Joint Statement by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa, and Republic of Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin

28 May

Office of the Spokesperson

The United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan strongly condemn recent Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) ballistic missile launches, commit to strengthen trilateral cooperation towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and full implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, and underscore continued openness to meeting with the DPRK without preconditions.

The United States, the ROK, and Japan express deep concern about the May 25 DPRK launches of an intercontinental ballistic missile and shorter-range ballistic missiles. The DPRK has significantly increased the pace and scale of its ballistic missile launches since September 2021. Each of these launches violated multiple UNSC resolutions and posed a grave threat to the region and the international community. We urge the DPRK to abide by its obligations under UNSC resolutions and immediately cease actions that violate international law, escalate tensions, destabilize the region, and endanger the peace and security of all nations.

In response to the DPRK’s unlawful and destabilizing actions, our nations executed coordinated U.S.-ROK and U.S.-Japan exercises, demonstrating our shared, unequivocal commitment to regional security and stability. These launches highlight the importance of further strengthening the U.S.-ROK and U.S.-Japan alliances to ensure peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Our nations are also committed to advance trilateral security cooperation. The United States reaffirms its steadfast commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan, including extended deterrence.

In spite of 13 Security Council members’ support, we deeply regret that the UNSC failed to adopt a resolution in response to the DPRK’s blatant and repeated violations of UNSC resolutions. We reaffirm our commitment to further strengthen our coordination with the international community to urge the DPRK to cease its unlawful activities and instead engage in dialogue.

We stress that a path to serious and sustained dialogue remains open and urge the DPRK to return to negotiations.

We express our deep concern at the grave hardship the people in the DPRK are experiencing, including due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, and hope the DPRK will respond positively to international offers of assistance.

We also reaffirm the importance of achieving a swift resolution of the abductions issue.

United States Targets the DPRK’s Ballistic Missile and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs

27 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) series of escalatory ballistic missile launches – including six intercontinental ballistic missile tests this year alone – are in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions and pose a grave threat to regional stability and international peace and security.

Today, the United States is designating for sanctions Air Koryo Trading Corporation, a DPRK entity that has provided or attempted to provide support to the U.S.-designated DPRK Ministry of Rocket Industry; Jong Yong Nam, a DPRK representative for an organization subordinate to the UN- and U.S.-designated Second Academy of Natural Sciences; and Bank Sputnik, a Russian bank that has assisted the UN- and U.S.-designated Foreign Trade Bank, pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  The United States is also sanctioning Far Eastern Bank, a Russian bank, pursuant to E.O. 13722, which targets the DPRK government and certain activities in the DPRK.

We are taking these actions in response to the DPRK’s ongoing development of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.  As a result of today’s sanctions, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or entities or within the United States must be blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with any of the designated parties.

We continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners to address the threats posed by the DPRK’s destabilizing activities and to advance our shared objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  We remain committed to diplomacy with the DPRK and call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue.  At the same time, we continue to urge all UN Member States to fully implement the UN Security Council resolutions addressing the DPRK in order to constrain its ability to advance its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.

For more information on today’s action, see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.

Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly – Daily update: 27 May 2022

27 May

Record number of decisions for noncommunicable diseases and mental health

Delegates at the World Health Assembly approved a record number of recommendations relating to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancers, diabetes, heart and lung diseases, as well as to mental health, and their risk factors.

The move comes ahead of the fourth United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs to be held in 2025, in a drive to accelerate progress towards globally agreed NCD and SDG targets.

In addition to an agreed preparatory process in the lead-up to this meeting, measures to reduce deaths from NCDs include a new implementation roadmap. The roadmap aims to help Member States speed up action to support their populations and achieve the NCD-related targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also agreed was a new action plan for the Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, a platform which brings together key stakeholders working to improve the NCD landscape, by strengthening multi-sector and multi-stakeholder action and collaboration to address NCDs and mental health.

Related links

On the road to 2025: the global NCD deadline

Follow-up to the political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases

Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Treatment of NCDs

Draft workplan for the Global Coordination Mechanism on the prevention and control of NCDs 2022-2025

 

Support to people living with NCDs in humanitarian emergencies

Delegates agreed recommendations on how to strengthen the design and implementation of policies (including those for resilient health systems and health services and infrastructure) to prevent and manage NCDs in humanitarian emergencies. Recent emergencies such as the conflict in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted how people living with NCDs are at particularly high risk, requiring special attention in emergency planning and response.

They provided a set of recommended actions for Member States, international, humanitarian partners, civil society, the private sector and for WHO to better address NCD emergency preparedness and response during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Actions for the WHO Secretariat include reviewing current NCD responses and strengthening WHO’s capacity to develop and disseminate normative products such as technical guidance on NCDs, to support countries in developing and implementing preparedness and national response plans for health emergencies. It will also be important to support procurement and deployment of NCD medicines and supplies such as insulin.

