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Ban Ki-moon calls for greater emphasis on global health at GHF Conference

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated:2021-06-04

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Ban Ki-moon, chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, delivers a speech via video at the opening ceremony of the second Conference of Global Health Forum of Boao Forum for Asia on June 2. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Here's the speech delivered by Ban Ki-moon, chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, during the opening ceremony of the second Conference of Global Health Forum of Boao Forum for Asia on June 2 in Qingdao, Shandong province.

Vice Chairman Li Bin

Vice Chairman Zhou Xiaochuan

Party Secretary Liu Jiayi

Secretary General Li Baodong

President Margaret Chan

Colleagues

Fellow delegates

Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the Boao Forum for Asia, I would like to extend a warm welcome to leaders, speakers and delegates present here today, either in person or online. The fact that so many of you traveled freely to the conference shows how much we've achieved in fighting the pandemic. The fact that many others cannot means that we still have a long way to go before economy and social life return to normal.

It's not over yet, but it is never too early to sum up and learn lessons. One of the bitter lessons we have learned is that we have paid much attention to GDP and growth rate, but not as much to health, environment and the "soft" side of development. This lopsided approach has its consequences, and we're seeing that in this crisis. Many countries, including the developed ones, were caught unprepared in terms of basic needs such as masks. Hospitals were stretched too thin and faced a shortage of beds, hands and ventilators. Even though factories ramped up production, many countries still failed to meet the huge gap in medical supplies.

This chronic neglect of health has backfired in many ways. Not only were millions of lives lost, but our economy and trade were pushed back to a level unseen since World War II. Health is no longer something that relates only to life expectancy or quality of life. It is increasingly an integral part of sustainable development in the broad sense. Consistent and strong inputs in health pay off economically, building human capital as one of the foremost drivers of growth and material well-being. Neglect or inadequate resources, on the other side, dampen and disrupt economic progress as we're experiencing today.

The United Nations has seen this and resolved to address it. The 2030 Agenda lists 17 dimensions that are essential to sustainable development. "Good health and wellbeing" rank alongside climate action, no poverty, gender equality and education as a "must" for the shared future of mankind.

The Boao Forum for Asia has seen this and decided to do its own bit. Three years ago when the new Board of Directors was elected, my colleagues and I mapped out five new frontiers for the Forum to expand into. First and foremost is health.

The Global Health Forum has seen this and acted to re-focus the world's attention. President Margaret Chan, a global leader and advocate for health, has worked hard with her team to highlight the urgency and importance of universal health, health in all policies and innovation for health. The level and size of participation at this conference shows how well the message is being taken.

Our host country China has seen this. China was among the first to bring the virus under effective control. This meant that it was among the first to get its economy and social life going again. The China example is telling enough on why we must do a good job in health.

Our host province Shandong and host city Qingdao have seen this and volunteered to be the site for BFA's Global Health Forum. This is a decision of vision and farsightedness, and we appreciate all you've done in making this conference possible.

Health challenges are complex and multifaceted. Epidemics and pandemics call for better preparedness and response in public health. Malaria, hepatitis and tuberculosis continue to plague a large part of the world's population. Chronic diseases detract from the quality of life. As the population ages, the sustainability of our healthcare system needs to be timely addressed.

A comprehensive and multi-stakeholder approach is necessary in addressing these concerns. Governments, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, scientists, doctors and nurses must work together, face-to-face and hand-in-hand. The Global Health Forum is one such occasion. In the next two days, over 1,000 speakers and delegates will share their thoughts and points in various panels and roundtables. I look forward to inspiring ideas and solutions out of such a grand brainstorming. 

Science, technology and innovation (STI) lies at the core. GHF is not just an occasion for leaders to meet, debate and agree. It is also an occasion for innovation to be seen, touched and felt through the Global Health Expo. I urge and encourage more inputs in R&D by government, business and academia, and wish to see more cutting-edge technologies, devices and therapeutics getting to market to benefit the people. 

Thank you.

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