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18. september 2002 Heilbrigðisráðuneytið

Ræða Davíðs Á Gunnarssonar, ráðuneytisstjóra, á haustþingi Evrópudeildar WHO-2002

Nordic statement on
Proposed programme budget for 2004-2005

Mr. President,

On the behalf of the Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland - I would firstly like to thank the excellent work being done on preparing the proposed programme budget for 2004-2005. And secondly, I would like to thank the Regional Director for his comments on the proposed programme budget 2004-2005 and his report on the implementation of the programme budget 2000-2001.

We have noted with satisfaction that the format of the program budget has been further improved. We particularly appreciate the information on resource allocation to the various levels of the organisation - headquarters, the regional level and the country offices and we strongly approve the increased funding of country level activities. The Nordic countries welcome the priorities as outlined in the programme budget and we are especially pleased to note that one of the prioritized areas has been expanded, focussing on the important task of making pregnancy safer and on children's health. However, we would have like to see these new priorities reflected in the budget by the allocation of more resources. Finally, we find it important that the programme budget concentrates on result based budgeting.

The Nordic countries welcome this collaborative process where the regional committees are, in advance, given the opportunity to comment the totality of the budget and the strategic directions of the organisation-wide proposals, as well as matters specific to their own region. There is no doubt that the transparency of the budget has increased considerably by the implementation of new structure of the programme budget.

This change was much needed in the changing context of international health. It is, for instance, alarming to read in The European health report 2000-2001 that important inequalities in health status within and between states in the Region result from dramatic increases in the incidence of communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In addition this is largely related to worsening of the socio-economic situation in many countries.

The international community has to respond more strongly to the widening gaps in health between states and within states. It is important to focus on the countries in most urgent need. And the work should be directed towards providing more opportunities to people in order to benefit from the economic development and the scientific advances that have increased the length and quality of life in many parts of the world.

Moreover, another area of high priority for the WHO, globally as well as regionally, is the strive to counter the use of tobacco. To this end, one of the most important efforts is the finalization and implementation of the framework convention on tobacco control. The Nordic countries believes that it is absolutely vital that the current programme budget reflects WHO:s committment and responsability in making the convention a successful instrument.

Turning to the European region, we strongly supports the priority actions within the four areas of work recommended by Member States, not least the important area of alcohol control. We would like to underscore the importance of intensified efforts from the Regional Office to follow-up and continue recent years progressive work for the implementation of the European action plans on alcohol and tobacco. This is vital in order not to lose momentum and we will follow the Regional Office}s activities in this regard closely and with great interest. From a global perspective, Europe may and can constitute a good example and lead the way for other regions in their strive to counter the increasing alcohol consumption.

Of high priority for WHO in general is the application of a clear gender perspective in all its activities. To this end, an ambition should be to develop more of a gender perspective in the programme budget with regard to expected result and indicators.

The strategic orientations for the European Region for the period 2004-2005, are in line with the priorities of the Nordic countries. Including themes such as taking into account the diversity of the Member States, strengthening of international partnership for health, gathering of information and evidence, focusing on selected public health topics, and preparing for the future and following-up Health for All.

And finally, questions have been raised several times regarding the shift in the allocations of funds towards the European Region. So far this shift has been slower than decided by the WHA in 1999. But in the regular budget proposed for the European region 2004-2005 an increase of 3% is proposed. This is an important step in strengthening the budget for the European Region. But due to increasing health problems, especially in the eastern part of the Region, the financial issue will be of continuing concern in the coming years.

Mr. Chairman, when current program budget was approved at the WHA's 54th session, the Nordic countries expressed their concern about the impact of the zero nominal growth policy which has been in force for a number of years. We continue to believe that the specialized agencies of the UN which are efficient and effective, like WHO, should as a minimum be compensated for inflation and cost increases in their regular budgets. On this background we would like to propose that the EURO region sends a strong signal to WHO centrally that the next program budget should allow for zero real growth.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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