Related links

Recommendations on how to strengthen the design and implementation of policies, including those for resilient health systems and health services and infrastructure, to treat people living with noncommunicable diseases and to prevention and control their risk factors in humanitarian emergencies

Strengthening rehabilitation in emergencies

 

First-ever global coverage targets for diabetes

For the first time, delegates at the World Health Assembly have supported the creation of global targets for addressing diabetes. The targets are part of a new comprehensive set of recommendations to strengthen and monitor national diabetes responses.

They include ensuring that by 2030, 80% of people living with diabetes have been diagnosed; 80% have good control of glycaemia; 80% of people with diagnosed diabetes have good control of their blood pressure; 60% of people with diabetes who are 40 years or older receive statins; and 100% all people with type 1 diabetes have access to affordable insulin and blood glucose self-monitoring. Diabetes is currently one of the top ten causes of death worldwide.

Related links

Reducing the burden of noncommunicable diseases through strengthening prevention and control of diabetes

The Global Diabetes Compact


A landmark global strategy on oral health

While largely preventable, there were estimated to be more than 3.5 billion cases of oral diseases and other oral conditions globally in 2019. Despite affecting almost half the world’s population, to date there has been no global strategy on oral health.

Delegates agreed that such a global strategy is now necessary. It will inform the development of a new global action plan, including a framework for tracking progress with targets to be achieved by 2030, to be discussed during the World Health Assembly 2023. WHO will also publish its first ever global report on oral health later in 2022.

The global strategy on oral health sets a bold vision of universal coverage for oral health services by 2030. Key approaches include the setting of ambitious national responses, integrating oral health into primary health care and optimizing digital technologies.

Related links

Draft global strategic on oral health

Oral health


New recommendations to prevent and manage obesity

World Health Assembly delegates have agreed new recommendations for the prevention and management of obesity over the life course and a set of related targets in a bid to halt the rise of obesity in children under 5, adolescents and adults by 2025 and to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

They outlined actions to be taken by governments, society as a whole, and the WHO Secretariat, in order to reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake in adults and children; to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first 6 months up to at least 70%, and to reduce the global prevalence of physical inactivity by 15%. WHO has already developed a new plan to support Member States in accelerating action to stop obesity.

Related links

Acceleration Plan to support Member States in implementing the recommendations for the prevention and management of obesity over the life course


Improving the lives of people with neurological disorders

Delegates agreed a new intersectoral global action plan on epilepsy and other neurological disorders (including stroke, migraine, dementia and meningitis) that aims to improve access to care and treatment for people living with these conditions, while preventing new cases and promoting brain health and development across the life course.

Neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability-adjusted life years and the second leading cause of death globally. Despite the high global burden of neurological conditions, access to both services and support for these conditions is insufficient, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

The action plan will address the challenges and gaps in providing care and services for people with neurological disorders that exist worldwide and ensure a comprehensive, coordinated response across sectors.

Related links

Draft intersectoral global action plan on epilepsy and other neurological disorders 2022-2031

 

Accelerating action to reduce alcohol-related harm

Delegates also agreed an action plan (2022-2030) to effectively implement the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol as a public health priority.

The pace of development and implementation of alcohol policies has been uneven in WHO regions and countries. Since its endorsement 10 years ago, the resources and capacities for implementation of the WHO Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol have been inadequate to address the magnitude of the problem. As a result every 10 seconds a person dies from alcohol related harm.

The alcohol action plan proposes operational objectives and principles, key action areas for Member States, WHO Secretariat, international partners, CSOs and academia, as well as proposed measures for economic operators in alcohol production and trade. It contains a set of global targets, indicators and milestones for monitoring progress.

Related links

Draft action plan (2022-2030) to effectively implement the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol as a public health priority

 

Supporting health and care workers

Delegates agreed to adopt the Working for Health Action Plan (2022-2030). The Action Plan, which was developed through a Member State-led process, sets out policy priorities to rapidly progress workforce capacity across three dimensions: planning and finance, education and employment, and protection and performance.

The protection of the workforce, a rising concern in all settings,  is supported by the consensus for a Global health and care worker compact which sets out how to protect and safeguard the rights of health and care workers, in addition to promoting and ensuring decent working conditions.

The resolution recognizes the global progress to address health workforce shortages since 2016. WHO reports that the global shortfall has reduced to 15 million in 2020 and is projected to drop to 10 million by 2030. However, gains have not accrued equally across regions, limiting access to health services for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. WHO continues to urge all Member States to apply the precautionary principle before international recruitment of health workers from countries with severe workforce shortages.

Related links

A75/12 Human resources for health: Working for Health: draft –2030 action plan.

