Speech by Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe at ministerial event on G20 health priorities and Germany's candidacy for the Security Council
Your Excellency Ambassador Schulz,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to greet you – the ambassadors of the G20 states and host countries, the G3, the African region, as well as representatives of international organisations – here in New York.
For Germany and for health, 2017 is an important year. We assumed the G20 Presidency from China in December 2016, and will be passing on the baton to Argentina in December of this year. In the course of this Presidency, we will be taking on the set of mandates adopted by the G20 in its last two summit declarations in relation to health.
Germany had already committed itself globally to health, and especially to the fight against antimicrobial resistance, within the context of the G7. Now we will continue this effort within the G20 and strengthen both multilateralism and our commitment within the international community towards a joint global 2030 Agenda to achieve our sustainable development goals.
Health has a fundamental role to play in promoting the well-being of all! Indeed, health is the greatest asset a person can possess. To use the words of the renowned German philosopher – Arthur Schopenhauer: "Health is not everything, but without health, everything is nothing!"
Without a doubt, the lack of access to healthcare is one of the main reasons for migration, alongside economic and security deficits.
Mr Ambassador, Excellencies, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The G20 was founded in the year 1999, as an informal forum for international cooperation on economic and monetary policy.
The recent past has seen it develop more and more. Today, the G20 is a forum that addresses the urgent challenges of our times and seeks solutions to them. This comes as no surprise as there is no global challenge today that can be tackled adequately, without the commitment of the G20. And every global problem is, at the same time, also a problem for the G20.
Three figures demonstrate this:
We, the G20 states, account for almost two-thirds of the world's population. We conduct approximately 76 per cent of world trade. And, together, we contribute around 85 per cent of the global gross domestic product.
Therefore, there is no question that the global challenges facing the G20 have increased over the past years. I am referring, in particular, to: international terrorism, migratory movements, the relentless progression of climate change, as well as the fight against cross-border health threats.
The fact that we – the group comprising the strongest national economies – have to confront the most urgent challenges, should be seen as a unique opportunity. The need to join together internationally to assume responsibility, and take coordinated action in shaping globalisation in a manner that benefits everyone, was never as great as it is today.
We will build on the results of previous presidencies thereby ensuring continuity within the G20. We will implement agreed measures and monitor compliance.
At the same time, we also wish to add new thematic priorities to the G20 agenda.
In terms of content, the coming year's G20 agenda will rest on three pillars:
1) Building resilience
2) Improving sustainability
3) Assuming responsibility
We are facing health policy challenges of a global dimension.
Health is the precondition for, the result of and the goal of sustainable development. This was affirmed in the third sustainable development goal on the 2030 Agenda: "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages".
It is our conviction that the G20 must also assume its responsibility in the context of global health, as the G20's contribution to global health will bring a decisive added value for us all.
By making health a special priority during our G20 Presidency, we are demonstrating that we reaffirm our role as a reliable partner in global public health policy. Health issues are not entirely new in the context of the G20. Previous presidencies – those of Australia, China, Russia and Turkey – also made clear references to and statements on health issues. We intend to build on these.
At the same time, we wish to establish 'health' even more firmly within the G20 than has been the case so far.
For the first time ever, we will be organising a G20 Health Ministers' Meeting. To this end, I invited my G20 colleagues to join me in Berlin on the 19th and 20th May 2017.
In addition to this, we set up, for the very first time, a G20 Health Working Group that met at the beginning of December 2016 and, most recently, from 28th February to 2nd March 2017. Our aim is to have a declaration of the G20 health ministers adopted by consensus.
The results of our work will be used to inform the G20 Summit of the Heads of State and Government in Hamburg.
Our G20 Agenda in the area of health is guided by three main principles:
First: We are convinced that only by acting together on a global scale will we be able to improve the healthcare provided to the citizens of all of our countries.
Second: The G20 can make a decisive contribution to ensuring the right to health at a global level if we, as the major economies, assume our global responsibility and deploy our expertise and assistance globally. This we can do, for example, by pursuing the long-term strengthening of health care systems.
Third: The United Nations, in general, and the World Health Organization, in particular, have a key role to play in handling global health policy challenges. This is why the G20 should speak out in favour of strengthening international (global) health institutions, because strong international institutions are the precondition for effective and concerted global action.
In the area of health, our focus will be on two key global challenges:
1. Improving global health crisis management and strengthening health care systems
2. The fight against the further spread of antibiotic resistance.
Global health crises, such as the Ebola outbreak three years ago, demonstrated quite clearly the potential of infectious diseases when they get out of control. They endanger and destroy the lives of countless people and have far-reaching social and economic consequences. The economically strong G20 countries bear a special responsibility for social and economic stability worldwide. It is therefore incumbent upon the G20 to act jointly, precisely when it comes to providing protection from global health crises.
We know that infectious diseases do not respect borders. In our globalised world, what starts off as a local, restricted health problem can rapidly turn into a global threat.
No country or region is able to overcome such health crises on their own. Crises of this type require a global and coordinated response. The G20 can take the lead in this process and, at the same time, make a major contribution towards achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda.
We have to see – not only the Ebola crisis but also the worldwide spread of other infectious diseases, such as the Zika virus infection and the most recent outbreaks of yellow fever in Africa – as a warning to the international community.
This is why, this year, Germany will be focusing more on Africa and on strengthening its partnership with the African countries!
