Speech – Opening address at the WHO Medal award ceremony for the Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe

23 February 2017, UN City, Copenhagen, Denmark

Your Royal Highness, Director-General, honorable ministers, ambassadors, my fellow colleagues from the UN family, distinguished guests and friends,

First of all, welcome to all of you to WHO Regional Office for Europe, on the occasion of the visit of our Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, which we use as an award ceremony for our Patron, her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Denmark.

Occasionally, we have the good fortune to have leaders, who, with their vision and personal commitment, shape the public health discourse, and improve the lives of many millions around the globe. I am honored to welcome two such personalities today.

We are gathered here to celebrate the invaluable contribution to global health and well-being of Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Denmark, Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe. She became our Patron in 2005, and as a dedicated and compassionate advocate in our Region and worldwide she has shone a light on crucial public health issues in the twelve years since.

I am also deeply touched that WHO’s Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, a true public health leader decided to visit us and has chosen to recognize the work of Her Royal Highness on this occasion. From the Millennium Development Goal era, through to the implementation of the European Health Policy Framework, Health 2020, and the Sustainable Development Agenda, Her Royal Highness and the Director-General have both guided and enhanced our work immeasurably.

What an honor it is to have these trailblazing, ardent and empowering women with us today and to have this opportunity to celebrate their achievements.

On behalf of WHO, The Crown Princess has on countless occasions advocated for maternal and child health, as well as for health promotion and disease prevention in areas including immunization and antimicrobial resistance. She brings to these challenging health issues her singular gift of explaining the critical and complex with a human touch, speaking to all, but valuing the individual.

Her broad-reaching affiliations, as Patron of UNFPA, work with Women Deliver, and with many other Danish and international causes, demonstrate her strong, unwavering commitment to give a voice to those less empowered – children, girls and women.

One of the first engagements she undertook as WHO Patron was speaking at the Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity in 2006. This video address combined a professional understanding of the issues at hand, with her personal experience. In wishing to provide the best nutritional start for her child, and opportunity through the school environment to be active, Her Royal Highness recognized that healthy habits last a lifetime.

Time has proven that this emphasis on the life-course approach to health, and the need to work across sectors for health gains– was prescient. A life-course approach is embedded in the values of the European health policy framework, Health 2020, adopted by our Member States in 2012. It is also central to the Sustainable Development Agenda agreed by world leaders in 2015, calling on us all to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.

From the beginning, Her Royal Highness has been active in efforts to promote immunization in the Region. As the challenge of increasing vaccination coverage remains, endangered by increasing complacency, the Crown Princess has remained a steadfast advocate of the benefits of immunization, and the urgency to protect every child. I was delighted that we were able to issue a joint statement for European Immunization Week last year.

Discussions at the European Region’s annual decision-making meeting, our Regional Committee, have been enriched by Her Royal Highness’s presence on many occasions. Joining us in Copenhagen, Malta, and Lithuania, the Crown Princess has provided insights into where stronger political commitment and action for health is required. We also look forward to welcoming her at this year’s Regional Committee in Budapest, Hungary.

Antibiotic resistance is another pressing health priority where the Crown Princess raises awareness, using her unique voice and reach to engage with different stakeholders and platforms. She spoke at a conference on fighting antimicrobial resistance during Denmark’s Presidency of the European Union in 2012, and supports initiatives for World Antibiotic Awareness Week every year.

I have had the pleasure of accompanying Her Royal Highness on two country visits - in Tajikistan in 2014, and the Republic of Moldova last November.  On both occasions, I was witness first hand to the Crown Princess’ unique ability to connect, understand and inform with grace and conviction – with children, mothers, health workers, students, ministers, academics.  Working with partners, engaging with all – Her Royal Highness embraces concepts that are intrinsic to our European health policy framework, Health 2020, and are the foundation of the transformative Sustainable Development Agenda and goals.

I hope that the following film gives you an insight into the many ways in which Her Royal Highness, as Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, embodies the values that we cherish, and has strengthened our resolve to improve the health and well-being of everyone in the European Region, leaving no-one behind.

Your Royal Highness, we are honored that you are our Patron. Thank you for your dedication and your unwavering commitment to our shared priorities.