscored the need to be vigilant and cultivate a culture of tolerance and peace, an objective that could not be attained by individual efforts alone. Achieving the 2030 Agenda goals depended on building a culture of peace, as development was very much dependent on it.

ANA SILVIA RODRA�GUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), stressing the importance of fully respecting the sovereignty of States, said a global culture of peace could not even be discussed when nuclear weapons still threatened the very survival of humankind. Expressing concern about the global gap between rich and poor and the growing disparity between developed and developing countries, she said that while the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action on Violent Extremism was one contribution to peace, any decision on that vital issue could only be made by consensus among all Member States. Warning in particular against State terrorism, she said intolerance and discrimination – as well as the hidden agendas of regime change in developing countries – also continued to threaten peace. In that regard, ending the United States’ economic blockade against Cuba would be a major step towards restoring peace and eliminating double standards.

SUCHANAREE TARANATHAM (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said sustained focus and efforts were needed for a culture of peace to prevail. “Peace depends on how we, the people, perceive and make the world,” she said, recalling that all people had a shared responsibility to promote and sustain peace. As a co-sponsor of the draft resolutions on a culture of peace, Thailand supported the common duty of all States to promote constructive dialogues and interactions between different cultures and religions to foster trust and understanding. Earlier in 2016, Thailand had hosted an international symposium on interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence in multicultural societies. Stressing that education could cultivate and strengthen the culture of peace, she said Thailand was also supporting curricula and activities in schools and universities that emphasized multicultural understanding.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said peace was being threatened by occupation, xenophobia, Islamophobia, underdevelopment and climate change. Occupation in Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Iraq reflected a collective failure on the part of the international community in building a peaceful world. Human tragedies had taught humanity important lessons on the importance of dialogue among cultures. “We need to move forward,” he added, reaffirming that peace meant more than the absence of war. It was critical to confront cultures that spread hatred and intolerance. Absurd mentalities had continued to nurture the ideology of terror. The pursuit of short-sighted political gains and cultural and military hegemony threatened peace every day. Iran would continue to promote tolerance and the culture of peace.

ALANOUD QASSIM M. A. AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) said the inclusion of the culture of peace into the 2030 Agenda was critical. Young people had a great role to play, as they were responsible for securing the future. Qatar had focused on conflict prevention through the adoption of policies aimed at resolving differences using peaceful means. It had also played a mediation role in regional conflicts. To combat terrorism, Qatar had focused on dealing with the root causes, encouraging dialogue, and rejecting extremism and intolerance. Her country also supported programmes that empowered young people in the Arab region and aimed at protecting them from extremism. Qatar had recently launched an education initiative for Syrian children and adolescents, she said, emphasizing the importance of building bridges of cooperation and understanding among different societies and regions.

FARAH T A S H ALGHARABALLY (Kuwait) said the culture of peace had been threatened between nations, communities and individuals. Extremism persisted and intellectual conflicts had taken on a more ugly form. Urging people to work together at the local, regional and international levels to turn violence into dialogue, she said no State or community was sheltered from extremism and terrorism. In June 2015, a terrorist attack in Kuwait had aimed at spreading fear. However, Kuwait had united and rejected extremism. Justice and liberty were the pillars of the Kuwaiti society. Throughout its history, Kuwait had seen many examples of coming together and being open to other people’s values. Freedom of expression and religion were enshrined in its Constitution, she said, noting that many different people lived in Kuwait, enjoying mutual security and respect.

RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with the statement made by ASEAN, said that strengthened participation of young men and women in international governance structures would produce more inclusive societies. “Young people are the hope for a better world,” he added, reaffirming that youth would lead progress and development. His Government had recognized the increasing importance of young people as a driving force towards maintaining a culture of peace. It was unfortunate that armed conflicts continued to rage and claim the lives of so many people, including children. Some conflicts had stemmed from people being left out, marginalized, excluded and malnourished. People could easily fall into a trap of extremism, organized crime and terrorism. Good governance and the rule of law were essential preconditions for stability, he said, urging Governments to choose confidence-building measures and preventive diplomacy.