This approach builds on existing regional and G20 initiatives. My colleagues from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are planning to hold a conference in Berlin from 12th to 13th June 2017.
Through its Global Health Program, the Federal Ministry of Health, itself, spends 4 million euros a year supporting African countries. Our focus here is on implementing health regulations and various other projects, such as the creation of laboratory capacity.
We are doing this because we believe it is necessary to prepare the world better for future health crises. The next public health crisis with a potentially global impact is sure to come.
The key to successfully fighting pandemics is being sufficiently prepared for crises, so that we can respond quickly.
This is why we must decisively enhance our efforts in the area of prevention and preparedness for global health crises – locally, regionally and globally.
The Ebola crisis showed us that robust healthcare systems that are able to withstand a crisis are of central importance. This is why we must strengthen healthcare systems worldwide.
Strengthening health care systems and protecting citizens from transnational health threats are two important pillars that are contingent upon each other. Building a resilient health care system (that is able to withstand health crises) presupposes the existence of measures to protect the population from transnational threats to health. At the same time, even the full implementation of the International Health Regulations cannot guarantee sufficient protection from health crises without ensuring primary healthcare.
In order to be prepared for a genuine crisis situation, should it happen, we have to rehearse the operation of our coordination mechanisms as well as the functionality of crisis management structures. This is why I would like to conduct such an exercise together with my G20 colleagues at the G20 Health Ministers' Meeting.
Within the framework of a simulation exercise we would like use a fictitious scenario to reproduce the kind of emergency situation that a disease outbreak would present. Together with my G20 colleagues, I want to then discuss the questions that arise and the decisions that need to be taken to cope with the situation presented.
In the case of an emergency, these would be very practical questions like: How the assistance for the affected region will be coordinated and by whom? Are sufficient medicines and voluntary helpers available?
How can we ensure that all of the relevant actors work in a coordinated manner and receive information simultaneously?
How do we go about protecting our own population?
I am quite certain that only if we rehearse such contingencies will we be in a position to protect the world and our own population appropriately from the next crisis to come. In this spirit, the Federal Chancellor is also committed to discussing the results of our ministerial meeting with the Heads of State and Government at the Summit on 7th and 8th July in Hamburg.
The second important objective on our health agenda is combating antibiotic resistance.
Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have proved to be one of the most important achievements of modern medicine and one without which we cannot imagine our world.
They are a key component of medical care in fighting infectious diseases and have contributed decisively to increasing life expectancy. As a result, they are also of major economic importance.
The treatment of bacterial infections, however, is becoming more and more difficult, and in some cases even impossible, owing to the rising number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) pathogens. As a result, antibiotic resistance is posing an increasingly serious problem for public health systems worldwide, resulting in far-reaching negative economic consequences.
If we do not act now, we risk facing a decline in the efficacy of these medicinal products that will ultimately put countless human lives at risk! This is why I am very grateful that the UN High Level Meeting on AMR , held in September, raised awareness of the topic of antibiotic resistance at the highest political level. We have to make use of this momentum!
During the German G20 Presidency, we will be building on the Hangzhou declaration and focusing on two priorities in terms of content. These are: the One Health approach – in other words, a joint approach to human and veterinary health – and research and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
One of the main causes of antibiotic resistance is the improper use of antimicrobial drugs in human and veterinary medicine as well as in agriculture. Furthermore, over the past three decades, hardly any new antibiotics have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry. There are two principal reasons for this. The development of new antibiotics presents science with major challenges and not every line of research leads to a marketable medicinal product. As a result, development costs are high.
1. We must strengthen basic research along with incentives for the development of new antibiotics, alternative treatments and rapid diagnostics.
2. We must find a way of better preserving the efficacy of existing antibiotics. This is why measures to improve the proper use of antibiotics worldwide are indispensable. It would also require better training for our medical and veterinary personnel. Furthermore, prevention and hygiene measures, as well as stewardship programmes will need to be improved.
3. We have to ensure cooperation and coordination among the various sectors of human and veterinary medicine. It is incumbent on us to continue to promote and strengthen this so-called 'One Health' approach.
4. However, we must also ensure access to existing and new antibiotics worldwide. Because unfortunately, today, many more people worldwide still die from lack of access to antibiotics than die from antibiotic resistance.
There are many infectious diseases that we are able to treat well, today, that we will not be able to treat in the future. It will hardly be possible to conduct surgical procedures. People will be dying from diseases and injuries that are easy to treat and that can be easily cured today.
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem. It affects industrial, emerging and developing countries alike. Its spread across borders is being promoted as a result of globalisation and the increase in trade and international tourism.
And this is why we can be certain of one thing. No country can fight antibiotic resistance on its own. Only if we join forces will we be able to achieve long-term results in this area.
And this is why the motto of our G20 Presidency is:
Together today for a healthy tomorrow – joint commitment for shaping global health.
In this spirit, we should all be working towards achieving the common goal.
And as regards the German G20 presidency, please be assured that we will do our utmost to use this Presidency to reinforce multilateralism and to reconfirm the commitment of the international community towards the common global agenda. And by the way, after Germany's G7 Presidency in 2015, and the German G20 Presidency in 2017, we will be pressing on and aspiring to membership on the Security Council. Germany is applying for a seat on the Security Council in 2019 and 2020, and of course we are asking all of you for your support. Thank you very much for your attention!