In his opening keynote address at the high-level meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today, 6 July, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that unfortunately health standards all over the world are far from satisfactory and there is a great deal of work to be done before health care opportunities are sufficiently competent and accessible.
As the representative of the vice president of ECOSOC, Paet emphasised that in order to make progress in developing world health care and fulfil the Millennium Development Goals, international co-operation must be developed both in UN organisations and among governments, intergovernmental organisations, and businesses.
In his speech, Paet also gave examples of signs of progress in world health care. “Although the co-operation of the World Health Organisation and other international organisations has been successful in reducing child mortality and malnourishment, and steps have been taken towards fighting tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, the situation in sub-Saharan Africa is far from satisfactory,” said Paet. “Improving the health care situation continues to be the most complicated in conflict areas and nations with high HIV infection rates,” Paet noted.
Paet stated that child mortality is still very high in some countries. “This is also true of infant mortality and maternal death rates. Every year half a million young women die in childbirth or during pregnancy. Ninety-nine percent of these tragic occurrences take place in developing nations and could be preventable with timely treatment,” Paet added.
In talking about the global financial crisis, Foreign Minister Paet emphasised that developing nations have been the hardest hit by the crisis and their health care systems have been placed under even greater pressure. “The health care system is not merely a healing instrument,” said Paet. “Functioning health care systems help with the prevention of disease and social security, which is one of the first prerequisites for economic development and productivity,” emphasised the Estonian foreign minister, saying that the global economic crisis has made the need for better health care even more apparent than before.
To illustrate how Estonia is doing its part, Paet spoke about the development of the health care system in Helmand Province. “Our experience in Helmand shows that even in extreme circumstances, efforts can be made that significantly improve health care opportunities for local people,” Paet said about the work of the Estonian health care expert in Afghanistan.
The Economic and Social Council is the UN’s primary organ for dealing with economic and social issues. The ECOSOC’s mission is to advance economic development, the protection of human rights, and international co-operation in various social areas, as well as to co-ordinate the activities of UN special agencies, programmes and funds. The Council initiates or implements studies, offers suggestions, prepares conventions and organises international conferences. The 54 members of the ECOSOC are chosen by the UN General Assembly.
Estonia’s membership in the ECOSOC began on 1 January 2009 and will last for three years until 31 December 2011. On 15 January 2009 Estonia was chosen as a vice-president of the ECOSOC in the UN’s main headquarters in New York.
Additional information about the ECOSOC meeting in Geneva can be found at http://www.un.org/ecosoc.