A75/13 Human resources for health: Global health and care worker compact

A75/14 Human resources for health: WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel: fourth round of national reporting

A75/15 Human resources for health: Global strategy on human resources for health: workforce 2030

Working for Health 2022-2030 Action Plan 

Global health and care worker compact

Health workforce


Updated strategy for food safety

Delegates at the Health Assembly agreed to adopt the updated WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022-2030, in order to strengthen national food safety systems. The update is to ensure food safety systems are modernized and multi-sectoral collaboration strengthened with a view to ensuring that all people consume safe and healthy food, thereby reducing the burden of foodborne diseases, which currently affect almost 1 in 10 people worldwide.

Member States are encouraged to either develop country implementation roadmaps or to reflect actions to implementation within existing food safety policies and programmes, and to allocate the necessary resources. The Director-General is also requested to report on progress biannually until 2030.

The strategy was put forward in consultation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with Member States and with the World Organization for Animal Health.

Related links

Draft WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022-2030

Food safety fact sheet

 

Global Health for Peace Initiative

Delegates today requested that the Director-General consult with Member States and Observers on proposed ways forward for the implementation of WHO’s report on a new Global Health for Peace Initiative. The Initiative would aim to build on and develop new partnerships that drive forward the triple billion goals in conflict and/or fragile areas.

Suggested approaches include:

  • WHO programmes achieving both health and peace dividends at the country level by mainstreaming the Health for Peace approach;
  • Member States engaging in the Health for Peace Initiative through support or implementation; and
  • WHO driving the Health for Peace agenda at both the operational and normative levels.

The World Health Assembly also requested a roadmap, to be developed in full consultation with Member States, Observers, other United Nations agencies and relevant non-State actors in official relations with WHO. This roadmap will be put forward for consideration next year by the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly through the 152nd session of the Executive Board.

Related links

WHO Global Health for Peace Initiative

 

More rapid changes to the International Health Regulations

Delegates agreed to amend the International Health Regulations (IHR) to reduce the time of entry into force of any future amendments from 24 to 12 months. A comprehensive process for addressing future amendments to the IHR was agreed earlier in the week.

Related links

Report of the Working Group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies to the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly

Proposal for amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005)

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto At a Joint Press Availability

27 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  It’s wonderful to be able to host my colleague and friend, the Foreign Minister of Finland, here at the State Department in the Benjamin Franklin Room.  Our partnership, the partnership between Finland and the United States, has been rooted deeply in our shared values of democracy, of human rights, rule of law and a shared commitment to strengthening the international rules-based order.  We’re collaborating on virtually every pressing challenge of our time.  As a result, there’s always a lot to discuss when we get together, and we probably could have spent another hour talking about the many things that we’re working on.

But today, of course, we focused a great deal on Finland’s recent application to join NATO.  The United States fully supports Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance, and I continue to be confident that both countries will soon be NATO Allies.  Finland and Sweden more than meet NATO’s democratic, military, economic criteria for membership.  They’re committed to upholding NATO’s sacred Article 5 guarantee: an attack on one is an attack on all.  And both countries have a proven track record of honoring their commitments.

Since 2014, Finland has been an enhanced opportunities partner of NATO and maintains a high degree of interoperability with the Alliance.  In plain English that means that our militaries work together seamlessly, and the country brings specific military expertise and capabilities in the high north and the Baltic Sea.

But it’s not just Finland’s military capabilities that will make NATO stronger, but its free and open democratic society.  Indeed, we see that in the way that Finland decided to apply for NATO in the first place.  The move was driven by strong public support.  According to recent polls, three-in-four Finns want their country to join the Alliance.  Finnish people, press, and politicians debated the prospect openly.  And when the country’s democratically elected parliament put the issue to a vote, 188 out of 200 members supported applying for membership.  That is what a democratic process looks like.

The decisions by Finland and Sweden continue the trend that we’ve seen since President Putin launched his war of aggression in which he failed to achieve a single one of his strategic aims.  Instead of ending Ukraine’s independence, President Putin has strengthened it.  Instead of asserting Russia’s strength, he’s undermined it.  Instead of dividing NATO, he’s united it and now pushed more countries to apply to join.

Finland and Sweden’s applications also reaffirm NATO’s “Open Door” policy which has been a cornerstone of the Alliance since its very founding.  That door will stay open, reflecting our belief that every country should have the right to choose its allies and partners and to pursue membership if it chooses.  That is not a provocation or a threat to Russia.  We say this often, but it bears repeating: NATO is and always will be a defensive Alliance.  NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia, but rather we aim to prevent it.

The reason that more countries want to join NATO is simple:  They have seen the Russian Federation repeatedly attack its neighbors without provocation.  And so not unreasonably, they’re concerned that they could be next.  The only countries that have anything to fear from NATO are those that plan to attack one of the Allies.  As President Biden made clear last week in his meeting with the Finnish president, during the accession process the United States and our Finnish partners will remain vigilant against threats to our shared security, and we will work together to deter and confront any aggression.  The same holds true for Sweden.

