Statement by H.E. Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia At the Ministerial Meeting on Health and Foreign Policy Initiative Oslo, Norway 20 March 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Your Excellency and to the Government and people of Norway for convening this important meeting. Indonesia is honoured to join this initiative.
I wish to commend the Expert Group for working so hard in accordance its mandate, thereby contributing to a future world of better health.
There is no doubt that the health and well-being of humankind today is under grievous threat. In the previous millennium, it was not too formidable a challenge to keep diseases such as influenza, cholera, leprosy and polio within national borders. But today millions of people regularly cross national borders carrying with them bacteria and viruses and disease-bearing parasites. There is today no clear boundary between domestic and international health problems.
Compounding this dismal reality are changes in the lifestyles of populations as a result of the stimulation of global mass marketing. That is why today we have a world epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and cancer and other lifestyle-related diseases.
In Indonesia alone, AIDS cases are rampant. From 1987 to December 2006, a total of 1871 people died and 5230 have tested HIV positive. The numbers continue to grow.
Meanwhile new diseases are on the rise. The number of Avian Influenza cases increased dramatically from four in 2003 to more than 250 at the beginning of this year. Sixty-three persons have died from this new disease. And there is only one or two companies in the developed world that has the license to produce the cure to this disease, the antiviral Tamiflu. It is not produced at all in the developing world. What can foreign policy do to stop this perilous trend?
Foreign policy has always concerned itself with the issue of health. But considering the unprecedented magnitude of this problem today, we have to raise the question of whether governments are giving this issue the priority that it demands, and whether governments are interacting sufficiently on this issue with the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders.
We need to make a thorough assessment that will answer these urgent questions. On the basis of that assessment, we will have to build a global mechanism that can more effectively generate health facilitation on a global basis. Such a global health mechanism must be backed up by the firm commitment of all nations.
In the building of that health mechanism, we must also consider the reality of climate change and its impact on the health of humankind can no longer be denied.
During this decade, natural disasters like tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, and typhoons have descended on the Asia Pacific region in vast numbers. They have killed hundreds of thousands in Indonesia alone. To a nation’s health system, nothing is more challenging than to respond adequately to massive health problems brought about by a natural disaster. Moreover, such emergencies also create problems of resources being diverted away from normal national priorities.
We Indonesians can never forget the unprecedented catastrophe in the form of an earthquake and tsunami that struck our province of Aceh and Nias Island on 26 December 2004. That disaster killed some 150,000 persons in Indonesia alone.
Responding to the tragedy, our Department of Foreign Affairs instantly convened a summit of donor countries and international organizations that would help the affected populations survive their ordeal and pick up the pieces of their lives and later rebuild their communities. Since then the Department has set up a task force to respond to national disasters. I will soon assign a hundred young diplomats to beef up this task force.
Another challenge that foreign policy must address is the issue of ensuring that the poor have access to life-saving patented drugs. For this purpose, some adjustments to accommodate the requirements of public health have been made under the TRIPS of the World Trade Organization regime. Yet there are still prohibitive barriers to a freer flow of vitally needed medicines.
A cross-sectoral dialogue is therefore needed in both developed and developing countries to bring down tariffs and other barriers to a more vigorous flow of vitally needed medicines. We must find ways to make the global trading system serve as an instrument for the promotion of human health worldwide. In this regard, Indonesia will be hosting this year a regional meeting on Avian Influenza which will also discuss ways to make antiviral drugs affordable and accessible in the event of a pandemic.
Less than ten percent of health research today is directed towards the major health problems that affect 90 percent of the world’s population. This makes for a dangerous situation. It is also a social injustice, for it will make health a private good and a preserve only of the rich.
To address this problem, several options have been brought up in other forums. One is for governments to renovate the existing international health mechanism. Another is the exercise of the Corporate Social Responsibility of private companies as a major way of marshalling the resources for global health equity.
At any rate, we should also encourage the establishment of independent forums, partnerships or alliances within our countries to promote discussions and concrete efforts among all stakeholders to resolve inequities in systems of delivery of health services.
Since our last meeting in New York last September, three Expert Group meetings have been convened respectively in Paris, Senegal and Geneva. The Experts have thoroughly discussed all the relevant issues to the challenge of world health. They have also formulated a declaration for our adoption.
My delegation fully supports the draft declaration. We hope that it will be adopted in this meeting and that its adoption will mark the beginning of a common effort that will eventually produce a more effective and more just international health mechanism.
With such a mechanism, we can look forward to a world in which our future generation can lead healthier, fuller and more meaningful lives.
I thank you.