Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and a pleasure to be here in Geneva to attend this important NAM Meeting of Ministers of Health. Before proceeding, allow me to offer my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to you, Mr Chairman, because under your able and constructive stewardship we are finally gathered here for the very first time during this vital World Health Assembly. Experience of the last few years showed us that within the global health system and process, there is indeed a gap between developed and developing countries. Hence, the importance of NAM to advance and protect the interest of developing countries.
On this occasion, I would like to again congratulate the Government of Cuba, as the Chairman of NAM, for its productive deliberations during many consultation processes, and for preparing two timely drafts, respectively the Declarations on “Migration and Training for Qualified Health Workers”, and on “Diseases Disproportionately Affecting Developing Countries”, which will be endorsed by the NAM member countries. Indonesia firmly supports both Declarations, which send a clear message and reflect not only NAM solidarity, but also its important relevance in the face of emerging global issues.
The future of developing countries will depend much on the efforts to provide quality health care for the young generation. In this regard, a spirit of solidarity will continue to drive future collaboration on health among NAM countries. No nation can solve its health problems in isolation. Hence cooperation on health among NAM member countries has emerged as a foremost activity. Allow me, therefore, to invite all NAM members to consider a new draft Declaration on Responsible Practice for Sharing of Avian Influenza Viruses and Benefits Sharing.
As a citizen of a developing country, I must keep voicing the need to explore the development of transparent, fair and equitable virus sharing and benefits sharing, arising from the generation of information, diagnostics, medicines, vaccines and other technologies; and the need for developing countries to benefit also from the timely sharing and dissemination of information, data and biological specimens. Benefits that include in particular the development and production of influenza vaccines accessible to and affordable by all countries, with a view to accelerating local, regional and global preparedness and response to the threat of an Avian Influenza pandemic.
This issue is indeed pertinent to NAM member countries, the majority of whom are developing countries. I believe this declaration has been kindly distributed by Cuba as NAM Chairman. I sincerely hope you have had ample time to study the draft which underscores, among others, the need to replace the existing Global Influenza and Surveillance Network (GISN), considered an unfair and non-transparent virus-sharing mechanism, with the WHO Influenza Network (WIN), which will be a fairer and more transparent as well as more equitable mechanism based on mutual trust and transparency.
However, as time does not allow us to elaborate more on this draft and further consultations are required, with the permission of our Chair, I would like to propose that the draft be considered as our next immediate NAM’s Declaration. I shall continue to seek your valuable support and solidarity for our Declaration on Responsible Practice for Sharing of Avian Influenza Viruses and Benefits Sharing. Furthermore, I am also seeking your support for the coming resumed IGM which will be held in November 2008.
The IGM in last November 2007 reached a consensus on the Interim Statement that the WHO GISN (Global Influenza Surveillance Network), which is under the jurisdiction of the US Government, does not deliver the desired level of fairness, transparency and equity. The Interim Statement acknowledges there has been a breakdown of trust in the international collaboration and collective action. The IGM already reached agreement to take urgent action to develop fair, transparent and equitable international mechanisms on virus sharing and benefits sharing. Under the Interim Statement, we agree that viruses and samples are to be shared within the WHO system, consistent with national laws and regulations.
As I pointed out in my remarks at the opening of IGM last year, I reiterate that since the emergence of the present global debate on virus sharing and benefit sharing, I have repeatedly emphasized that the GISN can never be fair nor transparent, when the states’ sovereign rights and their respective governing laws are not taken into consideration. Therefore, the GISN must be replaced and the genesis of a new mechanism is inevitable. As an organization which governs global health system, WHO must not take side to any single member state in its undertakings, but deliver its services to all member states if the Organization truly desires to achieve global health governance. WHO should protect poor and developing countries from exploitation by rich and strong developed countries.
Two days ago in the general debate session of the 61st WHA meeting, a member state claimed that the 60-year-old tradition of GISN as a great public health success. They might be overlooking the hard facts that constitute our current challenges and inconsistent with the Interim Statement.
I am not sure NAM member states will agree that having a global capacity of less than 5% to produce human influenza vaccines is something that we can define as a great public health success. It is actually a great failure since technology access and transfer have not been made available to developing nations. This situation contributes to the failure of stockpile program in meeting the challenge faced by global influenza pandemic preparedness. Therefore, let me reiterate that virus sharing and benefits sharing are joint responsibility of not only developing countries, but also developed countries.
We need to be reassured that viruses are used mainly for risk assessment and to ensure that vaccines can be produced for WHO stockpile. Countries should not be forced to share viruses for the benefit of companies that will reap huge profits for people who can afford vaccines while leaving a large part of the population exposed to pandemic influenza risks without access to affordable vaccines.
Indonesia holds the notion that benefits for developing countries should be a structured responsibility rather than a charity or good will of developed countries, where vaccine manufacturers are located, There should be a mechanism in place for benefit sharing if we want to achieve a balance developed and developing countries and cut the vicious cycle of poverty and infectious diseases in developing countries.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,
In conclusion, let me reaffirm Indonesia's long-standing and principled position within NAM and its spirit of solidarity with its members. This spirit governs our firm support for developing our collaboration with other NAM member countries to share our knowledge and experiences on health issues and for South-South cooperation in health.