The United States will also maintain our robust exercise activity and presence in the Baltic Sea region.

So simply put, Finland can depend on us, and I’m confident that we can depend on Finland.  The trust is built on experience.  We’ve collaborated for decades on the Arctic Council working together to advance a peaceful region where cooperation prevails on climate, on the environment, on science and safety, and where sustainable economic development benefits the local population.

For years, Finnish troops have served shoulder to shoulder with U.S. and NATO forces in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, in Iraq.  Together, we cofounded the European Center for Excellence for countering hybrid threats, which Finland hosts.  And since February 24, we’ve been closely aligned in our response to Moscow’s war of aggression against Ukraine.  We’ve repeatedly voted together to condemn Russia’s unjust invasion in the UN General Assembly and, of course, in the Human Rights Council, where we voted together to suspend Russia.  We’ve worked together to impose costs on the Russian Government and its proxies for this unjust war and the atrocities they are committing.

As a member of the European Union, Finland has helped craft and support EU sanctions which were closely coordinated with and complementary to our own.  Earlier this week, Finland joined more than 60 countries that have signed on to a roadmap to tackle the growing global food security crisis, which has been significantly worsened by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Pekka and I talked about this at some length in our conversations both with regard to Ukraine and more generally what we can do and what we will do together to address this crisis around the globe.

Finland has also stepped up to provide security assistance and non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian Government.  The Government is committed to take in some 23,000 refugees, and Finnish universities have opened thousands of spots for Ukrainian students fleeing the war.  Finnish schools have opened thousands of chairs to younger Ukrainians, and we’re grateful for that incredible response.

One final point.  Squarely focused as we are today on how NATO can defend members against further Russian aggression, this alliance is also critical for protecting our shared security and values from other threats, including emerging challenges like cyber-attacks, infectious disease, a warming climate.  That’s yet another reason that we look forward to being able to call Finland and Sweden our allies and draw upon their leadership in the years ahead.

So Pekka, we’re already working so closely together, but I suspect that will become even closer with you as we deepen what is already a vital partnership between Finland and the United States.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAAVISTO:  Thank you.  And first I want to thank Secretary of State Mr. Blinken, my good friend Tony, for this opportunity of to again meet here in Washington and discuss and exchange views in today’s meeting.  I think we had an excellent discussion.

We highly value our close cooperation between Finland and the United States.  As discussed today, we look forward to further deepening our bilateral engagement and continuing our close consultations on key foreign and security policy questions.

The main topics today were the security situation in Europe, Finland’s NATO membership application, and the war in Ukraine.  First a couple of words about our application.  Finland submitted on May 18th, at the same time with Sweden, our application for NATO membership.  Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership is based on a comprehensive, democratic process and strong support from the people.  Finland’s accession to NATO would strengthen the security and stability of Northern Europe as well as wider transatlantic security.  Finland is a security provider and would further strengthen NATO as an Ally.  We are very grateful for the unwavering and strong support from the United States for our NATO membership bid.  We look forward to taking our excellent relationship to a new level as a NATO Ally.

Turkey has raised questions in conjunction with Finland’s and Sweden’s membership applications.  It is understandable that different issues may be raised by different allies along the process.  Finland has been in active contact with Turkey – I have been visiting Turkey twice this spring – at different levels regarding our NATO membership bid.  We wish to continue our constructive dialogue with allies and are ready to continue discussing the outstanding issues with Turkey.  We take every NATO members’ concerns seriously.  With Turkey we are now in an open, direct, and constructive dialogue process to clarify all issues.  This is important.

We highly appreciate the strong support from the allies along the process.  We also hope for a swift ratification of our membership once the accession protocol has been signed.

Then a couple of words about Russia and Ukraine.  Finland strongly condemns the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.  We continue to urge Russia to stop the military actions immediately.  We are strongly supporting Ukraine both nationally and through the European Union.  Finland’s support to Ukraine includes humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, and material and arms assistance.  Ordinary Finns have also shown great solidary with Ukraine and Ukrainians who have fled to Finland, as mentioned by Tony.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is an attack against the entire European security order.  It’s a great breach of international law and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations.  Russia is flagrantly violating international law in Ukraine.  We need to ensure accountability for war crimes.  Finland supports the investigation by the International Criminal Court, ICC, by granting financial support and by seconding experts.

The EU and the United States have shown extraordinary speed, determination, and unity as a response to Russia’s actions, including extensive sanctions.  Sanctions have been powerful and hit Russia hard.  I wish to thank the United States for an exceptional collaboration.  Finland is ready to move forward with new sanctions and to consider all options, including energy.  New EU sanctions package is being prepared.

Our multilateral fora, Finland – on multilateral fora, Finland continues its close cooperation with partners and is actively discussing the key matters, for example, global food security, as discussed, and has been raised by United States.  We also thank the United States for active global outreach.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you for joining us this afternoon.  We will now take a question from each side, beginning with Shannon from ABC News.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  On expanding NATO, have you seen any progress towards getting Turkey onboard?  And what are you willing to do – what demands are you willing to satisfy – in order to move that process along?