ALMAGUL KONURBAYEVA (Kazakhstan) said the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace in the context of sustainable development had taken on even greater significance in light of increasingly long, protracted conflicts, violent extremism, gross violations of human rights, humanitarian crises and massive refugee flows. The implementation of a synergistic plan, including the eight Programme of Action areas, was therefore mandatory for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. “We need to chart a new course for humankind” by addressing development challenges to minimize violence and extremism, she said. In that regard, the international community should focus on building respect for human rights, pluralism and gender equality while bolstering efforts to end all forms of xenophobia, racial discrimination and intolerance. To that end, Kazakhstan had convened a triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and cooperated with UNESCO and the Alliance of Civilizations. Kazakhstan also stood for total disarmament, non-proliferation and a nuclear weapon-free world.

MARCELO ELISEO SCAPPINI RICCIARDI (Paraguay) said the United Nations and its Member States had a responsibility to tackle extremism and other root causes of conflict through dialogue and efforts that met the needs of the most vulnerable people. Peace was not simply the absence of conflict. Rather, it was poverty and inequality that had continued to undermine peace. “We are living in difficult times,” he said, recalling that large numbers of people were being displaced and cultural heritage was being threatened. The international community had been able to agree on valuable instruments to overcome challenges facing humankind. With the 2030 Agenda, the international community had made a commitment to reach the most vulnerable through agreeing on a set of goals. For its part, Paraguay had been focusing on achieving those targets while considering its national unique challenges. The refugee crisis, gender inequality and climate change required urgent action on a global level. Education was a crucial instrument to build a culture of peace. Diversity enriched humanity rather than divided it, he added, emphasizing the importance of friendship in promoting solidarity between civilizations.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) said current divisive challenges were disturbing and derailing the shared objective of attaining sustainable peace, stability and development. The international community had an onerous responsibility to nurture and cultivate a culture of peace at national and global levels. Promoting such a mindset was at the core of peaceful and mutually respectful coexistence and dialogue among different civilizations, cultures, religions, faiths and beliefs around the globe, he said, recalling that the culture of peace was deeply ingrained in her/his country’s foreign policy. That ethos had also inspired its leadership role in United Nations peacekeeping, being among the world’s top troop?contributing countries and a founding member of the Peacebuilding Commission. Bangladesh had also initiated Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security and remained committed to maintaining a zero?tolerance policy to all forms of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) expressed concern about the rise of intolerance, xenophobia and prejudice in the world. Morocco had recently hosted a forum on the rights of minorities living in Muslim lands, an event that had reaffirmed that dialogue among all people was necessary. Allocating resources towards development efforts was also important. On combating religious extremism, he said Morocco supported fighting the scourge by taking a holistic approach. That included the consideration of social and religious factors. For its part, Morocco had reformed school programmes and parts of the media to promote and teach a message of peace in line with moderate Islam. Morocco was a land of diversity that aimed to bring people together based on harmonious coexistence.

SOUMAYA BOURHIL (Tunisia) said an increase in terror and violent extremism was being fuelled by macabre ideologies and fanaticism and driven by misunderstanding and miscommunication alongside great disparities and widening poverty. Emphasizing the urgent need for the international community to address those challenges, she said Tunisia was a living example of tolerance and dialogue, having successfully emerged from its recent democratic transition due to the establishment of a national dialogue mechanism. Such a dialogue had allowed Tunisia to overcome that difficult period with full respect for the rule of law, human rights and the principles of justice and tolerance, she said, recalling that the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet had recently won a Nobel Peace Prize for such efforts. In addition, Tunisia had recently adopted a declaration on the fight against terrorism and the promotion of tolerance and solidarity between peoples and religions.

Global Health and Foreign Policy

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Foreign Policy and Global Health Network, comprising Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, Thailand and his own country, introduced the draft text titled “Global health and foreign policy: health employment and economic growth” (document A/71/L.41). Health was one of the most important yet broadly neglected issues, he said, adding that his delegation had presided over the negotiation process, which had been marked by vibrant and construction dialogue. Delegations had demonstrated flexibility, reaffirming their commitment and dedication to the 2030 Agenda, in particular regarding Goal 3 on health. Notwithstanding some divergent views, there was a common understanding among Member States that twenty?first century health challenges were related to demographic, epidemiological and technological changes.

