EU leaders agree on new sanctions against Russia

31 May
On the first day of the special summit, EU leaders backed the sixth sanctions package against Russia, which covers crude oil and petroleum products. The leaders also agreed to grant Ukraine micro financial assistance of up to € 9 billion and discussed continued EU support to Ukraine, including political, humanitarian, and military support.

Secretary Blinken’s Call with Greek Foreign Minister Dendias

30 May

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to condemn in the strongest terms the May 27 seizure of two Greek-flagged vessels by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights and freedoms are a threat to maritime security and the global economy.  The Secretary and Foreign Minister agreed that Iran must immediately release the seized vessels, their cargoes, and their crews.

The United States stands with Greece, our key NATO Ally and partner in the face of this unjustified seizure.

U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Stern’s Travel to Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden

30 May

Office of the Spokesperson

U.S. Special Envoy Jessica Stern will travel to Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden, May 31-June 8.  During her visits, Special Envoy Stern will engage with local human rights defenders and civil society representatives regarding the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons globally, with a specific focus on LGBTQI+ refugees from Ukraine.

In the Netherlands and Sweden, Special Envoy Stern will meet with government and civil society counterparts to discuss advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons via multilateral institutions and public-private partnerships such as the Global Equality Fund.

In Lithuania, among her engagements, the Special Envoy will participate in Baltic Pride’s Proud Cities Summit, where she will speak in the first session panel discussion on “Equality, Diversity, Inclusion: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities” and engage with youth at an informal Q&A session.

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WHO raises alarm on tobacco industry environmental impact

30 May

WHO has today revealed new information on the extent to which tobacco damages both the environment and human health, calling for steps to make the industry more accountable for the destruction it is causing.

Every year the tobacco industry costs the world more than 8 million human lives, 600 million trees, 200 000 hectares of land, 22 billion tonnes of water and 84 million tonnes of CO2. 

The majority of tobacco is grown in low-and-middle-income countries, where water and farmland are often desperately needed to produce food for the region. Instead, they are being used to grow deadly tobacco plants, while more and more land is being cleared of forests.

The WHO report “Tobacco: Poisoning our planet” highlights that the industry’s carbon footprint from production, processing and transporting tobacco is equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced by the commercial airline industry each year, further contributing to global warming. 

“Tobacco products are the most littered item on the planet, containing over 7000 toxic chemicals, which leech into our environment when discarded. Roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil and beaches every year,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.

Products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes also add to the build-up of plastic pollution. Cigarette filters contain microplastics and make up the second-highest form of plastic pollution worldwide.

Despite tobacco industry marketing, there is no evidence that filters have any proven health benefits. WHO calls on policy-makers to treat cigarette filters, as what they are, single use plastics, and consider banning cigarette filters to protect public health and the environment.

The costs of cleaning up littered tobacco products fall on taxpayers, rather than the industry creating the problem. Each year, this costs China roughly US$ 2.6 billion and India roughly US$ 766 million. The cost for Brazil and Germany comes in at over US$ 200 million (see table below for further estimates).

Countries like France and Spain and cities like San Francisco, California in the USA have taken a stand. Following the Polluter Pays Principle, they have successfully implemented “extended producer responsibility legislation” which makes the tobacco industry responsible for clearing up the pollution it creates.

WHO urges countries and cities to follow this example, as well as give support to tobacco farmers to switch to sustainablecrops, implement strong tobacco taxes (that could also include an environmental tax) and offer support services to help people quit tobacco.

Note to the editor: In the table below, we present estimates of tobacco product waste (TPW) attributable costs in one country from each of the WHO regions. These estimates are based on the “proportional estimation” approach, which starts with an estimate of the costs of total litter (“all product waste,” or APW) for each country, and then applies an estimate of the proportion of all litter that is TPW (i.e., a TPW “weight”).

Table of estimates for Tobacco Product Waste in five countries for 2021.

For estimated APW costs (column [1]), we relied on publicly available literature and reports for as many of the six countries as possible.  For Brazil, China, and India, we were not able to identify any sources. Thus, for those countries, we imputed APW costs by applying the average APW cost per capita of similar middle-income countries for which data were available. Once we had an APW cost for all countries, we applied the TPW proportion. The TPW proportion was based on the global average from the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, weighted by the WHO smoking prevalence in each country (i.e., we assumed that countries with higher rates of smoking would have higher proportions of TPW). The final TPW cost estimate is the APW cost multiplied by the weighted TPW proportion.



Croatia Statehood Day

30 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Croatia as you celebrate your Statehood Day.

As highlighted during our Strategic Dialogue held in March, the United States looks forward to further deepening our people-to-people connections, strengthening trade and investment ties, enhancing energy security, confronting the climate crisis, and working together to address regional and global challenges, including Putin’s unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated war against Ukraine.

At the dawn of our diplomatic relationship 30 years ago, we were proud to stand with Croatia.  We are proud to stand with Croatia today as NATO Allies, Transatlantic partners, and as two peoples tied strongly to one another by shared values and unbreakable bonds of friendship.

Concerns with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Visit to the People’s Republic of China

29 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States remains concerned about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and her team’s visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and PRC efforts to restrict and manipulate her visit. While we continue to raise our concerns about China’s human rights abuses directly with Beijing and support others who do so, we are concerned the conditions Beijing authorities imposed on the visit did not enable a complete and independent assessment of the human rights environment in the PRC, including in Xinjiang, where genocide and crimes against humanity are ongoing.

