63rd Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session

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SIX OFFICIAL 15-Dec-2016 02:44:06
Adopting a draft resolution on global health and foreign policy, the General Assembly urges cross-sector engagement in tackling Ebola, Zika, other viruses, at 63rd meeting of the 71st session.
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Adopting a draft resolution on global health and foreign policy that focused on the role of health employment in driving economic growth and helping Member States move toward sustainable development, the General Assembly also held a debate on the culture of peace and elected members to the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Global health and foreign policy: health employment and economic growth,” adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged Member States to continue to consider health issues in the formulation of their foreign policy. It also called on Member States to strengthen their dialogue with civil society, academia and the private sector to maximize engagement to solve global health challenges, while safeguarding public health interests from undue influence or potential conflict of interest.

The Assembly urged Member States to promote equal access to health services and the development of resilient and sustainable systems capable of responding effectively to outbreaks and emergencies. It called on States to make greater investments and promote decent work with adequate remuneration in the health and social sectors and to enable safe working environments and conditions. The Assembly committed to support technology transfer arrangements on mutually agreed and advantageous terms with the objective of increasing the availability and affordability of medicines and related technologies.

The Assembly also decided to hold a high-level meeting in 2017 on the fight against tuberculosis and requested the Secretary-General to propose modalities for the conduct of such a meeting.

Addressing Member States prior to action on the text, General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said that recent global outbreaks of Ebola and the Zika virus had shown how quickly global health crises could cross borders, divert limited resources and wreak devastation on families and communities. The impact of such pandemics had stretched far beyond the health sector, undermining socioeconomic development, weakening social cohesion and threatening national and regional security. “We need to accelerate our pace of progress,” he said.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates touched on various aspects of the global health system, including the need to train medical professionals to cope with major outbreaks. The United States’ representative said as a country that employed millions of health workers and deployed many others to missions worldwide, cultivating a strong employment base was critical to dealing with modern outbreaks. Health professionals faced many dangers in responding to emergencies and “we owe it to them to have effective shared procedures for human resource preparedness,” she said.

Echoing that sentiment, the Russian Federation’s delegate said recent international epidemics had put immense pressure on medical staff. Implementing a comprehensive strategy to enhance training and capacities was in line with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. On a national level, the Russian Federation put forth a medical personnel initiative to boost the number of doctors in rural areas. That programme had successfully encouraged young doctors starting their careers to work in villages by providing them financial incentives.

Speakers also called attention to the needs of women and girls. Canada’s representative, who spoke on behalf of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, expressed concern over the deliberate exclusion of language on universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and women’s and girl’s full enjoyment of all human rights. Member States had a duty to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights aimed at protecting women and girls, she added.

Women and girls also made up the majority of workers in the health sector, said South Africa’s delegate, who had also introduced the draft on behalf of the Foreign Policy and Global Health Network, comprising Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, Thailand and his own country. Yet, too much of that work was unpaid. Investments in the health sector had to focus on enhancing women’s economic empowerment, including transforming unpaid and informal care roles into decent work and promoting opportunities for enhancing skills.

Earlier in the morning, the Assembly took up its agenda item on the culture of peace, holding an open debate during which several delegations stressed the growing need for countries to come together to counter extremism and intolerance. Iran’s representative said absurd mentalities and the pursuit of short‑sighted political gains and cultural and military hegemony were threatening peace every day. As such, he stressed the importance of confronting cultures that spread hatred and intolerance.

Deploring the rise of xenophobia in the world, Morocco’s delegate said his country had recently hosted a forum on the rights of minorities living in Muslim lands, an event reaffirming that dialogue among all people was necessary. Combating religious extremism required a holistic approach that included social and religious leaders. Morocco had already reformed school programmes and parts of the media to promote and teach a message of peace in line with moderate Islam.

Several delegations recognized the importance of empowering youth to prevent them from falling into the “trap of extremism”, with Cambodia’s representative emphasizing that the political participation of young men and women would lead to inclusive societies. “Young people are the hope for a better world,” he added.

Delivering statements were the representatives of Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Cuba, Thailand (also on behalf of ASEAN), Qatar, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Israel, Japan and Mexico, as well as the European Union. The representatives of Switzerland and India spoke in explanation of position.

The Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary-General titled “Promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/71/407) and two notes of the Secretary-General titled “Global health and foreign policy” (document A/71/601) and “State of health security” (document A/71/598).

In other matters, the Assembly elected Colombia, Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia and Mexico as members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission for a two‑year term of office beginning on 1 January 2017. The Assembly also took note of two letters dating back to 28 November 2016 (document A/71/664) and 8 November 2016 (document A/71/610), the former deciding that Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan and Norway would serve a full two‑year term from 2016 to 2018 on the Organizational Committee, and the latter deciding that Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda would serve from the troop‑contributing countries category of membership for a term of office beginning on 1 January 2017 and ending on 31 December 2018.

The Assembly today decided to postpone the date of its recess to Friday, 23 December 2016, also extending to that date the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Friday, 16 December to take up its agenda items on sport for peace and development and strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations.
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