A global health workforce, he said, must be geared towards health promotion, disease prevention and people-centred, community-based services and personalized long?term care. Recognizing the role of women and girls in the health and social sector, he said way too much of that work was done unpaid and in an informal manner. Investments in the health sector should enhance women’s economic empowerment and participation, including by transferring unpaid and informal care roles into decent work and promote opportunities for enhancing skills.

WALAYA JARIYADHAM (Thailand), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said 2016 had been a year of remarkable progress towards closer international cooperation on global health. While many challenges remained and more collaboration was needed, ASEAN welcomed the outcomes and recommendations of various high-level and regional discussions, which had allowed the international community to address such issues as HIV/AIDS, communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance. Expressing support for the efforts including high-level panels on access to medicines and on global response to health crises, she said her region’s evolving demographics and lifestyles were affecting the health sector’s development. Economic growth and connectivity had led to a greater demand for quality and innovative services, and a strong, dynamic health workforce was needed to strengthen local and regional systems. Such a workforce was also critical in regional preparedness and resilience to public health emergencies and could have a positive impact on economic growth and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

KATHRIN LOEBER, of the European Union delegation, stressed that strong health systems were a precondition for sustainable development, and investments in health improved growth sustainability. Those returns must be taken into account when calculating GDP and undertaking other macroeconomic analyses. Investing in health for growth was a priority and should be seen as an investment in a critical area to promote poverty reduction and economic prosperity. The European Union strove to guarantee equitable access to good quality health care provided by well-trained workers. The rising global demand and need for such workers presented a significant challenge, but also offered an opportunity to generate employment in areas where decent jobs were most needed. In that regard, she expressed strong support for a recent report of the Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth and its 10 recommendations, including a call for urgent action to invest in the health workforce.

Taking note of the final report of the High-level Panel on Access to Medicines, she expressed deep regret at the lack of nuance around the assumption for setting up the panel – namely, that there was policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health. The European Union would have been in favour of a more comprehensive approach on that critical issue, and the panel could have advanced a more balanced, comprehensive and workable solution to the problem of access to global health. “The challenge is to strike the right balance between the need to promote and finance the research of new and better medicines for all, ensuring that medicines are accessible and affordable to those in need, while guaranteeing the sustainability of health systems,” she said, noting that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would soon be issuing a report on access to innovative medicines and the sustainability of pharmaceutical spending. Given widespread concerns, any future United Nations activities on those matters should be conducted on the basis of a much broader understanding of the complex issues involved, she concluded.

SERGEY B. KONONUCHENKO (Russian Federation) said recent years had witnessed serious challenges in the outbreak of infectious diseases, putting increased pressure on medical staff. Implementing a comprehensive strategy to enhance their training and capacities was in line with the 2030 Agenda. It was critical to adapt medical training programmes to national particularities. Expressing concern at the continuing gap in providing medical staff in urban and rural areas, he said that the Russian Federation had successfully implemented a programme that provided doctors under the age of 40 with financial incentives to work in villages. He welcomed the new resolution’s decision to organize a high-level meeting on tuberculosis, which would follow an international gathering in Moscow. The Moscow meeting would focus on the medical aspect and the social support Governments could provide to vulnerable communities, including migrants. That would hopefully mobilize broad political will to deal with such dangerous infectious diseases.

CYNTHIA RYAN (United States) said her country employed millions of health workers, provided cutting-edge training and educated professionals in its universities. Welcoming a number of paragraphs in the resolution that had reaffirmed that a high functioning health workforce was integral in achieving development targets, she said cultivating a strong employment base was critical to dealing with modern outbreaks. Health professionals faced many dangers in responding to emergencies and “we owe it to them to have effective shared procedures for human resource preparedness”. The United States welcomed the decision to hold a high-level meeting on tuberculous. She expressed deep disappointment with regard to the report of the High-level Panel on Access to Medicines. While there were real problems pertaining to access, those barriers were due to many reasons. The report did not help to attain those critical objectives, but detracted from them. The Panel had been unable to find consensus on its key recommendations, she said, noting her strong objection to its narrow focus and presumption of “policy incoherence”. The United States also supported voluntary technology transfers and did not support the use in the text of the word “advantageous”, which was unclear and inappropriate.

