World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Member States on Monday that efforts to tackle climate change and poverty had been set back by a lack of global unity since major agreements were struck five years ago, and welcomed the chance to work with the presumptive new US administration of president-elect Joe Biden.
Addressing the World Health Assembly, which resumed proceedings on Monday after its annual session in May was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tedros said the world had achieved a “great convergence” in 2015 when governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on finance for development.
“Since then, the creeping tides of misguided nationalism and isolationism have eroded that sense of common purpose. The Paris Agreement has been undermined; the commitments made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda have gone largely unfulfilled; and although there has been progress toward the SDGs, too often our efforts have remained siloed and splintered”, he said.
The pandemic had set the SDGs back even further while also providing evidence of their importance, he added.
“However, we must be honest: we can only realise the full power and potential of the SDGs if the international community urgently recaptures the sense of common purpose that gave birth to them. In that spirit, we congratulate President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and we look forward to working with their administration very closely.”
Tedros said it was time for a new era of cooperation, with emphasis on health and well-being globally.
“It’s time for the world to heal – from the ravages of this pandemic, and the geopolitical divisions that only drive us further into the chasm of an unhealthier, un-safer and unfairer future”, he said.
‘Fork in the road’
“The world has reached a fork in the road. We cannot afford to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the same rate and still breathe clean air. We must choose.
We cannot afford ever-deepening inequalities and expect continued peace and prosperity. We must choose. And we cannot afford to see health merely as a by-product of development, or a commodity that only the rich can afford”, he said.
“Today and every day, we must choose health. We’re one big family.”