World Health Summit: Global agreement on health need of the hour, says WHO

Conference to focus on pandemic treaty, polio eradication, digital health and universal health coverage

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Monday 17 October 2022
Photo: @WorldHealthSmt / Twitter
Photo: @WorldHealthSmt / Twitter Photo: @WorldHealthSmt / Twitter

World Health Summit (WHS), an international health conference, is being held in Berlin, Germany, from October 16-18, 2022. This is the first time the World Health Organization has co-hosted the global health conference.

The leading theme of the opening ceremony: Taking Global Health to a New Level, stressed the need for exchange between scientific disciplines and science, politics and society.

This year’s summit will focus on a pandemic treaty, polio eradication, digital health and universal health coverage, tweeted Director of WHO Center on Global Health Law Lawrence Gostin.

Read more: World Health Assembly agrees for global treaty to ‘strengthen pandemic prevention’

Well over 300 speakers from all regions of the world are expected: Numerous government officials, representatives from academia, industry and civil society and around 6,000 participants on-site and online. The entire program is available for free online.

“Networking and good cooperation across national borders are what matter — especially in the field of global health,” said German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation October 16, 2022 announced it would commit €1.23 billion to the effort to end polio worldwide at the summit, according to European television news network Euronews.

The money will also be used to stop outbreaks of new virus variants, which may evade existing vaccinations, a report said.

COVID-19 pandemic exposed, exploited and exacerbated the global health architecture as fractured and incoherent, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out.

“Taking global health to a new level means we need a new global agreement based on a common vision, a new global health architecture that is coherent and inclusive, and a new global approach that prioritises promoting health and preventing disease, rather than only treating the sick,” he said.

Cancer control, health in times of war and crises, health and care workers and beating noncommunicable diseases will be some of the other topics to be discussed.

Read more: World Mental Health Day: COVID-19 pandemic has worsened our mindscape

WHS aims to strengthen exchange, stimulate innovative solutions to health challenges, position global health as a key political issue and promote a global health conversation in the spirit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a press note stated.

Ghebreyesus speech also put focus on the need for a global health treaty and clarified some doubts about it. “The global accord now being negotiated will underpin the global approach to epidemics and pandemics for decades and maybe centuries to come. That’s why we call it a generational agreement,” he said.

The claim by some that this accord is an infringement of national sovereignty is quite simply wrong. It will not give WHO any powers to do anything without the express permission of sovereign nation-states, the director-general clarified.

Catherine Russell, executive director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa (WHO); Christos Christou, international president, Doctors Without Borders; Charles Michel, president, European Council and Marco Lambertini, director-general, World Wildlife Fund International are some of the key speakers who will speak at WHS. 

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