Speech by Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren at WHO Partners Forum 10 April 2019 at Museum of Photography, Stockholm

Dear Guests,

I would like to welcome you to this second day of the WHO Partner Forum. I would especially like to welcome Dr Tedros and the WHO team and also the leaders for the Global Fund, Gavi, the International Red Cross Federations and IPPF.

As Minister of Health, representing the Swedish government, I am honored to have this first meeting in Stockholm. This is a historic moment for honest discussions on tackling modern global health threats. We need to ensure that WHO is equipped and supported to be able to lead the global response to future health challenges.

In the creation of the Swedish welfare state, gender equality has been a major factor. Universal and affordable access to sexual and reproductive health and rights has contributed to both high fertility rates and high employment rates, and women’s participation in the labour market has, in turn, contributed to Sweden’s stability and economic growth.

Broad, cross-regional support for gender equality, respect for human rights including sexual and reproductive health and rights is fundamental to sustainable development. The Agenda 2030 can only be fulfilled with full enjoyment of SRHR for all and if women and girls are an active part of development, having full autonomy of their own bodies.

SRHR interventions that safeguards women’s and girls’ rights to their own bodies and lives, which includes access to safe and legal abortions. This benefits women, adolescents, children and societies at large.

The participation of women and girls is necessary for the functioning of democracy. To achieve this men and boys must be engaged, too.  

Around the world, democracy, multilateralism and already agreed commitments on human rights, including SRHR, are under threat and being increasingly questioned. Sweden has a feminist Government and will continue to pursue a feminist foreign policy. We will continue our extensive support to sexual and reproductive health and rights, for all, including LGBTQI persons, at the normative level as well as financially. We are hopeful that we jointly can foster a more constructive dialogue, for the benefit of all our communities and societies and the integrity of a UN system we all are part and proud of.

In 1945 the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Sir Alexander Fleming, and colleagues for the discovery of penicillin.

Over time, we have come to rely heavily on antibiotics and we take for granted that we can treat infectious diseases and perform advanced medical procedures with the help of antibiotics.

But indeed, today increasing antimicrobial resistance threatens the foundations of modern medicine and is a true challenge to global health and development.

Since many years, the Swedish Government has been strongly committed to the fight against AMR.

The overall use of antibiotics in Sweden over the past 20 years has decreased substantially, without measurable negative consequences, and levels of antibiotic resistance are low compared with other countries.

Achievements in the AMR area can be attributed to committed work among many different professions and areas in the society according to a One Health approach.

Sweden also support the Global AMR Surveillance System (GLASS) through the WHO Collaborating Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Containment.

I am proud of our hard and persistent work. But there is no room for contentment. AMR is an evolving threat that calls for an evolving response.

AMR is a worldwide challenge. We must work together to be successful. No country can tackle health threats of this kind on its own. 

Finally, UN-reform is one of Sweden’s top priorities. The creation of an independent and empowered Resident Coordinator and a new generation of UN Country Teams is key for UN’s capacity to collectively support countries to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. Sweden welcomes WHO’s transformation agenda, it reflects the goals of a reformed United Nations system. Simplifying procedures and increasing transparency, efficiency and accountability is a shared goal for the UN system.

Sweden believes in a strong and efficient multilateral system. This is not only because we are a relatively small country but the global challenges we have in front of us today require global solution and multilateral cooperation.

WHO has a very important role to play in this global system. But WHO needs to reform - as all organization need to do over time.

This meeting is already about the effective financing of the work of WHO. I am proud that Sweden is the leading partner providing un-earmarked flexible support to WHO.

This is part of our overall strategy for more effective financing of the UN systems. And we prefer providing un-ear marked finances but we expect high quality reporting and accountability on the totality of what you do.

Once again very much welcome to Sweden and to I hope and I am sure of – a very productive WHO Partners Forum.