The 62nd World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in which the Principality took part in its capacity as a Member State, closed on Friday 22nd May 2009 after five days of deliberations. Due to the current epidemic of A H1N1 influenza and following a request by the Member States, the World Health Assembly, initially scheduled to take place from 18th to 27th May, was shortened. During the session, the delegations from 193 Member States discussed the main public health issues on the agenda, including preparations for a possible influenza pandemic and the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005.
The Monegasque delegation, headed by H.E. Mr Robert Fillon, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, included Ms Anne Negre, Director of Health and Social Affairs, Ms Carole Lanteri, Deputy Permanent Representative for Monaco to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Mr Gilles Realini, Third Secretary at the Permanent Mission of the Principality of Monaco to the United Nations Office in Geneva, and Ms Hélène d’Aumale, an intern at the Permanent Mission of the Principality of Monaco to the United Nations Office in Geneva.
The risk of an influenza pandemic and the effects of the international financial crisis on health were at the heart of the concerns of the Assembly, presided over this year by Mr Nimal S. de Silva, the Sri Lankan Health Minister. Fifteen resolutions concerning the social determinants of health, primary health care, the Millennium Development Goals relating to health, the implementation of the IHR, the effects of climate change on health, preparations for a possible influenza pandemic and the Budget Programme 2010-2011, were discussed in depth prior to their adoption.
H.E. Mr Robert Fillon gave an address on Tuesday 19th May during the general debate, pointing out the continuous efforts made by the Principality of Monaco, in close cooperation with WHO, to increase and improve world health systems and take part in international cooperation efforts within the health sector, whether through cooperation programmes developed over several years or through specific action intended to deal with emergency health situations.
He drew attention to the fact that, in accordance with the wishes of H.S.H. Prince Albert II, the Principality had set the target of allocating an amount equivalent to 0.7% of the Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance by 2012. Furthermore, to date 46% of Monaco’s Official Development Assistance is dedicated to action in the “Health and Social Affairs” area of intervention, including: hospital partnerships, access to basic care, access to drinking water, the fight against pandemics and orphan diseases. This percentage should increase to 55% in 2009.
The continuation and strengthening of the partnership entered into with WHO by the Principality in 2007 is fully in line with such an approach. The recent visit of the Director General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, to Monaco provided an opportunity to renew the framework agreement between the World Health Organisation and the Principality, through which the Principality has pledged to increase three-fold the annual amount allocated to the Organisation between 2010 and 2013 to fund certain priority issues such as the consequences of climate change on health. This commitment represents an average minimum of ten to twelve euros per inhabitant per year – but the figure amounted already to twenty euros per inhabitant in 2008.
Finally, the Monegasque delegation wished to reiterate the sympathy and solidarity of the Principality and its people for the countries affected by the influenza A H1 N1 epidemic (previously known as “swine flu”). Experts from WHO pointed out that too little data existed at the moment to be able to predict the behaviour of the virus and consequently of the epidemic. WHO actively monitors developments of the disease on an hourly basis. It recommends proportionate preventive measures, but is not in favour of implementing provisions that are too targeted (such as prohibiting travel or closing certain schools). WHO insisted on the importance of exchanging accurate and reliable information with States hit by influenza A H1 N1, as soon as any developments occur. As far as WHO is concerned, it has promised to furnish, chiefly via its website, on a round-the-clock basis, the most accurate information and recommendations possible to guide States with any internal measures that need to be taken.