Global Health Summit, 21 May 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 21 May 2021

Prime Minister Draghi, President von der Leyen, distinguished colleagues,

The impact of Covid-19 on the global economy and on people’s lives has been without precedent in living memory. Without the tireless dedication of health workers around the world, the tragic loss of life, which stands at 3.4 million lives, would have been higher still. Well over a year into the pandemic – amid an uneven vaccine rollout and the emergence of new variants of the disease – we continue to see health systems stretched to the brink, and a pressing need to make them more resilient and future proof.

We must learn the lessons of this crisis to respond, to prepare, and to prevent. Let me offer three suggestions.

Firstly, we urgently need to accelerate the production and equitable distribution of vaccines. We have seen significant progress in vaccination rates in OECD countries. Yet globally, fewer than one in 10 people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the poorest countries, despite record levels of development assistance, that figure is less than one in a hundred. It is crucial that vaccines are directed towards areas of greatest need and that commitments to sharing intellectual property, facilitating technology transfer and further developing manufacturing capacity are encouraged. We must also advance international efforts and tools to tackle misinformation and disinformation, notably on vaccines.

Second, we must ensure that global supply chains are working efficiently to get critical health goods where they are needed. Keeping markets open and flowing by disciplining export restrictions, reducing tariffs, streamlining trade-related processes at and behind the border are key to ensuring timely access to vaccines and other essential health goods for all. We must also promote international regulatory co-operation, increase transparency on essential goods, work with the private sector towards diversified and resilient supply chains and, finally, develop effective buffering strategies where appropriate.

Third, we must strengthen health system resilience – focusing on ensuring universal health coverage, and strengthening emergency response capacity. That means a well-skilled, adaptable health workforce, and health systems that can take advantage of new digital technologies and tools. To prepare for and prevent future pandemics, we also need to set concrete objectives for global financing for health and to put in place comprehensive related data tracking. To this end, most G20 Members – with support from the OECD – are currently working to develop the new measure of Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) and I would like to encourage all G20 members to pursue their efforts to provide transparency on health financing.

All of this requires strong and sustained political commitment. I urge you to carry this momentum to the World Health Assembly, to our G20 Leaders’ Summit, and to every venue and platform for multilateral dialogue and co-operation.

Count on the OECD as you translate the Rome Declaration into actions.


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