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Statement by India at the Plenary of 67th World Assembly, Geneva, on 19 May, 2014

Address by Mr. C. K. Mishra, Addl. Secretary (Health),

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,

Government of India

At the Plenary Session of the 67th World Health Assembly

Geneva, Switzerland

19 May, 2014

The link between climate and health


President of the Assembly,

Madam Director-General,

Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,


On behalf of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, I am honoured to address this august gathering and bring greetings to each one of you from more than 1.2 billion people of India. 


At the outset, I would like to extend heartiest congratulations to Dr. Roberto Ojeda on his election as the President of the World Health Assembly, 2014 and wish him success.


As you know, India has just completed its mammoth exercise of elections for the next parliament and for a new federal government, with involvement of more than 800 million people who exercised their right to vote. 


Due to this process, our Hon’ble Minister could not travel to Geneva this year. However, I carry to this Assembly the commitment of the Government of India for constructive co-operation and participation in achieving meaningful and actionable outcomes for better health of our peoples across the globe.




The World Health Assembly provides us an opportunity to discuss our shared goals and gives us a platform to reiterate and reaffirm our commitment to those goals.  


Against this backdrop, the theme of the general discussion this year, i.e. link between climate and health provides an opportunity to reflect on this important issue.


Addressing climate change is not just an issue of international agreements or economic costs - it is a choice of what kind of world we all want to live in. In this context, the principle of Common But Differential Responsibilities (CBDR), under the banner of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is an ideal way forward.


There is no doubt that framing climate change as a public health risk by underscoring the link between climate and health may help push this debate from the green crowd into the mainstream. However, there seems to be a lack of coherence globally in terms of clear public health messages about climate aimed at populations in general. There remains, therefore, a major challenge for the public health community to identify best individual and local strategies.


India has recently constituted a Steering Committee of experts on health related issues pertaining to air pollution which comprises two subgroups on household air pollution and outdoor air pollution. We are committed to carry this forward to a logical conclusion.  


Mr. President, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates 

We have a long way to go. We would like to draw the attention of the Assembly to the important issues that are before us for deliberation. The most important issue is the Sustainable Development Solutions Network being discussed under the post-2015 development agenda, for which health is a precondition, an outcome, and an indicator of success. However, the major challenge before us is to finalize an approach to allow a wide variety of interests within the health sector to be accommodated as part of a single framework. While doing so, we must not lose sight of the core values of well-being, i.e. quality of life, equity and social justice.


We emphasize the importance and need of technology transfer as a means to empower developing countries.  In this context, we underline the important role of generic medicines in the realization of the right to health. We would also like to underscore the need to address the specific needs of developing countries and LDCs to develop the capacity to undertake various health initiatives, including access to all medicines and vaccines. 


We would further like to emphasize the need for appropriate international policy space to facilitate equitable access to affordable, quality, safe medicines, vaccines and advanced medical technologies for combatting various diseases. The full use of flexibilities available under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, including the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health and the WTO decision of 30 August 2003 would assist developing countries in better serving their public health needs.


We acknowledge the value and importance of traditional medicine and need of experience and knowledge-sharing for securing public health needs. We urge for cooperation amongst all countries to encourage the use of traditional medicine, in all spheres of health. 


Mr. President, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates 

The achievement of health related goals and targets, in Indian context, is a daunting task, considering India’s geographical size, regional and socio-cultural diversity, and the differential health care needs of 1.2 billion people in different locations.


However, we are optimistic since our leadership in India has given “Health” a central position in the national plan, running from 2012 to 2017.


In the face of the huge health challenges before us, we are heartened by our success in achieving remarkable reductions in Maternal Mortality Rate, Infant Mortality Rate, Neo-Natal Mortality Rate and the Total Fertility Rate, following strategic investments made under the National Rural Health Mission.


We are also extremely encouraged by our success in the eradication of polio. We witnessed the celebration of the South-East Asia Region’s polio-free certification in New Delhi on 27th March 2014.


The success is indeed a tribute to the political will and commitment of governments, nongovernmental organizations, civil society and international partners and the hard work of the millions of health workers and volunteers who travelled miles to reach and vaccinate each and every child even in the hardest to reach areas of the Region, not once but multiple times, year after year.


Polio eradication has taught us many lessons on how public health programmes can be run successfully and given us the confidence that we can overcome all kind of challenges and barriers to achieve ambitious health goals.


Mr. President, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, 

We strongly believe that for effective global action on the social, economic and environmental determinants of health, we must prioritize and ensure adequate funding support to the countries with huge disease burden, poverty and scoring low on these determinants. In this context, we welcome the work being done by the PBAC working group to develop a new strategic resource allocation methodology.We believe, however, that in keeping with the true vision of WHO as a global leader in health, the strategic resource allocation methodology should address the health concerns and risk factors of the regions/member states with highest health needs index, global burden of disease. Let us focus on the theme of equity.


We must do well to remember that the World cannot succeed on Public Health Agenda unless all of us, all the member states succeed individually, since a disease threat in any part of the globe is a threat to the entire globe. For this success to happen, sooner rather than later, we need concerted and collaborative world action with unconditional and equitable technical and financial support from all quarters. 


Before I conclude, I would like to compliment and congratulate Dr. Margaret Chan, DG, WHO and her efficient team at WHO for successfully driving the core agenda of WHO, i.e. better health for all, through the complex and at times difficult process of inter-governmental consultations to achieve synergy and focus in our efforts at an international level. Thank you madam for your constant support to India.


I thank you all for your attention.