Address by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Opening Ceremony of the sixty-eighth session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific

9 October 2017 — Brisbane, Australia

The Honourable Greg Hunt, Minister of Health of Australia;
Honourable Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, Chairperson of the Regional Committee;
Honourable ministers of health and representatives of Member States;
Distinguished partners and observers;
Ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning.

I join in acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today.

On behalf of WHO, I would like to express sincere appreciation to Minister Hunt and the Government of Australia for hosting the sixty-eighth session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.

It is great to be in beautiful Brisbane on this bright Spring day – which is to be expected in Australia’s so-called Sunshine State.

I want to welcome health ministers and other senior officials from across the Western Pacific Region. It is great to see so many friendly faces.

Australia last hosted the Regional Committee 20 years ago — in 1997 in Sydney. A lot has changed since then – in Australia and the rest of the world.

Globally, deadly disease outbreaks such as SARS and Ebola have reshaped the way we prepare for and respond to health emergencies.

At the same time, emerging threats to health and health security continue to demand our attention – such as the alarming trends in noncommunicable disease and antimicrobial resistance.

In Australia, your effort and investment have made the country a world leader in health. You have much to be proud of:
• Life expectancy continues to increase here.
• Your smoking rates are among the lowest in the world.
• And your universal health coverage system is the envy of many countries.

More importantly, Australia’s commitment to health goes far beyond its borders:
• Australia has provided invaluable support for WHO’s work on health emergency preparedness and response and other health security threats in the Region — such as antimicrobial resistance and drug-resistant malaria.
• We also very much welcome Australia’s new Regional Health Security Initiative, announced yesterday.

We also very much welcome Australia’s new Regional Health Security Initiative, announced yesterday.

The 37 countries and areas of the Western Pacific stretch more than a third of the way around the globe — making up the world’s most diverse Region in terms of people and places.

But HERE we work as ONE — a united force to address the Region’s health challenges.

Our strength in solidarity is our best defense against whatever the future holds for the well-being of the nearly 1.9 billion people of this great Region.

We have learnt from our experiences as the most outbreak- and disaster-prone Region in the world. Our work has set a new standard for global health emergency preparedness and response.

We have also made tremendous strides against diseases that have hit some countries particularly hard, such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.

As a Region, we have committed to move towards universal health coverage. This vision of all people attaining good quality health services without financial hardship is a foundation for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

This week, the Regional Committee will consider a packed agenda. It is full of items that address what you have told us are your priorities in health. We will also hear later in the week from the new WHO Director-General Dr Tedros. He will share his vision for the future of the Organization. He is also eager to hear from you.

As always, I look forward to week of hard work with good friends and strong partners in health.

Thank you.