Item 16.1: 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak

Statement on “Ebola Interim Evaluation Panel” (A68/25) and Statement on “Global Health Emergency Workforce” (A68/27)

Statement on “Ebola Interim Evaluation Panel” (A68/25)

•Let me first take this opportunity to thank the Interim Assessment Panel for having produced a very insightful analysis of WHO’s response in the Ebola outbreak. While we await the Panel’s final conclusions, we consider that this first report provides a plausible account of the how the response unfolded, and a convincing analysis of structural shortcomings in need of urgent correction. 
•Most importantly, we agree with the Panel that this is a defining moment for WHO. It is imperative to quickly and immediately strengthen WHO’s emergency capacity. It is likely that States and others will look elsewhere if the reforms initiated at the EBSS fail to materialise, or if the outcome of this process fall short of what’s actually required to make WHO fit for leading the response to future health crises.
•Delivering on the EBSS resolution is the responsibility of both the Member States and the Secretariat. As Member States we need to enable the Director-General to fulfil her mandate. We must provide the resources, and the political backing required to make the necessary changes in the WHO. And we count on the Director-General to continue to develop her concepts for reforming the WHO, and for implementing them throughout the organisation.
•The outbreak has demonstrated a lack of capacity to handle complex emergencies. We welcome the commitment to addressing these shortcomings, including the decisions made at the EBSS to establish a Global Health Emergency Workforce and greater internal surge capacity at the WHO.
•In order to get value for money, we emphasise that structural changes must accompany the reform elements decided at EBSS. Firm structures for leadership and coordination must be in place that can facilitate quick and resolute action when necessary. Effective crisis management necessitates systems for information-sharing across the organisation, mechanisms for quick decision-making and unified lines of command that are unambiguously understood and practiced.
•WHO must cultivate partnerships with other UN entities, as well as non-state actors and private sector. WHO can not play a credible role in leading the response to large health crisis without deepening and strengthening such partnerships. An overly restrictive framework for engagement with Non-state actors would be hugely detrimental in this context.    

Statement on “Global Health Emergency Workforce” (A68/27)

•Let me first thank the Secretariat for having provided its conceptual plan for a global health emergency workforce. We appreciate its emphasis on building on existing capacities, including its emphasis on the crucial role of national responders. It is clear that Governments retain the primary role and responsibility in developing robust capacities to prevent and respond to health emergencies. It is clear too, that certain crises, such as the Ebola outbreak, may necessitate the deployment of external responders.
•The Special Session on Ebola in January tasked the WHO to come up with a concept for strengthening our collecitve ability to provide such external assistance. While there are many proposals in the Director-General’s report that we whole-heartedly support, including the emphasis on early identification of members; regular training and simulations; the development of a single emergency training system for WHO-driven deployments; and the recognition of the value of deepened partnerships with WFP, UNOCHA, UNFPA, UNICEF and others; the documentation also left some unclarities that should be clarified in the Decision Points.
•First of all, we believe that the Decision Points should clarify the architecture surrounding the GHEW. We welcome the Director-General’s announcement yesterday that she is establishing a unified WHO Programme for emergencies, and consider this announcement a useful clarification that should be welcomed by the WHA.
•Second, we also welcome the Director-General’s confirmation that the Emergency Response Programme will be directly accountable to her, and would find it useful if the Decision Points endorsed this, including the importance of ensuring a direct line of command that can enable rapid reaction.
•Third, we note the Report’s proposal that most emergency response staff will be based at country level, and that only a core team will work at headquarters. On this issue, we strongly emphasise that staff and resources must be flexible and mobile, not tied to specific country offices or regions, and subject to the direct control of the Director-General.
•In closing, we emphasise that emergency management requires specialised expertise, and therefore that WHO should take steps to ensure that the structures now being established are both led by qualified crisis managers, and that such expertise is actively consulted when determining the future direction of the WHO’s emergency reform.