This meeting takes place during an on-going crisis. While the worst case scenarios have been averted, and we have seen sustained reduction in the transmission rates for some time, the situation in West Africa still calls for the full attention and support from the international community. We need to get to zero cases of transmission as soon as possible.
This Special session of the EB is undoubtedly an important moment for the WHO. Our expectation is that today’s discussions produces an outcome that is forward-looking, and which will restore confidence in WHO’s ability to prepare for and respond to future, large-scale health emergencies.
We thank the Secretariat for having produced the document ‘Ebola at the end of 2014: getting to zero’, and OCHA for having presented an updated version of the Overview of Needs and Requirements. Together they present a strategy for ending the outbreak that builds on lessons and progress to date and that is adjusted to meet the requirements of a new phase in the response.
It is a clear Norwegian position, that when faced with emergencies of the scale seen in West Africa, the WHO must take all steps necessary to mount an effective response. Which means that other tasks may have to be postponed, and resources reallocated.
We expect, and it is a necessity, that all three levels of the organisation actively contribute to getting to zero. It is a prerogative and duty of the Director General to direct human and financial resources accordingly. We strongly support the DG’s mandate to make use of the organisastion’s full resources as required.
First of all, let me thank the Secretariat for document EB136/49. It provides an honest assessment of the challenges facing the WHO in health emergencies, and a bold, constructive and comprehensive set of proposals to significantly strengthen the organization’s ability to effectively respond to such events.
We support the overall message in the document, and believe that it is critical that the main recommendations of the report are implemented. We would also caution that, if we are incapable of addressing the challenges confronted by this organization, we will risk a marginalization of the WHO in the handling of future health crises, and the possibility that states will look elsewhere for solutions and ending up with unnecessary complex and costly structures.
We already have sufficient knowledge to begin the process of strengthening the WHO, in part thanks to the assessment and plan for improving the organization provided by the Secretariat in the document EB136/49. We welcome the report’s emphasis on the importance of strengthened leadership and coherence, to ensure that all three levels of the WHO work optimally in the face of crises.
We also agree that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has demonstrated a need for greater surge capacity, as well as structures more attuned to supporting the complexities and varying scale of emergency response. To achieve this, the WHO must take a thorough look at its human resources and planning systems, and ensure a clear, single line of command for emergency operations for all levels of the organization.
In closing, let me reiterate our view that the WHO is the logical UN agency to coordinate global action amid large-scale health emergencies. Enabling the WHO to take that role does not require us to revisit its mandate. The mandate is clear. What is needed are re-doubled efforts to overcome organizational deficiencies, and to strengthen the WHO’s capacities.