Pandemic preparedness, support for Ukraine, and the fight against superbugs topped the agenda Tuesday as WHO and UK health leaders met in London to discuss their shared global health priorities.
In their first one-on-one meeting, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay MP spoke at length about their shared commitment to delivering a pandemic instrument – a new international agreement being negotiated by WHO Member States – to strengthen global collaboration to help protect the world from another pandemic.
Mr Barclay outlined the UK government’s priorities for a pandemic instrument, which include faster and more efficient data sharing between WHO Member States; quicker, more equitable access to affordable vaccines, tests and treatments; and stronger collaboration on scientific research and development.
“The World Health Organization has reached a significant milestone this year in the marking of its 75th anniversary, and I’m proud of the UK’s longstanding relationship with WHO to improve public health,” Mr Barclay said. “The UK is playing a leading role in tackling some of the world’s greatest health threats, including antimicrobial resistance for which we recently announced £39 million for research into new drugs to combat infections.”
In 2022 and in the previous biennium, the UK was the largest contributor to WHO’s Core Voluntary Contributions Account. The account provides flexible funds that WHO can use and allocate as needed within its approved programme budgets.
Earlier in the day, Dr Tedros joined International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell and Health Minister Will Quince for the annual UK-WHO Strategic Dialogue to discuss how to tackle global health challenges together and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
They spoke about effectively responding to health emergencies, preventing the next pandemic and confronting threats to health posed by climate change.
Ministers Mitchell and Quince emphasized the importance of building strong health systems in countries and protecting the health and rights of women and girls. Ministers also cited the importance of reform to strengthen WHO as an organization, expressing support for WHO’s extensive efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.
“WHO highly values its strong and impactful collaboration with the UK Government to promote and protect the health of people worldwide,” Dr Tedros said as the meetings concluded. “Today’s strategic dialogue with Ministers Mitchell and Quince, and my productive discussions with Secretary of State Barclay, demonstrated the UK’s commitment to global public health, its support of the World Health Organization, and the great potential and impact of our partnership. I look forward to continuing our joint work to make the world healthier and safer on many fronts, from combatting antimicrobial resistance to supporting the UK and countries around the world to develop a generational accord to prevent and respond to future pandemics.”
Read more about the UK and WHO’s partnership in global health.