We are further troubled by reports that residents of Xinjiang were warned not to complain or speak openly about conditions in the region, that no insight was provided into the whereabouts of hundreds of missing Uyghurs and conditions for over a million individuals in detention.  The High Commissioner should have been allowed confidential meetings with family members of Uyghur and other ethnic minority diaspora communities in Xinjiang who are not in detention facilities but are forbidden from traveling out of the region.  We also note that the High Commissioner was not allowed access to individuals who were part of the Xinjiang labor transfer program and have been sent to other provinces across China.

The United States remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the PRC, particularly in light of new reports that offer further proof of arbitrary detentions among the more than one million people detained in Xinjiang.  Survivors and family members of detainees have described cruel treatment that shocks the conscience, including torture, forced sterilization, state-sponsored forced labor, sexual violence, and forced separation of children from their parents. We also urge the PRC to respect the human rights of Tibetans, those living in Hong Kong, and all others who seek to peacefully exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We again call on the PRC to immediately cease its atrocities in Xinjiang release those unjustly detained, account for those disappeared, and allow independent investigators unhindered access to Xinjiang, Tibet, and across China.

Secretary Blinken’s Call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry

29 May

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry today regarding the situation in Yemen and the importance of flights between Sana’a and Cairo.  The Secretary thanked the Government of Egypt for approving these flights and expressed his hope that the first flight will occur in the coming days to allow Yemenis to seek medical care and join loved ones from across the diverse Yemeni diaspora community in Egypt.  The Secretary and Foreign Minister Shoukry also discussed strengthening the bilateral relationship, and cooperation on regional issues as well as the severe impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on global food security.

Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly – Daily update: 28 May 2022

28 May

Standardization of medical devices nomenclature

On the final day of the 75th World Health Assembly, Member States requested the Secretariat to continue the integration of information related to terms, codes and definitions of existing systems for naming medical devices, and make them available to Member States, through its Medical Devices Information System (MEDEVIS). They asked the Secretariat to link MEDEVIS to other WHO electronic platforms, such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

The process will advance the management of medical devices with the goal of enhancing access to medical devices; contributing to emergency preparedness and response; and improving patient safety and the quality of health care.

There are currently thousands of types of different medical devices in use, ranging from stethoscopes to complex imaging technologies. The absence of a common standard name for each type of medical device has caused confusion between the various types of devices; affected supply and traceability, and impeded health care delivery.

The survey that informed the latest edition of the WHO global atlas of medical devices indicates that 75 countries do not have an official nomenclature system.

The Secretariat is to report on progress at the 152nd Executive Board.


Priority medical devices information system 

International classification of diseases 11th revision

Improving infection, prevention and control

The World Health Assembly also approved a ‘Global Strategy on Infection Prevention and Control’ through a resolution that aims to position IPC as central to infectious hazard and health emergency preparedness and response, and as key to addressing the silent burden of healthcare associated infections (HAIs) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It positions IPC in the context of health system strengthening and high-quality care delivery, with the aim of improving patient and health worker safety.

The resolution, which comes at a time when COVID-19 has vividly demonstrated the critical role of good IPC in keeping people safe, provides 13 recommendations to Member States. These range from including IPC as a key component in global health emergency preparedness, prevention and response, to ensuring sustainable IPC programmes and WASH infrastructures and resources at the national, sub-national and health-care facility level in all countries.

Earlier this week, WHO issued the first ever global report on infection, prevention and control, noting that in low and middle-income countries, 15 of every 100 people visiting a healthcare facility will leave it with a new infection, and estimating that half the world’s health facilities lack basic water supplies. The report provides a global situation analysis of how IPC programmes are being implemented in countries around the world. It also highlights harm to patients and health workers caused by HIAs and AMR; addresses the impact and cost-effectiveness of IPC programmes; and suggests strategies, resources and key priorities to countries for IPC improvement.


Draft resolution: Global strategy on infection prevention and control

Infection prevention and control 


Global Strategies for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections

In the final discussion of the World Health Assembly, Member States noted with appreciation new Global Health Sector Strategies for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections for the period 2022-2030.

The global health sector strategies aim to reignite momentum in the responses to these diseases that had been eroded by disruptions to services during the COVID-19 pandemic. They set out to simultaneously strengthen responses to specific diseases while increasingly integrating them into broader health frameworks and taking opportunities, where feasible, to increase impact by addressing aspects of the diseases jointly.

The strategies call for a more precise focus to reach the people who are most affected and most at risk for each disease, and to address inequities. They promote synergies under a universal health coverage and primary health care framework. They also outline actions to identify and manage future outbreaks of HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, as well as other emerging health threats, as these arise.

HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections present ongoing and persistent public health challenges and combined, are responsible for 2.3 million deaths and are associated with 1.2 million cases of cancer each year.


Global HIV, Hepatitis and STIs Programmes

Azerbaijan’s National Day

28 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the United States of America, I wish the people of Azerbaijan a happy Independence Day.

This year, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Azerbaijan.  In the three decades since Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union, we have become strong partners in promoting European energy security, combatting transnational threats, and advancing bilateral trade and investment.  We deeply value Azerbaijan’s contributions to the global fight against terrorism and illicit trade networks, as well as your support for Ukraine, particularly your humanitarian assistance.

The United States is proud to continue to expand our relationship not only through strong economic linkages, but also through our people-to-people ties.  Thousands of Azerbaijani and American citizens have worked and studied together and had the opportunity to innovate, collaborate, and learn from each other.  We look forward to seeing thousands more follow in the years ahead.  We also urge steps toward democratic development, with reforms that protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms provided in Azerbaijan’s constitution.  We are committed to promoting a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future for Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus region, and we stand ready to help by engaging bilaterally and with like-minded partners, including to help the region find a long-term comprehensive peace.

During this challenging period of global uncertainty, the United States once more reaffirms its commitment to supporting Azerbaijan’s independence and sovereignty, as well as the rights and freedoms of the Azerbaijani people.