Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on global health and infodemics at the meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism during the Paris Peace Forum: “Strengthening the multilateral health architecture (One Health High-Level Expert Panel) and fighting against infodemics”

12.11.2020 - Speech

(Video stream)

“We only value health when sickness comes.”

This saying applies not only to each of us – but also to our global community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made diplomacy much more difficult. But it has also created a powerful reason for international cooperation: In the pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe.

That is why the Alliance for Multilateralism has made global health its priority. At our most recent meeting in September, 70 ministers underlined the goal to boost and reform the multilateral health architecture.

And we are focusing on three areas:

First, our call to make COVID-19 vaccines a global public good. Countries around the world have joined it – choosing solidarity over vaccine nationalism. And recent data from the German company BioNTech and its American partner give us hope that a vaccine could indeed be effective.

However, having a vaccine is only the first step. Its fair, global distribution will be crucial. And therefore, we must increase our support to the ACT Accelerator, and its vaccine pillar, COVAX. And we are doing so as part of a coordinated initiative by the European Commission.

Second, we must strengthen the WHO. Our alliance has prepared concrete proposals to enhance WHO resilience, preparedness and capacity to act in global health crises. And after the US elections last week, I am hopeful that we can once again count on our American friends in this important endeavour.

Third, we should apply the “One Health” approach. The pandemic has shown us how closely human, animal and planetary health are linked.

We can base our work on the “Berlin Principles” which were adopted at the “One Planet, One Health, One Future” conference last year.

As a next step, we are launching the One Health High-Level Expert Council today. And I would like to thank the WHO, the FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health and the United Nations Environment Programme for their great cooperation.

Let me make one final point:

The fight against the pandemic is also about communication. To win it, we need reliable, transparent and fact-based information. This does not limit freedom of expression.

But manipulation and disinformation are the deadly partners of the virus. That is why our Alliance’s “Partnership on Information and Democracy” is so important. And I am looking forward to the recommendations that the working group on infodemics will present today.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

There is no doubt that the pandemic will remain at the top of our agenda for quite some time. But it is not unbeatable:

Vaccines are being developed. Treatments are getting more effective. And, last but not least: The international community is finally coming together. Our meeting is living proof.

Thank you for being part of the solution!


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