Also, secondly, Mr. Secretary, you spoke with your Ukrainian counterpart today about security assistance.  Is supplying American long-range missile systems on the table?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  I think as you heard from the Foreign Minister, Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to address some of the concerns that it raised.  We’re also talking to Turkey.  I saw the Turkish Foreign Minister in New York about a week ago, and those conversations continue.

I don’t want to characterize the conversations beyond saying that, first, there is a very strong consensus in NATO for the admission of Finland and Sweden, and I remain confident that we will work through this process swiftly and that things will move forward with both countries.  As Pekka said, it is a process.  In that process, countries raise concerns that they may have.  We work through them; that’s what Finland and Sweden are doing right now with Turkey, and I’m confident that this will move forward.

With regard to security assistance to Ukraine, yes, I spoke to my counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, this morning.  We speak regularly, and this is a constant conversation about the – among other things, the needs that Ukraine has to make sure that it has in hand what it needs to deal with the Russian aggression as well as, ultimately, to strengthen the hand that it will have at any negotiating table that emerges in the future.  And that’s a constant process.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin set up what I think is a very effective mechanism when he brought about 40 countries together at Ramstein, Germany a couple of weeks ago.  So there’s now an active contact group bringing all these countries together to focus the assistance that Ukraine needs and to make sure that countries are doing what they need to do to provide it.  I’m not going to get ahead of that process, including with future deliveries of assistance.  All of that is in train and will unfold in the days and weeks ahead.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAAVISTO:  Maybe from our side, first just to mention our prime minister, Sanna Marin, visited two days ago Kyiv and also Bucha and, of course, was shocked what they saw there and all the destruction.  And Finland is committed to continue supporting Ukraine and we have been also sending the little packages to Ukraine.  The military support to Ukraine is very important at this moment.

In regarding Turkey, our delegations visit actually Wednesday both from Sweden and Finland.  Turkey had a – good negotiations there, long negotiations, agreed to continue those talks, and of course, we rely on NATO “Open Door” policy, which is also supported by Turkey, and we think that these problems can be solved that – which Turkey has been raising.  And it’s probably very important that some results could be achieved before the Madrid summit, which is an important moment for NATO and also for us as applicant countries, in the end of June.

MODERATOR: Next we’ll turn to Laura from Finnish MTV News.

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, so what concretely the United States is going to do with Turkey so that they would accept Finland joining NATO?  And what would be the timeline for this?  Do you believe that would really happen before the Madrid summit?

And similar question to Minister Haavisto.  Is it really possible that this could happen before the Madrid summit?  And did you receive any concrete promises what the United States could do to help Finland in this process with Turkey?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  So again, in the first instance, the most important thing is that Finland and Sweden are speaking directly to and with Turkey, and working through some of the concerns that Turkey has raised and finding ways to address them.  We very much support that process; as I mentioned, we’re engaged with Turkey directly as well.  But the focus is on the work that Finland, Sweden, and Turkey are doing together to address the concerns.

And again, as I said, I’m confident this is going to move forward.  As Pekka alluded to a moment ago, we do have the NATO summit coming up in a few weeks, and our full expectation is that this process will move as we head into the summit as well as at the summit itself.

So again, beyond that I’m not going to get into the specifics.  But there’s an ongoing, very active conversation between Finland, Sweden, and Turkey that we’ll support in any way that we can.  I suspect NATO will do so as well.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAAVISTO:  Thank you for the question.  Actually, a couple of weeks ago I participated in Berlin the NATO ministerial meeting.  We were invited by – both Sweden and Finland – there by German host and NATO hosts.  And I have to say that when we had this roundtable discussion about Finnish and Swedish membership, which that day had not yet been decided in our parliament but already could guess what is coming, we got extraordinary support from majority of the NATO members, very open support.  And it looked like countries are competing who will ratify first the applications.  And of course, that was a very positive signal to us.

At the same time, countries have the right to raise concerns.  Turkey has raised some concerns regarding the PKK issue, terrorist issues, and so forth.  The PKK is a forbidden organization in Finland.  We are part of those solutions in the European Union, where terrorist organizations are listed.  It’s the same in Sweden and so forth, and these are the answers that we are giving, of course, in this case to Turkey.  We, of course, hope that the process goes smoothly and rapidly because this – what we call the grey zone between the – putting the application in and finally getting approved as NATO members, of course, includes some security concerns.  We have got extraordinary strong assurances from countries like U.S., UK, and many others during this period, but, of course, it’s not the same as the NATO Article 5 security guarantees, and that’s why we would hope that this process goes smoothly and rapidly.

MODERATOR:  That concludes our press conference for today.  Thank you for joining us.

