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Remarks at the G20 Health Ministers Meeting

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general, World Health Organization
By videoconference, April 19, 2020

Your Excellency Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Minister of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,

Excellencies, colleagues, and dear friends,

I would like to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its leadership of the G20.

I welcome the concrete actions the Kingdom is taking with the G20 Global Innovation Hub for Improving Value in Health, the Digital Health Task Force and the Global Patient Safety Leaders Group, and for its strong commitment to Health for All.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your generous support – the US$500 million you have announced.

And thank you for bringing us together today at this critical time.

I would like to reiterate my appreciation to the G20 leaders, as expressed in their recent statement, committing to further strengthen WHO’s mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic.

We are all facing an unprecedented global health crisis.

Not only are we confronting a new virus, we are also confronting the first pandemic in history caused by a coronavirus.

All of your countries have been affected, and you are all at different stages of the response.

We are encouraged that several G20 countries are now starting to plan how to ease social restrictions.

It is critical that these measures are a phased process.

Lifting so-called lockdown restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country; it’s just the beginning of the next phase.

It’s vital in this next phase that countries educate, engage and empower their people to prevent and respond rapidly to any resurgence;

To ensure they have the capacity to detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact;

And to ensure their health systems have the capacity to absorb any increase in cases.

We are deeply concerned that the virus now appears to be gathering pace in countries that lack the capacity of many G20 countries to respond to it.

Urgent support is needed, not only to support countries to respond to COVID-19, but to ensure other essential health services continue.

Since the beginning, WHO has sounded the alarm bell loud and clear.

And we continue to fulfil our mandate to coordinate the global response, working with partners to save lives.

We’ve engaged thousands of scientists and experts all over the world to develop detailed technical guidance for countries.

We’ve shipped supplies of lab diagnostics and personal protective equipment to many countries, and expanded testing capacity.

We’ve provided training for more than 1.5 million health workers.

We’ve launched the Solidarity Trial, to generate robust safety and efficacy data about the four drugs under trial.

The international community has rallied in support of the global response.

More than 900 million U.S. dollars has been pledged for our first Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

That includes 150 million U.S. dollars through the Solidarity Response Fund, from more than 247,000 individuals, corporations and foundations.

One of the biggest challenges we face in Africa and other countries is the critical shortage of supplies, and the ability to deliver them because of weak supply chains.

WHO is working with International Chamber of Commerce and the B20 group of business leaders from G20 countries to increase the production and equitable distribution of these life-saving tools.

Through the United Nations Supply Chain Task Force, we’re working with the World Food Programme and other partners to distribute personal protective equipment to countries all over the world.

Today I have three requests:

First, we urge each of your countries to continue to fight the pandemic with determination, guided by science and evidence.

Second, we are looking to the G20 countries to continue to support the global response to COVID-19.

We will soon publish a second Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with an estimate of the resources needed for the next phase of the response.

We echo President Ramaphosa’s appeal on behalf of the African Union to G20 countries to support African countries with stimulus packages and debt relief so they can focus on fighting the pandemic.

Third, we call on all G20 countries to work together to increase the production and equitable distribution of essential supplies, and to remove trade barriers that put health workers and their patients at risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of a simple truth: we are one humanity. We share the same planet. We share the same hopes and dreams. We share the same destiny.

As the ministerial declaration recognizes, the current pandemic has highlighted weakness in health systems and global preparedness.

We welcome the commitment you are making not only to combat the current crisis, but to ensure this never happens again. 

WHO is committed to leading the work requested by the G20 leaders, in cooperation with our partners, to assess gaps in global preparedness, and to lay the foundations for the healthier, safer, fairer world we all want.

Shukran jazeelan, Your Excellency.

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Source: World Health Organization


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