MAJDOLINE MOUFLIH (Morocco) said health systems must be able to handle emergencies and daily medical needs. Welcoming the draft resolution, she said global health crises were constantly on the rise, including emerging risks of infection that represented global threats. Proactive measures and global monitoring were needed in that regard, as was international action taken in a timely and coordinated manner. Reaffirming the will to address the emergence of new and contagious diseases and to prevent pandemics, she said Morocco had been among the first to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Describing a number of related national measures, she spotlighted Morocco’s national plan for medical emergencies, bolstering medical personnel training and ensuring universal health-care coverage by 2020. Among other things, she commended the decision to hold a Ministerial Global Conference on Tuberculosis in Moscow in 2017.

DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel) said the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak – shattered communities, dysfunctional health systems and destroyed communities – had reinforced the strong connection between health and sustainable development. “Healthy societies are happy societies,” he said, adding that strong public systems were prerequisites for economic growth, peace and prosperity. Earlier in 2016, the African Union Commission had recognized Israel as the largest donor per capita for fighting and preventing the spread of Ebola on the continent, and the country remained committed to continuing and strengthening such cooperation with African nations. Noting that one of the biggest health challenges still facing the developing world was the high rate of maternal and neonatal mortality, he said Israel was working with health professionals around the world to improve care and provide support and training. Israel had also been a member of the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance and had made HIV prevention affordable through the development of PrePex, a nonsurgical circumcision device that required no sutures or anaesthesia.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan) welcomed the draft’s focus on the importance of the health-related 2030 Agenda targets, including the provision of universal health coverage and improving the prevention and resilience to pandemic diseases. For its part, Japan would continue to make contributions to reach those ends. However, the issue of universal access to medicine should be discussed further. Having co?sponsored the draft, Japan nevertheless wished to put on record that its position on the issue of technology transfer had not changed since the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

JESASS VELA�ZQUEZ CASTILLO (Mexico) welcomed the recognition of the link between health and social development. Mexico would remain committed to working in the health sector to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. He also recognized WHO’s integral role in bringing consensus on the text.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “Global health and foreign policy: health employment and economic growth” (document A/71/L.41).

The representative of Switzerland, in explanation of position, said that while she did not want to block consensus, she had to disassociate herself from certain aspects in the draft. Expressing concern at the text’s lack of focus on health employment, she said that while the Oslo Ministerial Declaration on public health had evolved over the years, it was still essential to acknowledge that the scope of the draft must contribute to its message. The text also included a variety of unrelated topics that should be discussed in appropriate forums. Tuberculosis, access to medicine and sexual reproductive rights should be discussed in specialized meetings and were not directly related to the topics covered by the text. She hoped that the draft resolution would not set a precedent for that.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, said they had joined consensus on the resolution, but stronger language around sexual and reproductive and rights would have contributed to a more comprehensive text. Expressing strong support for the inclusion of “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and women’s and girl’s full enjoyment of all human rights” as initially proposed in the zero draft, she expressed concern about the deliberate exclusion of that language.

She said that as duty bearers, Member States must, at the very least, promote sexual and reproductive health and rights aimed at protecting women and girls. It was also important to ensure that women, girls and adolescents were aware of and understood their ability to realize their sexual and reproductive health and rights was consistent with the 2030 Agenda. Those were inextricably linked to other human rights already recognized in national laws, international instruments and United Nations consensus documents. The language in the resolution must not create a precedent on technology transfers, with language contained in the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda remaining the most recent intergovernmental agreement on the issue.

The representative of India said that despite earnest efforts to promote and protect the right of every person to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, substantial gaps persisted. India welcomed the draft’s adoption, but remained disappointed at efforts to dilute the importance accorded to the recommendations of the High-level Panel on Access to Medicines, which addressed policy incoherence and glaring imbalance between human rights, intellectual property rights and public health objectives in the context of health technologies. Among other things, the text addressed such issues as incentives for research and development, including delinking the cost of research and development from prices, full utilization of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights flexibilities and governance, accountability and transparency. In that regard, the Indian pharmaceutical industry continued to be a globally acknowledged source of affordable, safe and effective quality generic medicine to vulnerable people, especially in developing countries.

Source: United Nations

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