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Speeches, 5/5/2014

Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Stenlund at the Global Health Security Agenda Meeting

Global Health Security Agenda
Commitment Development Meeting in Helsinki
May 5-6, 2014

Secretary of State Peter Stenlund
Ministry for Foreign Affairs


Honourable Guests, dear Colleagues,

Globalisation and technological advances present us with increased prosperity but also challenges. The meeting ahead of us concentrates on  important questions related to global health security which plays into our comprehensive security.

As we all know, security challenges of our time are increasingly complex, and the countering biological threats is one example of those challenges. They require wide international cooperation by several authorities in our countries. Appropriate reviews and controls are needed to ensure that our authorities as well as normative frameworks keep up with developments and all stakeholders have sufficient awareness to prevent unlawful uses.

We are pleased to welcome you all to Helsinki and Finland to discuss the Global Health Security Agenda. This Helsinki Commitment Development Meeting builds on the successful launch event held in Washington D.C. in February. We want to express our sincere gratitude to our US colleagues who took the initiative to push this important agenda forward.

Finland signed up to work on Global Health Security together with 28 countries, the European Union, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Through Global Health Security Agenda we are building linkages between our nations with the aim of to strengthen our ability to prevent, detect and respond to emerging infectious diseases.

Given the biological risks and challenges the global community faces today, we need to collaborate closely with our international partners across the globe. Biological threats do not recognise national borders and cooperation is therefore absolutely necessary. We need wide shoulders to respond to these challenges and therefore I am pleased to see that our GHS group has grown and new countries have joined the initiative.

The enhancement of biosecurity and countering biological threats are also an important element of global non-proliferation agenda. Biological threats require constant attention at the global level.

As we are strengthening our common efforts towards global health security, we are also nationally building bridges between our own ministries. Officials across the sectors from health, foreign affairs, defence and agriculture need to work hand in hand.  We need  both multilateral and multi-sectoral efforts to strengthen global health security. Finland emphasises the importance of whole-of-government approaches to the health security. Combating natural or intentionally spread contagious diseases requires closer cooperation and preparedness between authorities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

 Finland finds it important that synergies between the initiative and UN's work are explored and utilised. The UN system is the cornerstone of the global multilateral system and cooperation.  We work  to improve the UN’s legitimacy and capacity to act. Let me elaborate on three key issues from the Finnish perspective.

Firstly, Finland's investment in the UN system and its health actors is substantive. In addition to the multilateral support, we engage in health sector programmes particularly in some fragile states and also maintain a strong NGO collaboration. Currently we also support   WHO through development cooperation funds and humanitarian funding. We are contributing to the funding of the strategic objectives of  WHO – especially towards achieving the health related Millennium Development Goals. In addition, we have global programs with FAO in the agriculture and forestry sectors and bilateral programs in several countries.

Secondly, Finland supports the central role of the UN in preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and stresses the importance of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. This resolution affirms that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The resolution contains non-proliferation obligations to States. This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the resolution 1540.  It is an important milestone but at the same time we recognise that more needs to be done. Finland has been a member of G8 Global Partnership since 2003. Through the Global Partnership, as through Global Health Security, we are looking at ways to advance biosecurity globally.

Thirdly, besides non-proliferation, Finland underlines the importance of disarmament mechanisms. Finland is a strong supporter of strengthening of the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC). Full universality is yet to be achieved.  It is pertinent to effectively work towards universality and to use available tools to promote treaty compliance.

Dear participants, we do believe in the Global Health Security Agenda as a valuable initiative that greatly contributes to global health security. It promotes common goals, seeks feasible solutions and aims at durable results. We look forward to productive discussions here in Helsinki.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a very successful two days that will make an important contribution towards a safer world.

This document

Updated 5/5/2014

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