Joint Statement on Safer Oil Tanker Threats in the Red Sea

27 May

Office of the Spokesperson

Representatives of the Governments of the United States and the Netherlands have partnered to support the UN efforts to address and avert the economic, environmental, and humanitarian threats posed by the Safer oil tanker in the Red Sea region.

Begin text.

In April, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking and Dutch Ambassador to Yemen Peter Derrek Hof joined UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly on a regional trip in the Gulf to increase awareness of the imminent risks the Safer poses to the entire region.  The international community – private sector included – must take action now to address the imminent threats posed by the Safer.

Today, Dutch Ambassador to the United States André Haspels hosted a meeting joined by U.S. Special Envoy Lenderking, Yemeni Ambassador to the United States Mohammed al-Hadrami, and representatives from the diplomatic community in Washington, D.C.  They stressed the importance of raising $144 million to fund the UN’s operational plan, which includes $80 million for an emergency operation to offload the oil from the Safer to a temporary vessel.  At the pledging event co-hosted by the UN and the Netherlands last month, nearly half the funds required for the emergency operation were raised, but more is urgently needed to move forward.

The Safer is a rapidly decaying and unstable supertanker that contains four times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.  It could leak, spill, or explode at any time, severely disrupting shipping routes in the Gulf region and other industries across the Red Sea region, unleashing an environmental disaster, and worsening the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.  By October, high winds and volatile currents will make the UN operation more dangerous and increase the risk of the ship breaking apart.  In the event of a spill, the cleanup alone is expected to cost $20 billion.

We urge public and private donors to consider generous contributions to help prevent a leak, spill, or explosion, whose effects would destroy livelihoods, tourism, and commerce in one of the world’s vital shipping lanes.

For any questions, please contact U.S. Special Envoy’s Communications Advisor Vanessa Vidal at VidalSammoudVLC@state.gov and Dutch Embassy Press Officer Carla Bundy at cy.bundy@minbuza.nl.

End text.

International Day of UN Peacekeepers

27 May

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The world marks International Day of UN Peacekeepers every May 29, and on this day we honor the courage, service, and sacrifice of the UN’s “blue helmets.”

Since the first mission in 1948, more than a million women and men have served in UN peacekeeping operations, helping people recover, rebuild, and remain safe after periods of conflict.  There are currently 12 UN peacekeeping operations around the world and nearly 90,000 personnel serving the cause of peace, reconciliation, and durable political solutions.

Unfortunately, UN peacekeepers too often sacrifice their lives for the cause of peace, and today we pause to express our deep gratitude to the more than 4,000 peacekeepers who have died during their service over the past seven decades, 135 of them last year alone.

UN peacekeeping is one of the most effective international tools for promoting peace and security and protecting the world’s most vulnerable populations.  That is why the United States supports UN peacekeeping and is dedicated to promoting greater safety, security, performance, conduct, and accountability.  Peacekeeping is a shared responsibility that benefits all nations and peoples, and the United States will continue to be its leading supporter and proponent.

DNC, Rep. Sylvia Garcia Blast Republicans in Houston Ahead of NRA Convention

27 May

This morning, the Democratic National Committee held a press conference in Houston, Texas with Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia and DNC Deputy Communications Director Ofirah Yheskel as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Kristi Noem, and Governor Greg Abbott prepare to address the NRA convention just days after 21 people, including 19 children, were gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. 

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia: “Democrats have taken action to keep our children safe, but Republicans refuse to act on common sense bills that would save countless lives. And while they are refusing to take action, Republicans have lined their pockets with money from the gun lobby. Down the street today, Republicans like Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, and Donald Trump are set to gather with the NRA lobbyists who are intent on blocking the gun safety measures that the majority of Americans support. The majority of Americans want background checks and rules that will protect them and their communities. I ask my Republican colleagues gathered in Houston today, what will it take for you to start putting the lives of our children ahead of the NRA’s money?” 

DNC Deputy Communications Director Ofirah Yheskel: “Texas Republicans — Republicans nationwide — offered their thoughts and prayers two days ago. Today, they will make their annual pilgrimage to the NRA convention — right here in Houston — to bend the knee to the gun lobby. Donald Trump, Kristi Noem, Ted Cruz, and Greg Abbott are all still scheduled to speak. In the same state where 19 children and 2 teachers were just killed in a mass shooting — on Tuesday. They are telling us who they are. They are broadcasting in neon lights that the gun lobby means more to them than protecting children. That an A+ rating from the NRA is more important than the lives of elementary schoolers and teachers. That political calculus trumps public service. It’s time for us to take note.”

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Report by Mr Bjӧrn Kümmel, Chair of the WHO Sustainable Financing Working Group, to the Seventy-five World Health Assembly

27 May

Chair,

honourable PBAC members,

colleagues,

it is a great pleasure and honour to report on the outcome of the Working Group on Sustainable Financing.

