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Opening remarks by Minister Ong Ye Kung at the Multi-stakeholder panel on pandemic prevention preparedness and response on 20 September 2023

Opening Remarks
Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau,
Excellencies, and ladies and gentlemen
1. Thank you for the opportunity to co-chair this multi-stakeholder panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
2. We have just emerged from a devastating pandemic crisis. Some things, such as the sharing of genome sequencing data and rapid development of vaccines, worked well. Others, such as inadequate production capacity of vaccines and its uneven distribution, arbitrary closure of borders, application of effective infection control measures in communities, did not work so well.
3. The collective means to respond to a pandemic is a global commons. All of us, as part of the international community of nations, are stakeholders of this global commons. I believe there is good consensus on what this global commons entails. However, this is a system that also requires sustainable and predictable funding, in three key areas.
4. First, catalysing the development of vaccines, and making them as accessible as possible throughout the world. Attaining high vaccination rates is arguably the fastest route to socio-economic reopening while preventing unnecessary deaths from severe diseases arising from pandemic. In this respect, we should all support the 100-Day Mission, and contribute to its strong global network of research institutions, vaccine manufacturers and regulators. We also need to uphold free and open trade where it comes to vaccine production and distribution.
5. Second, a globally networked surveillance system to detect and understand emerging infectious diseases. For pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential, it is imperative that all countries contribute such data. There exists a practical platform in GISAID that has struck a good balance between protecting the interests of data generators and facilitating timely public accessibility. We should support and improve the platform.
6. Third, strengthening primary health care is the cornerstone of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Outbreaks begin and end at the local level. Good primary care provides assurance to our people. Detection of threatening pathogens begins also at the primary care level. By individually strengthening our primary care, we can do our part as global citizens to improve early detection, management, and containment of pandemics.
7. I look forward to furthering discussions on strengthening the global health architecture and bolstering the global commons of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
8. Thank you.
Closing Remarks
1. Thank you. First, let me join my co-chair to thank the secretariat and everyone who has worked hard to put all this together, and delegates for attending this meeting.
2. Let me just say that personally I thought this is a very useful discussion with many diverse views and many dimensions with regard to pandemic preparedness and response.
3. We hear many comments about money and the need for sustainable financing called by Norway. Belgium talked about the need for burden sharing, and that this is an investment in social progress. The UK called for investment in a range of responses that the world needs to build up to prepare for the next pandemic. The EU called for stronger support to the Pandemic Fund. The World Bank gave an update on the wonderful work you have done so far on the Pandemic Fund. And of course, our panellist Ms Winnie Byanyima repeatedly highlighted the need to call for mechanisms for less developed countries to access resources when a pandemic strikes.
4. All these resources and finance point towards the need to build capacity. Dr Phyllis Arthur gave a passionate plea on the need to develop capacity across the board. Miss Winnie Byanyima also talked about global pandemics requiring global solutions and gave us a very good case study in the AIDS and HIV response over the decades. Brazil and Canada talked about the importance of regional and local production capacity for vaccines and medical countermeasures. The Philippines talked about the need of a network of global pandemic supply chain. The FIND foundation talked about the need for diagnostics being a foundation of everything we do in health, if I may quote them. The South Centre called for greater support of the Global South.
5. But all this capacity building requires greater collaboration across the board. The EU called for more work in strengthening our response in this area. The US called for greater commitment to multilateral response and also talked about its commitment to the INB process. China spoke about how it has helped in assisting other countries in more difficult positions during the pandemic. The Private Sector Roundtable strongly signalled to us to engage them not only after a pandemic has struck, but before that. And indeed, many of the effective measures that came out during the pandemic were invented by the private sector.
6. The Global Fund and World Diabetes Foundation make an important point that we do not treat diseases in silos and respond to them in silos. The work on HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and diabetes is a foundation for us in dealing with the next pandemic. GAVI talked about its back-breaking work in trying to make vaccines more affordable throughout the world. Dr Alakija spoke first but she kind of summed it up quite nicely that we simply need to integrate all these efforts by different parties, yet where it comes to certain things, try to avoid duplication. It is a tricky balancing act.
7. Many delegation members spoke about the need to intervene in communities. I think this is a very important point because as Ms Winnie Byanyima said, inequality between and within societies is what drives pandemics. The Philippines spoke about this as well. UNICEF highlighted how supporting social welfare, sanitation and clean water across multiple sectors, including education, is important and is an integral part about pandemic response. The importance of daily habits is also important, something highlighted by HEAL Africa.
8. One area that was highlighted by quite a few delegation members is with regard to our healthcare workers and nurses. Ms Tlaleng Mofokeng highlighted this passionately. Mexico spoke about the protection of the rights of healthcare workers and training them well. Women in Global Health talked about the need to speak up for better pay for nurses, of whom many are women, and protect them against abuse. Tbe International Council of Nurses further highlighted the plight of 28 million nurses around the world, how we should better recognise them and ensure the system cannot fail them.
9. A few delegates talked about the important issue of misinformation, that as we combat pandemic, we must also combat misinformation, a point raised by Unite Parliamentarians and Mexico. We need to build trust before a crisis and I think the starting point is to stamp out misinformation. IOM talked about the need to also protect the interests and the wellbeing of migrants.
10. Finally, a couple of delegates mentioned this, not directly, but I think it is worth highlighting which is that of leadership. Ms Winnie Byanyima at one point cited leaders who had intervened and led the progress in AIDS. Unite Parliamentarians made a very valid point that in the end, politics must be on the side of pandemic response. Leaders respond to politics, and therefore politics must be on the side of effective pandemic response.
11. And finally, my co-chair sums it up well by saying whatever we do, we must abide by principles. We need to take some risks but also abide by the principle of equity.
12. These are some of the points that I have garnered as I listened to everyone. It has been most useful to me. We are not totally organised, but all of us are leaders and decision makers in our own right, and in listening to the varied views, I hope this discussion has shaped the way we think about and act on pandemic response in future.
13. With that, this meeting is adjourned. Thank you.

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