The 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (RC70)
For the first time, the WHO Regional Committee for Europe took place virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among the highlights of this year’s session was the endorsement by Member States of the European Programme of Work (EPW). The EPW sets down a 5-year vision of how WHO/Europe and Member States will work together to meet citizens’ expectations for health.
Opening of the session
At the opening of the virtual session, outgoing President of RC69 Mr Magnus Heunicke, Minister of Health and Senior Citizens of Denmark, handed the position over to Dr Alexey Tsoy, Minister of Health of Kazakhstan, the elected President of RC70.
Other officers elected were:
- Dr Søren Brostrøm of Denmark as Executive President
- Dr Iva Pejnović Franelić of Croatia as Deputy Executive President
- Ms Nora Kronig Romero of Switzerland as Rapporteur.
Address by Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Patron of WHO/Europe, addressed delegates, describing the pandemic as a “tough teacher” and underlining that there can be no health care without the health workforce. “To all the nurses, midwives, health and care workers across the European Region, you have my deepest respect and admiration, and I thank you,” she said.
Re-emphasizing her commitment to advocating for maternal and child health, immunization, and addressing antibiotic resistance, Her Royal Highness concluded, “Working together to make the world a safer and healthier place for everyone is the most fitting of legacies to honour those we have lost as a result of this virus, and an invaluable gift to the children of the future.”
Address by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
Speaking remotely to RC70, Dr Tedros expressed his support for the EPW on this year’s agenda, and its close alignment with WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work (GPW 13). “Health and well-being, universal health coverage and health security are the legs of a 3-legged stool that provide social, economic and political stability,” he said.
Considering lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Tedros warned that WHO and Member States must follow through on these reviews and recommendations. “Working together in humility and solidarity, we can ensure that a pandemic of this magnitude and severity never happens again,” he concluded.
Address by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe
Speaking of the COVID-19 response, Dr Kluge sent his condolences to the victims, families and communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic. He paid tribute to the health and social workers and other front-line workers, such as teachers, who have kept society running.
“The whole world has recognized their merit and bravery,” he said. Dr Kluge also announced that he will extend the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife through 2021.
The address by Dr Kluge – his first as WHO Regional Director for Europe – had 2 parts: the first focused on laying the foundations for the future beyond COVID-19, and the second on the COVID-19 response. On the first point, Dr Kluge explained that the work is based on 3 axes:
There is no health without the health workforce. Their merits have been recognized globally, and this should lead to a new moral and material future for them in line with their responsibilities. And I salute here the nurses and the midwives. It is your year. But you have been so busy that in the WHO European Region I decided to extend the year into 2021. We will push back COVID-19 and I promise: we will celebrate you.
Introduction to the EPW
The Regional Director explained that the proposed EPW for 2020–2025 was developed from the starting point of what people across the Region hold their health authorities accountable for. Under the EPW, European Member States will implement 3 core priorities:
- guaranteeing the right to universal access to quality care without fear of financial hardship;
- protecting against health emergencies; and
- building healthy communities, where public health actions and appropriate public policies secure a better life in an economy of well-being.
The EPW was informed by an extensive consultative process with Member States, non-State actors and other international partners.
The EFNNMA took part in this consultations earlier this year, including the online briefing and post-briefing detailed written comments.
Special EFNNMA Statement has been also prepared and sent to WHO office in support of the renewed and consequently adopted EPW
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