As you know, the working group was established by the EB in January last year, in order to enable the WHO to have the robust structure needed to fulfil the Member States expectations.

Already at the start of this long journey, there were a general notion, that there is a huge discrepancy in between what the world expects from WHO and its de facto financial capacities. 

We have highlighted, that WHO’s budget is to 86 % dependent on generous donors and that only roughly 14 % of WHO’s finances are truly predictable. This situation has put WHO at severe risk, including its independence, its integrity, its agility and certainly also its mandated role to be the world’s leading and coordinating authority in global health.

The challenge of sustainable financing has often been described as potentially the greatest historic challenge that WHO has been facing as an organization, recognizing that many efforts to tackle this issue have been tried but did not solve the issue over the past two decades.

While the chair of the working group has sometimes used the maybe inappropriate words to describe the situation, namely that “WHO’s financing is fundamentally rotten”, there was a clear consensus in the working group, that the status quo of WHO’s financing is unacceptable.

This being said, it is with great pleasure, that I am able to report to you, that we reached a consensus on all of our recommendations. And if implemented, they will certainly change the unacceptable status quo to the better.

So what have we reached a consensus on?

I am not going to read out all recommendations, as you have them before you but I will highlight some key ones:

The WG stresses that Member States as a collective must match their willingness to fund the Organization with the demands that they place on it.

We further stress that any increase in Member States’ assessed contributions needs to be accompanied by appropriate governance reforms, to be agreed by Member States, together with the further strengthening of transparency, efficiency, accountability and compliance within the Organization.

We discussed the severe fiscal constraints and explicitly acknowledge that many Member States face severe financial challenges, including those accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding the PBAC: We strongly recommend a strengthening of the role of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee, to make it more effective, robust and transparent, and more engaged with the Secretariat during the budgeting process and potentially through additional deliberations.

A key issue, that was often referred to as the most tricky issue in the debate, namely a potential AC increase: 

We recommend that the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly, recognizing the important role of assessed contributions in sustainably financing the Organization, should request the Secretariat to develop budget proposals, through the regular budget cycle, for an increase of assessed contributions to contribute to financial sustainability of WHO and with its aspiration to reach a level of 50% of the 2022–2023 base budget by the biennium 2030–2031, while aiming to achieve this by the biennium 2028–2029. 

But the WGSF does not leave this aspiration in abstract terms but proposes very concrete steps to reach this aspiration, namely:

The Secretariat should develop a budget proposal with a targeted first increase of 20% of the assessed contributions assessment for the biennium 2022–2023, as part of the Proposed programme budget 2024–2025, and to be submitted for approval to the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly.

As recommended already by the IPPPR, in addition to a substantive AC increase, we recommend that the Health Assembly request the Secretariat to explore the feasibility of a replenishment mechanism to broaden further the financing base, in consultation with Member States and taking into consideration the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors.

As mentioned already, any substantive AC increase would need to be supported by concrete steps to ensure the agility of WHO.

Therefore, the Working Group on Sustainable Financing also recommends the establishment of an agile Member States task group on strengthening WHO budgetary, programmatic and financing governance to analyse challenges in governance for transparency, efficiency, accountability and compliance, and come up with recommendations.

The establishment of the Task Group, open to all Member States, should be taken up during the 151st session of the Executive Board.

So you may wonder, what should the Assembly do with these recommendations?

We drafted a decision for adoption by the Assembly:

(1) to adopt the recommendations of the Working Group on Sustainable Financing, and

(2) to request the Director-General to put in place measures to ensure the implementation of these recommendations.

So, what does this outcome of the working group mean, outing it into the broader perspective.

To many the financing of the WHO  may seem very technical or complex.

However, what the Working Group has discussed and has found a consensus on is not just a technical issue. This goes far beyond financing some WHO programs.

It was clear for the working group that what we were discussing is nothing less than the future role of WHO in global health and even beyond, namely the question, what kind of global health architecture we envisage: A less fragmented, better coordinated, more efficient and truly inclusive global health governance with a fundamentally strengthened WHO at its centre as the enabled leading and coordinating authority.

The recommendations, if so adopted by the Assembly, will enable WHO to live up to member state’s expectations.

They are a game changer for WHO, for every programme, every country office, every major office and most likely also for the work every single WHO staff member.

Beyond WHO, they are a game changer for global health governance. If implemented, the recommendations will allow WHO to live up to the expectation to be the key convener for global health.

Many of the issues, that the PBAC has discussed over the past decades, namely the unsatisfactory heat map, the unsatisfactory drying out of the enabling functions, putting the entire organization at risk, the main challenges in HR contracts with a growing dependency on non-staff contracts and many other issues, will be positively impacted by these recommendations.

Yes, the recommended steps will be a ground-breaking improvement for WHO.

And, yes, to finalize these recommendations, it took roughly 1 ½ years. But this huge effort by all colleagues involved will prove to be worth it, if we finally adequately address this historic challenge.

