Statement by Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe to the press during an official visit to Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan, 1 March 2011 

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be here in Baku today and meet you. I have visited your country many times, but this is my first visit to Azerbaijan as the WHO Regional Director for Europe. I am very glad to be able to work so closely and to engage in such close dialogue with Azeri colleagues in opening a new chapter in our joint cooperation.

The Minister and I have had a very detailed and rich discussion this morning. We have talked about the work of WHO/Europe, our bilateral cooperation and prospects for the future. We also managed to cover a lot of ground on the preparations for the next session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, which for the first time will take place in Azerbaijan on 12–15 September this year. We have signed a bilateral agreement on this, and this is what I want to talk to you about today.

Let me tell you a few words about the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. I should stress that there are very few events where you could find more public-health key players in one place at one time than at the Regional Committee. It’s the decision-making body for WHO/Europe. It meets each year to discuss important public health issues and it brings together leading health policy- and decision-makers from a vast Region of 53 Member States. We expect more than 300 high-level representatives to attend the September event in Baku.

This year, the agenda of the Committee will be very full. One of its highlights is the discussion on the future development of the new health policy at pan-European level – Health 2020. Our Region has to have a sustainable health strategy and our objective is to open up the debate so we can engage all stakeholders and draw conclusions together about the future of the health sector in the European Region. In this sense, we hope the event in Baku will become a milestone in bringing a broader understanding of the issues and sharing a clearer vision for the future.

Although the final agenda of the Committee is still to be approved in a couple of weeks, I can already outline some of the areas we would like to look into in September.

The Committee will be considering the action plan to implement the European strategy on noncommunicable diseases, the European alcohol strategy, the European strategy to contain antibiotic resistance, and the action plan on multidrug-resistant/extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the Committee will consider the European strategy for country relations and WHO/Europe’s policy on geographically dispersed offices and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

Technical briefings will be organized on mental health, WHO/Europe’s health information strategy, the implementation of the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel and progress made towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals in the WHO European Region.

Unfortunately, the time of our meeting is too short and I cannot go into a detailed description of all topics, but I hope very much you will be able to attend the Committee yourselves in September. All its sessions will be open to the press, and we will have an extensive and interesting press programme for you as well.

Let me use this opportunity to express my appreciation of the input and commitment of the Azeri Government – particularly Minister Shiraliyev and his team – to preparations for the Committee session in Baku. This afternoon, we will visit Gulustan Palace, the venue offered by the Azeri authorities for the event. My team, who has already seen it, is very pleased about this. I was told it is the perfect location for the Regional Committee, with plenty of space and perfect logistic support.

I should say I am delighted that the Regional Committee session will be held for the first time here in Baku. This has a particular symbolism for me. Years ago, when I was working on EUROHEALTH – one of WHO’s major European programmes – Azerbaijan was among the first countries where we had opened a WHO liaison office, thus taking a big step forward in our cooperation.

A lot of changes have happened since then. Today, Azerbaijan is going through a successful reform of its health sector. The country demonstrates a deep understanding of how its growth depends on the health of its population. I felt it very strongly this morning, when I talked with the Minister about recent development in the health sector of the country. I want to pay tribute to the Minister and to his team for taking such an open view of the public health issues and a universal sense of responsibility at this challenging time. I cannot help commenting on the way in which Azerbaijan has been responding to health challenges. We hope that the Government will continue to support the constructive health-reform process politically and financially.

Together with the Azeri Government, we have agreed on future activities in this direction. I will be happy to discuss our public health cooperation with Prime Minister Rasizade, whom I will meet this afternoon. One of the main points I’d like to raise with the Prime Minister is the sustainability of health system reforms. And I would like to assure him that WHO will be there, helping the country to realize its full potential and capacity to make a real difference in the health of the Azeri people.

Our goal in WHO is to offer our Member States support and tools so they are able to cope with the challenges and problems they face in health-sector development. And our work is focused on results. I want to stress that I came here to Baku to focus on future results, and, I am very pleased to see, so is the Azeri Government.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you all again in September.