Opening remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Technical Consultation on Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance in the Western Pacific Region

Manila, Philippines
1 August 2013

Distinguished participants and colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen:

Welcome to this important consultation on antimicrobial resistance surveillance in the Western Pacific Region.

As you know, antimicrobial resistance is one of the main threats to human health globally.

The extensive and inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans and animals is common in some countries of the Western Pacific Region. This practice is the main cause of rapid emergence of resistant microbes.

The misuse of antibiotics becomes a greater threat when combined with the forces of globalization. Global trade, travel, migration and medical tourism can spread resistant pathogens into every corner of the world in a matter of days.

The emergence of resistant pathogens in one country directly threatens not only its neighbours, but also countries far away.

Artemisinin resistance in the Mekong region is one example of a regional threat that must be contained. If artemisinin resistance spreads, major gains in the fight against malaria would be at risk.

What's more, alternative treatments for resistant infections are often far more expensive, more toxic and require more time to work. The alternatives also would be a heavier financial burden to national health systems.

Indeed, the effects of antibiotic resistance extend far beyond the human health sector, into agriculture, food production and other sectors.

For this reason, we rely increasingly on multisectoral international collaboration to face this global threat.

The WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific established a multidisciplinary working group in 2010 to coordinate response and activities of WHO across divisions.

Regional political groups — such as the ASEAN and APEC — also play a vital role by fostering action through mutual commitments and engagement.

All strategies and collaborative actions first require accurate information on antimicrobial resistance in the Region to inform decision- and policy-makers.

We need systematic collection and evaluation of the antimicrobial resistance data to monitor the changing trends in resistance patterns, in order to develop effective strategies and interventions.

Surveillance data is also crucial for the monitoring of the effectiveness of national and international control activities.

Evidence from high-quality surveillance can also guide innovation and lead to the development of new anti-infective medicines.

WHO and the regional public health community have a leading role in advocating a wide range of interventions to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

Many of the participants in this technical consultation have been instrumental in the development of regional and global surveillance networks on antimicrobial resistance and global WHO strategies.

We appreciate your continued support to strengthen regional collaborative surveillance capacity, which remains one of our priorities moving forward.

Together, we hope to define a sustainable operational framework for antimicrobial surveillance in the entire Western Pacific Region. This process will require harmonizing existing networks and supporting the reporting function.

Availability and proper use of surveillance data is critical to strengthen national control efforts.

We are fortunate to have experts here today from academia, national institutes, private centres of excellence and WHO collaborating centres which will ensure contribution from a wide range of expertise.

I look forward to hearing your recommendations, and wish you a pleasant stay in Manila.