The compromise was possible due to the strong commitment by all members of the working group and their will, to strengthen the WHO.

It was possible, because everyone in the room understood, that the window of opportunity to learn one key lesson from this pandemic, might be already closing.

Some commentators have referred to the compromise as “global health diplomacy at its best”.

To me, this was a strong success of what I would call “constructive multilateralism”. This was a truly inclusive process. All MS had the chance to actively shape the outcome and did so. The working group was attended by an outstanding number of delegations throughout its 7 sessions with many delegations having to wake up in the middle of the night, in order to follow the deliberations.

This engagement shows the given true commitment for a stronger WHO.

This was a learning exercise for many of us, in particular the chair.

I would like to sincerely thank all colleagues and members from the working group for allowing this great outcome and for their readiness to compromise.

I would like to thank my co-chairs for their wisdom, leadership and patience with their chair throughout the past 1 ½ years.

I would like to thank the entire Secretariat for its support to this process, despite having to handle an ongoing pandemic, obviously the different teams here in HQ but also the regions and colleagues in the country offices.

A big thank also to the various external colleagues, the high level panels, the independent experts but also civil society and academia who followed the process and pushed us all for an ambitious outcome. 

As you see, at least from the perspective of the chair, this was real team work. 

Thank you for the time to address you and I hope, you will indeed make the recommendations a lasting success of multilateralism.

It is now or never.

 

IN THE STATES: Republicans Choose Gun Lobby Over Children

27 May

In the states this week, just days after a gunman murdered 21 people in Texas, including 19 children, Republicans across the country are making clear that when it comes to our children or the gun lobby, they’ll pick the gun lobby every time. Whether it’s Donald Trump and Republican leaders speaking at an NRA meeting this weekend or GOP members of Congress taking millions from the NRA and blocking life-saving gun safety measures, the Republican Party has made clear where they stand – and Democrats are calling them out for it.

Here are some local headlines from across the country on the GOP siding with the gun lobby over children: 

This week, the first flights from President Biden’s Operation Fly Formula transported formula from Europe to speed up the import of infant formula and start getting more formula to stores as soon as possible. 

And yet again, local headlines continue to show the impact Democrats’ American Rescue Plan is having in communities – from helping to increase internet access, to making housing more affordable, to getting more cops on the beat, and more. And just so you don’t forget, every congressional Republican voted against making all of these local programs possible. 

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Why mental health is a priority for action on climate change

27 May

 

New WHO policy brief highlights actions for countries

Climate change poses serious risks to mental health and well-being, concludes a new WHO policy brief, launched today at the Stockholm+50 conference. The Organization is therefore urging countries to include mental health support in their response to the climate crisis, citing examples where a few pioneering countries have done this effectively.

The findings concur with a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in February this year. The IPPC revealed that rapidly increasing climate change poses a rising threat to mental health and psychosocial well-being; from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behavior.

“The impacts of climate change are increasingly part of our daily lives, and there is very little dedicated mental health support available for people and communities dealing with climate-related hazards and long-term risk,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO.

The mental health impacts of climate change are unequally distributed with certain groups disproportionately affected depending on factors such as socioeconomic status, gender and age. However, it is clear that climate change affects many of the social determinants that are already leading to massive mental health burdens globally. A 2021 WHO survey of 95 countries found that only 9 have thus far included mental health and psychosocial support in their national health and climate change plans.  

“The impact of climate change is compounding the already extremely challenging situation for mental health and mental health services globally. There are nearly 1 billion people living with mental health conditions, yet in low- and middle-income countries, 3 out of 4 do not have access to needed services,” said Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. “By ramping up mental health and psychosocial support within disaster risk reduction and climate action, countries can do more to help protect those most at risk.”

The new WHO policy brief recommends 5 important approaches for governments to address the mental health impacts of climate change: 

  • integrate climate considerations with mental health programmes;
  • integrate mental health support with climate action;
  • build upon global commitments;
  • develop community-based approaches to reduce vulnerabilities; and
  • close the large funding gap that exists for mental health and psychosocial support.

“WHO’s Member States have made it very clear mental health is a priority for them. We are working closely with countries to protect people’s physical and mental health from climate threats,” said Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, WHO climate lead, and an IPCC lead author. 

Some good examples exist of how this can be done such as in the Philippines, which has rebuilt and improved its mental health services after the impact of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 or in India, where a national project has scaled up disaster risk reduction in the country while also preparing cities to respond to climate risks and address mental health and psychosocial needs. 

The Stockholm Conference commemorates the 50th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Human Environment and recognizes the importance of environmental determinants for both physical and mental health.

Note to editors

WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

WHO defines mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) as “any type of local or outside support that aims to protect or promote psychosocial well-being and/or prevent or treat mental disorder”.

For more information please contact:

WHO media inquiries: mediainquiries@who.int