On behalf of Dr. Nicole Lurie, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and all of us at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I am delighted to welcome you here for the kick-off of the Global Partnership under the U.S. Chairmanship.
It is a special pleasure to see here representatives of so many countries and international organizations with which we cooperate closely and constructively toward enhancing global health security, both bilaterally and through various multilateral engagements.
I’m joined today by Dr. Scott Dowell from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also from the Department of Health and Human Services, who you will hear from shortly.
I would like to take a moment to extend my deep appreciation and thanks to Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, for her dedication and exemplary leadership and service to the Global Partnership.
Since its inception in 2002, the Global Partnership has established itself as a vital mechanism for reducing global biological threats and achieving international health security.
As we continue to address global biosecurity challenges, the Department of Health and Human Services (or HHS for short) remains committed to working with international partners to strengthen our collective capacity for public health preparedness and response.
The U.S. Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act directs the HHS Secretary to “provide leadership in international programs, initiatives, and policies that deal with public health and medical emergency preparedness and response.” On behalf of the Secretary, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (or ASPR, for short) leads the HHS international preparedness and response activities in close collaboration with other HHS agencies and institutions such as the Office of Global Affairs, CDC, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and others).
ASPR promotes and engages in many strategic bilateral and multilateral collaborations with international partners including leading the U.S. Government engagement in the Global Health Security Initiative. We also work closely with our U.S. domestic partners to advance our collective capabilities against shared threats to public health. For example, we lead the Senior Coordinating Body that oversees the implementation of the 2011 North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza.
The International Health Regulations serve as the overarching framework for many of our international efforts. In fact, the U.S. National IHR Focal Point, is within our Secretary’s Operations Center, which is managed by us in ASPR. And of course, we collaborate closely with the WHO Collaborating Center for IHR Implementation led by Dr. Dowell at CDC.
Various HHS programs and activities are designed specifically to prevent the misuse of biological agents by ensuring security at the laboratories and the reliability of personnel who work in them. HHS programs and activities are also designed to reinforce a culture of safe and responsible conduct at facilities that work with hazardous biological agents. Specifically, HHS provides regulatory oversight via the Select Agent Program. Many other HHS programs and activities are also designed to enhance the culture of responsibility in biological sciences and related scientific endeavors.
The ASPR office has also partnered with other U.S. Departments on a number of occasions to organize international workshops which aimed to strengthen and synergize the core capacities required by the International Health Regulations and existing national measures consistent with the obligations under the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention and the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to deter, prevent, and respond to biological incidents or threats.
We will continue to strongly support the U.S. Government political and diplomatic demarches on implementing the provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention and Resolution 1540.
We are also committed to the transparency of our biodefense programs and to supporting the Bio Transparency and Openness Initiative as stated in the opening remarks of Secretary Clinton at the 7th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention, in order to reduce ambiguities with regard to national biodefense research activities and to build public confidence and trust with regard to the peaceful pursuit of science and technology for the benefit of mankind.
In this regard, I would mention that we hosted at HHS two previous chairmen of the Biological Weapons Convention and also the UN 1540 Committee and its technical experts to share best practices in implementation of these international nonproliferation mechanisms, including the review of biosafety and biosecurity measures on site at our biodefense facilities.
We look forward to the U.S. Chairmanship of the Global Partnership in 2012 and to working with you in the proposed biosecurity areas focusing on supporting implementation of the International Health Regulations, enhancing biosurveillance, biosafety/biosecurity, and inter-sectoral collaboration, as well as advancing safe and responsible research and conduct in the biological sciences.
Our goal is to work in partnership with you all (and other Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government) to ensure that the Global Partnership charts an ambitious course of international collaboration that complements and builds upon our collective efforts to counter the entire spectrum of biological threats whether naturally occurring or deliberate.
And at this point, I’d like to turn it over to Ambassador Jenkins. Thank you all