Director-General Dr. Tedros, distinguished representatives, friends and colleagues:
It is an honor for me to be here, representing the United States of America, on behalf of the newly inaugurated Biden-Harris administration, and as the Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden.
I also am here to represent the scientists, public health officials and frontline healthcare workers, and community health workers who have worked so heroically this past year to fight COVID-19, developing medical countermeasures at truly phenomenal speed, adapting policy responses as we learn more about the virus, and courageously treating the millions of people who have been stricken by this historic scourge.
One year ago, to the day, the United States confirmed its first case of SARS-COV-2, in the State of Washington. Today, in my country and around the world, we have surpassed 90 million cases, a devastating number that continues to grow.
I join my fellow representatives in thanking the World Health Organization for its role in leading the global public health response to this pandemic. Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics; conducted regular, streamed press briefings that authoritatively track global developments; provided millions of vital supplies from lab reagents to protective gear to health care workers in dozens of countries; and relentlessly worked with nations in their fight against COVID-19.
I also know first-hand the work of WHO with whom I have engaged in a collaborative manner touching all aspects of global health over the past 4 decades.
As such, I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization. Yesterday, President Biden signed letters retracting the previous Administration’s announcement to withdraw from the organization, and those letters have been transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to you Dr. Tedros, my dear friend.
In addition to retracting the notification of withdrawal and retaining membership in the WHO, the United States will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO and will resume regular engagement of U.S. government personnel with the WHO both directly and through our WHO Collaborating Centers.
The United States also intends to fulfill its financial obligations to the organization. The United States sees technical collaboration at all levels as a fundamental part of our relationship with WHO, one that we value deeply and will look to strengthen going forward.
As a WHO member state, the United States will work constructively with partners to strengthen and importantly reform the WHO, to help lead the collective effort to strengthen the international COVID-19 response and address its secondary impacts on people, communities, and health systems around the world.
The Biden Administration also intends to be fully engaged in advancing global health, supporting global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda, and building a healthier future for all people.
I am also pleased to announce today that the United States plans to work multilaterally to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the U.S. to join COVAX and support the ACT-Acceleratorto advance multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.
The United States will also work with the WHO and Member States to counter the erosion of major gains in global healththat we have achieved through decades of research, collaboration and investments in health and health security, including in HIV/AIDS, food security, malaria, and epidemic preparedness.
And it will be our policy to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally. To that end, President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City Policy in the coming days, as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.
We realize that responding to COVID-19 and rebuilding global health and advancing health security around the world will not be easy. And in this regard:
We are committed totransparency, including those events surrounding the early days of the pandemic. It is imperative that we learn and build upon important lessons about how future pandemic events can be averted. The international investigation should be robust and clear, and we look forward to evaluating it;
We also will work with the WHO and partner countries to strengthen and reform the WHO, improve mechanisms for responding to health emergencies across the United Nations, and strengthen the International Health Regulations;
We will commit to building global health security capacity, expanding pandemic preparedness,and supporting efforts to strengthen health systemsaround the world and to advance the Sustainable Development Goals;
We will work with partners to develop new international financing mechanisms for health security;
We will seek an improved, shared system for early warning and rapid response to emerging biological threats;
We will support scientifically robust and ethically sound collaborative science, research and research capacity building, as well as the rapid sharing of research results, pathogen samples and data essential to research progress;
We will look to strengthen pandemic supply chain networks;
And we will work with partners around the world to build a system that leaves us better prepared for this pandemic and for the next one.
And finally, given that a considerable amount of effort will be required by all of us moving forward, the United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international COVID-19 response, mitigate its impact on the world, strengthen our institutions, advance epidemic preparedness for the future, and improve the health and wellbeing of all people throughout the world.
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