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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Rafael Seguis
Undersecretary for Policy of the Department of Foreign Affairs Open Meeting on Diplomacy and Global Health 4:00-5:00 pm, Thursday, 27 September 2007 United Nations, New York
First of all, let me express my appreciation to H. E. Mr. Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, in cooperation with their Excellencies, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, France, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa and Thailand, for organizing this open discussion on diplomacy and health issues.
I applaud you for this initiative and express our support for this important effort to focus collective international attention on the critical global challenge of health.
Recent experience shows that key health issues can no longer be confined to any one country. Our common vulnerabilities have been exposed with HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, SARS and other pandemic and potentially pandemic diseases.
Disease respects neither borders nor nationality. Health problems with global consequences must be globally managed. They must also be seen from a humanitarian standpoint divorced from any attempt at politicization.
Health is fundamental to economic growth and development, and is significant for a nation’s long-term human security and stability. Three of the eight Millennium Development Goals are directly health-related. Existing health problems may be seriously exacerbated by endemic underdevelopment and by climate change as well.
The connection between health and security is becoming increasingly evident. We already have to handle the health dimensions of refugee and other humanitarian crises. Moving beyond this, conditions of endemic poverty and ill-health generally go together, retarding development, which in turn may spark social stress and civil conflict. More urgently, there is the danger of terrorist threats to our health through actions ranging from the use of biological weapons to attacks on our food security.
Clearly, health is closely linked to other global challenges. This only underscores the need for international action on cross-cutting global problems.
We must take purposeful and positive action together in the face of the reality that globalization has blurred distinctions between a country’s domestic and foreign policy agendas.
It is, therefore, reassuring that the linkage between health issues and foreign policy is now increasingly recognized. This meeting is, itself, a testimony to the slowly growing realization that the Foreign Office must be as important an actor in forging international health action as the Ministry of Health.
Embarking on this quest of highlighting global health issues will require adequate preparedness and capacities at the national level. We must, in an honest and transparent way, assess our shortcomings and our strengths in the health area, domestically and internationally, as a precursor to more effective global cooperation. Developing nations will need assistance in this area, especially as regards capacity-building, to help them better manage public health emergencies that pose cross-border threats.
Finally, there is a deepening problem in global health care. Many developed nations are projected to face serious shortages in health sector workers. Health workers are being recruited from developing nations, depleting their pool of skilled human resources that they cannot quickly replace.
As a major source of healthcare workers worldwide, the Philippines feels that cooperation in this area should produce win-win outcomes for all countries involved.
This aspect of health and migration will be an important part of the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development, which will be held in Manila next year. Let me take this opportunity to personally invite all of you to join us in Manila and for us to pursue discussions on diplomacy and global health in the vital area of global migration.
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