Minister of Health and Care services opening speech

Director General

Since this is my first health assembly, I am grateful that we can now meet in person. I only wish we could meet in happier circumstances. The theme of this general debate is more relevant than ever. Over the last months, millions of Ukrainians have been marked forever by the horrors of war. Words can hardly describe the suffering caused by Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Let me be absolutely clear:

  • Ukraine and its people have Norway’s full and unwavering support
  • We condemn Russia’s aggression in the strongest possible terms, including deliberate attacks on civilians, health care facilities and health workers. These are flagrant violations of international law.
  • We demand the respect for, and protection of, civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health personnel and health facilities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we were in a period of suffering, and a critical time for global health and for WHO. The coronavirus has now held the world in its grip for over two years. We are off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. The gap between humanitarian funding and needs is growing. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, WHO employees have exploited the people they were meant to protect.

Crises test our commitment to our values, our principles, and our unity.

The people we represent have good reason to demand that we pick up the pace. But I am encouraged that we have agreed that we will negotiate a pandemic treaty, strengthen the International Health Regulations, and bring WHO’s financing on a path towards sustainability. I am also encouraged by WHO’s capacity for handling humanitarian health crises. Norway will continue our support for these crucial aspects of the WHO mandate.

We now have the possibility to ensure that health is safeguarded by more effective systems, stronger accountability and trust, and by equity, solidarity and human rights. We expect that the Director-General will also seize this moment and ensure accountability for WHO holding the highest ethical standards. We have to consolidate WHO as our effective, accountable and capacitated leader in multilateralism, and an agency that has zero tolerance for misconduct. WHO has an essential role to play to secure health for peace, and peace for health.

When this and future health assemblies consider the war in Ukraine, the pandemic treaty, and the reforms of WHO; let us remember that when we stand together, united by values and principles, we are strong. That is what this time calls for.

Thank you.