Speech by Angela Merkel at the World Health Summit


Prime Minister, my friend Erna Solberg,
Director-General Tedros,
My friend Bill Gates,
Professor Ganten,
Fellow members of the Bundestag,
My colleague Gerd Müller,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Health – who doesn’t wish for it? There is hardly any other issue that people are more concerned about, precisely because it affects each and every one of us and because it ultimately decides whether or not we can realise our plans for this life. Staying or getting healthy is, however, not just a topic for us as individuals. It is not the sole responsibility of individuals. Health is also a shared task, a global task.

We all know what devastating consequences above all infectious diseases can have – first and foremost at the human level, but also from the economic point of view. After all, diseases and epidemics do not stop at national borders, they do not just put individual health services to the test but can also endanger the security and development of entire regions. That is why people here have also rightly pointed out the major impact that the third goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has on many of the other goals.

This means that responsibility for healthcare does not stop at national borders but is in fact a shared responsibility. Ladies and gentlemen, by gathering here this evening you have shown your readiness to shoulder this responsibility. But how do we go about it? That is the central question which is the focus of both the World Health Summit and the Grand Challenges Meeting of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I am very grateful that it was possible to combine these two meetings, as this increases the clout of global health policy.

This is the 10th Global Health Summit to be held here in Berlin. Professor Ganten, you launched the Summit in 2009 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Berlin Charité hospital. The very name Charité – charity – highlights the philanthropic principle of furthering public health. The World Health Summit takes up this tradition. It brings together experts from research, business and politics to develop shared and coherent strategies for the world. I myself felt this was a great idea from the very outset and am thus delighted to serve as patron of this Summit.

Precisely because global questions need global answers – from richer countries and less prosperous countries – we all need to work together to develop effective medicines and vaccines. We have talked about this this evening. We need efficient healthcare systems. We need to prevent both pandemics and resistance to antibiotics. We need more generally to promote a healthy environment – clean air, clean water – and work to ensure people have enough food. In a nutshell, we need cooperation.

My friend Bill Gates, for many years you have been showing us the way forward. Here you work side by side with governments and organisations such as the World Health Organization and with foundations such as the Wellcome Trust. I would like to thank you very much. You fight tirelessly for a better life for the poorest of the poor.

We in Germany are also committed to this goal. We have considerably increased our engagement for global health inter alia in research – and not just in financial terms. We have also repeatedly put this important item on the international agenda – in formats such as the G7 or the G20 and especially, of course, when Germany was hosting G7 and G20 meetings.

I am also particularly concerned about working together to combat neglected diseases associated with poverty. We have to work together against the big three diseases, that is HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Practical examples that have been presented this evening show that this approach works. We need to develop vaccines to prevent epidemics. And we have to curb resistance to antibiotics as we cannot simply presume that new antibiotics will be developed every time.

To achieve this goal, Germany will, for example, increase its funding for antibiotic research to 500 million euros for the next ten years. I believe other countries will also step up their engagement. What is important, however, is that we network our efforts and actually ensure that we do not all set the same priorities but work together to cover the whole spectrum of issues.

To move forward with research into antimicrobial resistance, we, together with many G20 partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, have created the Global AMR Research and Development Hub. Mr Tedros, the WHO has supported and guided the work of the Hub in an advisory capacity. Thank you very much indeed.

We all sense however that the principle of multilateralism is currently under increasing pressure and being put to the test. Yet particularly when it comes to health issues, the value of multilateralism is plain to see. That is why I hope that this will not just be a forum for specialists but also that we will send a clear signal that multilateralism is a win-win situation for everyone in this world.

We saw it for ourselves during the 2014 Ebola epidemic which claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa. Neither national nor international systems were adequately prepared for such a crisis. We saw it as a wake-up call and we have woken up! Today, we can see that considerable progress has been made. The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in spring was contained relatively quickly – also and especially because procedures within the WHO were much better coordinated. I hope the same applies to the tasks yet to be performed.

The new mechanisms are in place. The Contingency Fund for Emergencies which Germany also supports has proven its effectiveness. This should also be the case when new cases of disease break out. I would therefore appeal to all those shouldering responsibility in the region to ensure aid workers are granted unhindered access so that disease does not spread further and to ensure structures are created to promote transparency. There is no point in concealing the outbreak of disease. What we need in fact is full transparency.
That is why I would like to thank WHO Director-General Tedros most sincerely once more for his reform efforts and for setting up clear emergency structures. You are taking steps here based on your own experience from your previous work. Thank you. We will stand by you.

Ladies and gentlemen, much has been achieved if we can curb epidemics. But we need to do more than that. Health is a prerequisite for well-being, prosperity and a dignified life, in other words, for exactly what the 2030 Agenda stands for with its 17 SDGs. Each and every investment in the health system is an investment in the people, in stable demographic development and in hope for the people.

I am delighted that, together with Erna Solberg and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, I was successful in asking Director-General Tedros to draw up an action plan on the implementation of the Agenda health goal together with all relevant players. The first version is on the table. Even just for the last page with the ten signatures, considerable efforts were involved. Thank you all for your cooperation.

We will now develop indicators for taking stock in 2023. We will involve civil society. Germany advocates organisations, different actors and also countries committing clearly to the action plan and working together to implement it. Time is of the essence.

Ladies and gentlemen, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”. This is what we read in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A healthy life must not depend on where you are born or live. In every corner of the world, it is a humanitarian imperative to be able to rely on a functioning health system. This is a task which challenges humanity. It is high time for us to work in targeted fashion to perform this task anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am convinced that this meeting will play its part in ensuring we can move forward. Much remains to be done but if we all roll up our sleeves we have a good chance of achieving the Agenda goal by 2030.

Thank you very much.