Speech – Opening session of the Third High-level Meeting of Small Countries



Representatives of the Government of the Principality of Monaco,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to share this podium with both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I am grateful for the dedication, the time, the strenuous work you have devoted to preparation of this meeting.

I would like to start my address today by stating that I like traditions.

I like the continuity of traditions; I respect their value; I enjoy their warmth; I truly treasure the outstanding human factor in traditions.

The Small Countries Initiative was launched in San Marino in the summer of 2014. In San Marino, you collectively determined what the focus of the initiative should be and defined 4 key actions.

Last year, the 2nd High-level Meeting of the Small Countries took place in Andorra, and the momentum of the actions gathered pace. The Small Countries Health Information Network was formed, and the first technical meeting was held in March of this year in Malta. Communications professionals were engaged, and implementation of Health 2020 within national health policies was advanced.

Now, we are gathered here in the Principality Monaco for the third high-level meeting. We can therefore say that we have a tradition and continuity in our sense of purpose, with a shared set of values on which we continue to work together.

And I am highly committed to this tradition. Every year, the meeting of the small countries is a priority on my calendar.

As I have followed this initiative from its inception, I have had first-hand experience that we in WHO and also other Member States can learn from the dynamic strategic features that are unique to small countries. At the WHO Regional Office for Europe, we consider your model of policy-making and your model of planning in the field of public health examples for reference.

Our host, the Principality of Monaco, has been a steadfast supporter of WHO for many years, both regionally and globally. Therefore, I am especially proud to announce that the Centre Scientifique du Monaco was recently designated a WHO Collaborating Centre for Health and the Sustainable Development Goals, led by Professor Patrik Rampal and Dr Hervé Raps.

I had the honour of visiting the Centre yesterday afternoon. The technical achievements and innovations I witnessed are sound proof of the many ways we can join forces. The Centre has put multi-sectorality into action: the health of our environment, of our oceans and of the coral reefs and the impact of human activity on our environment also affect human health. In order to take action, we must be supported by solid research, and the Centre is a world leader in this respect.

We look forward to this scientific collaboration in the coming years.

In addition, this is my first official visit as Regional Director to Monaco. I have learnt and will learn more about your history and the culture of the Principality. From the start, I was impressed that Monaco’s history illustrates the very essence of resilience. You have collectively met some great challenges, and you have not only met those challenges but also thrived as a sovereign nation.  

With respect to traditions, I am aware of the strong commitment of your country and your Sovereign to safeguarding biodiversity and addressing climate change and its effects on human health. Prince Albert II is a dedicated, passionate advocate of the environment, and his Foundation plays a leading role.  

Your health indicators speak for themselves, with the longest life expectancy in the European Region and one of the highest in the world.  

It is indeed a joy to be in Monaco and to work with all the eight small countries once again.

Some of the faces I see are already familiar; some faces around me are new. I am very happy to meet all of you and participate in the discussions in which we will engage.

As Regional Director for WHO Europe, I work with 53 different countries. Each time I visit a country, I embark on a special learning experience: I give faces to names; I understand better the challenges that you, at your national level, are tackling in your daily work.

This is especially true of the small countries group. You created a platform that is known for its agility and for its dynamic readiness to change, to respond to problems and to identify promptly the windows of opportunity for better policies and stronger governance.

Because of your strengths and your agility as small countries, we decided to bring a contemporary, compelling agenda to Monaco.

When the small countries initiative started back in 2014 in San Marino, WHO Europe advocated the Health 2020 framework as the key to the success of a modern, strong, competitive health sector.

Health 2020 was the essential map that we offered to all our countries to support them in navigating towards new horizons.

I suppose, as the most experienced travellers will confirm, the journey never ends.

Places change, challenges evolve.

Likewise, health and health policies move in ever-changing scenarios.

We must equip countries with the tools and solutions that can address health issues in multiple sectors and in varying contexts.

Health 2020 has recently seen its natural evolution in the Sustainable Development Goals.

During this event, I shall be focusing on this new framework and I shall be telling you why the small countries are strategically placed to be true leaders in implementing the value of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I look forward to navigating with you through the meaning, the practical implications, the benefits and the potential of these guiding principles.

Your presence here, the strong bond you have established with this initiative, your joining of hands as small countries are like a constellation that shows us the way forward, the direction we should look to.

Once again, many thanks to all of you for being here today and especially to the Principality of Monaco for its memorable welcome and for hosting this important event.

Let me conclude by saying that the world’s perception of this country is that it has a touch of timeless beauty.

Of course, we are here to focus on technical matters, but even the most serious circumstances become exceptional if they are complemented by graceful elegance.

Let us all work together for the success of this meeting.