Speech by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Opening Ceremony of the Sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific

Hanoi, Viet Nam
24 September 2012

Her Excellency Nguyen Thi Doan,
Vice President of Viet Nam

Hon. Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health

Hon. Pehin Dato Adanan Yusof, Chairperson of the Regional Committee

Esteemed representatives of Member States and

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen:

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.

On behalf of our Member States and all the representatives gathered here, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the Government of Viet Nam for their gracious hosting of this session of the Regional Committee.

It is indeed a pleasure to be back in Hanoi to witness the remarkable economic development achieved here over the past two decades. Signs of progress are everywhere.

Viet Nam has made tremendous strides on the health front — the result of tireless efforts to address the challenges of rapid development and the transition to a middle-income country.

Viet Nam has strengthened its core capacity to comply with International Health Regulations and has made significant improvements through implementation of the latest Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases.

The Government is also to be congratulated for progress on tobacco control. In June the National Assembly passed The Tobacco Control Law of Viet Nam, the first such law aimed at the prevention and control of tobacco harm.

The new tobacco law is a milestone for public health in Viet Nam and for the Region.

Viet Nam is also taking strong steps towards universal health coverage.

As in other countries, rapid economic development has led to an increase in noncommunicable diseases and injuries.

It has also increased population mobility and widened inequalities among the poor and disadvantaged and ethnic minorities.

Viet Nam is responding by upgrading and building a stronger and more resilient health system.

It is a daunting task, but the Ministry of Health is up to the challenge.

They are working hard and fully committed to addressing these issues.

This afternoon we will learn more about this endeavor.

These issues and challenges are not unique to Viet Nam. We will be discussing many of them in the context of other countries during the coming week.

For the first time in 10 years the Regional Committee will look at new ways of addressing nutrition and food security issues.

To strengthen collaboration among agencies and partners, I have invited several experts and my colleague regional directors from other United Nations agencies for a high-level panel discussion tomorrow afternoon.

We will also review progress on the control of neglected tropical diseases and the implementation of International Health Regulations.

Member States will share experiences in addressing many of the Region's pressing and challenging health issues, such as malaria and artemisinin resistance, injury and violence prevention, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

We will also discuss the General Programme of Work and the programme budgets of the Organization.

It is a full agenda.

Before I finish, I would like to take a minute to congratulate Australia for their tremendous contribution to the fight against tobacco.

We applaud the recent decision by Australia's High Court endorsing new anti-tobacco marketing laws and dismissing a challenge from cigarette companies.

This is a major turning point in our battle against tobacco and will have a major impact on public health worldwide.

I look forward to this week's session, and hope the discussions and decisions of the Regional Committee will prove useful and instructive for all of our Member States.

Finally, I would like to thank the Government of Viet Nam once again for their gracious hosting of this session of the Regional Committee.

We feel the warmth and sincerity of their hospitality and generosity at every turn and corner

Thank you.