Asia-Pacific Parliamentarian Forum for Global Health Fourth Meeting Congratulatory Remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific

Honourable Senator JV Ejercito
Honourable Representative Dr Angelina Tan
Honourable Professor Keizo Takemi
Honourable Secretary Francisco Duque III
Honourable Parliamentarians

Good morning to all of you. It is my great honour to welcome all of you to WHO’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific today.

While WHO has supported the Forum in its first three meetings, this is the first time we have had the privilege of hosting you in our Regional Office. We are delighted to welcome you here today.

The Forum has gone from strength to strength in the last few years: in size, relevance and influence. Today, we are joined by 62 parliamentarians from 21 countries – our biggest group of attendees yet.

Having a forum for exchange between parliamentarians from different countries, and different political perspectives, is crucially important for global health.

Health is no longer just the domain of health ministers, and nor is just a domestic political issue. As we discussed during last year’s meeting, many of today’s health challenges and threats – such as NCDs, ageing, climate change, and urbanization – come from and are addressed beyond the health sector. Tackling these challenges requires cooperation and collaboration across countries and sectors.

WHO has traditionally engaged just with Ministries of Health. And of course, Health Ministries continue to be our most important partners. But increasingly, we see it as our job to engage with parliamentarians as well – a new way of doing business for WHO.

As political leaders, you have the power to drive action in your countries that will promote and protect health and well-being for all. Parliamentarians play critical roles in enacting laws for health, mobilizing financial resources, monitoring implementation, and engaging with patients, communities, and stakeholders across sectors to ensure no one is left behind.

I very much look forward to the discussions today and tomorrow on Universal Health Coverage, or UHC, with the focus on securing sustainable financing and strengthening legal frameworks for UHC – two core functions for the parliamentarians in this room.

As you know, UHC calls for all people and communities to have access to quality health services when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship. This is both a specific SDG target and a unifying platform for achieving health across the SDGs.

Across our Region, we still see gaps in service coverage and inadequate financing. Up to 60% of people living in some countries do not have access to essential health services, and some countries spend a tiny proportion of their GDP on health.

Without adequate access and financial protection, the health gains from targeted disease programmes cannot be sustained and health inequalities across our communities cannot be closed.

We know that all countries, including high-income countries, face challenges in advancing UHC. No one country has all the answers, no one country has everything right. I am sure this will be a very rich and productive dialogue.

We are fortunate for the Fourth Meeting to be hosted by the Philippines, a country that has many experiences to share in financing and legislating for UHC. We look forward to hearing more about the Philippines’ experiences, as well as to the site visit to the Province of Bataan tomorrow, which will highlight some of the many local initiatives underway to advance UHC in this country.

In addition to the main technical programme, we are also honoured that the Forum will provide WHO with this rare opportunity to share with you the work that our Organization does in your countries across this Region. Later this afternoon, some of our technical experts will showcase our work and resource materials on a broad range of the priority health issues currently being addressed by our Member States.

My sincere thanks to the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives Health Committees for organising and co-chairing this year’s meeting. I would like to thank

Senator Ejercito and Congresswoman Tan for their leadership, commitment and collaboration in organising this week’s meeting.

I would like to acknowledge the honourable representatives from Japan, who hosted the third meeting of the Forum in Tokyo last year. In particular, I pay tribute to Professor Takemi, who now serves as the President of the Executive Committee of the Forum, for his passion and dedication.

I would also like to acknowledge the honourable representatives from my home country, the Republic of Korea, who initiated the establishment of the Forum in 2015, and hosted its first two meetings in Seoul.

Thank you again for honouring us with your presence here today. Of course, for WHO’s part, we remain firmly committed to supporting the important work of this Forum in any way we can.

Thank you.