Video Remarks at the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Symposium
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Symposium. A special thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations, and to my longtime colleague and good friend, Michael Froman, for co-hosting today’s event.
And to our partners from across other governments, civil society, and the private sector: Thanks for joining us today.
All of us now know the profound risks of a global pandemic. COVID-19 took the lives of millions of people. It upended those of hundreds of millions more. It devasted economies. And all of us now know that there is only one way to enhance global health security: together.
Indeed, because we worked together – through a coalition of 32 countries, the African Union, the European Union, the World Health Organization, alongside civil society and private sector partners from around the world – we were able to lead a global response that helped the world emerge from the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States has long been committed to using the power of our diplomacy to strengthen global health security – to work to eradicate diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and cholera; to contain outbreaks like the swine flu, Ebola, and Zika.
And we’ve directed one of the United States’ most transformational foreign assistance initiatives: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, created by President Bush, sustained through four administrations with bipartisan support. PEPFAR has helped save more than 25 million lives, and created much of the health infrastructure used to combat other outbreaks ever since, including COVID-19.
Today, the State Department is focused on leading the charge to ensure the international community is ready for the next health threat when it comes. That’s why we worked with Congress to create the State Department’s Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy. Over the past several months, under the leadership of Ambassador John Nkengasong, our new bureau has been hard at work bringing the power and purpose of American diplomacy to that urgent mission.
Let me tell you about just a few of the things we’ve been up to.
First, we’re applying PEPFAR’s many lessons – for instance, on how to effectively track outbreaks and deliver medicines to hard-to-reach populations – across our broader health security efforts, even as we continue to prioritize its life-saving work on HIV/AIDS.
We’re also expanding PEPFAR’s reach to more effectively prevent the disease and serve those living with it. One of the ways we’re doing this is by increasing our collaboration with regional bodies, like the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pan American Health Organization, and helping build up regional manufacturing capabilities in countries, including Senegal and South Africa. We’re doing this so that countries can more quickly produce and distribute treatments, tests, protective equipment, and become less reliant on – and vulnerable to – foreign supply.
It’s vital that PEPFAR’s work continue, and I look forward to working with our colleagues in Congress to secure a clean, five-year reauthorization.
Second, we’re rallying international support for the World Bank’s Pandemic Fund, which will help us respond to future health threats. Already, the fund is undertaking vital work to build up regional disease surveillance networks, create early warning systems, and expand public health workforces around the world.
Since the fund’s launch a year ago, the United States has contributed $450 million – about a quarter of its total contributions to date – and we’ll continue to work with partners to mobilize additional support.
Third, we’re strengthening our global health security infrastructure for the long haul by helping modernize existing institutions, like the World Health Organization.
We’re working alongside other WHO members to amend the International Health Regulations, to negotiate a Pandemic Accord, and to take other steps to ensure that we can address future health threats with speed, coordination, transparency, and equity.
And there’s more that we’re doing: creating regular opportunities for foreign ministers to meet and coordinate efforts, building greater health expertise throughout our own diplomatic corps here in Washington and in posts around the world, weaving together and updating partnerships to tackle emerging health threats – as we’ll do next month in Dubai, where ministers will meet to discuss issues at the intersection of health and climate at COP28 – for example, the rising risks posed by more frequent extreme weather events.
Today – and in the days, weeks, and months ahead – we will look to all of you for your ideas, perspectives, and partnerships. Because only if we work together can we build a more healthy, safe, and secure world for all.