First Annual Meeting of South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN)

11-12 April 2017, New Delhi, India

Distinguished participants, my colleagues from WHO, Mr Michael Ward from Headquarters, ladies and gentlemen,

I warmly welcome you to the first Annual Meeting of the new South-East Asia Regulatory Network – or SEARN.

SEARN is a path-breaking initiative that will enhance information sharing, collaboration and convergence of regulatory practices across the Region. These are valuable outcomes.

As you know, many of the Region’s regulatory authorities lack sufficient technical capacity, staff and resources to perform effectively. At the same time, even well-resourced authorities are hard-pressed to thoroughly evaluate all products and enforce existing regulations.

This provides challenges.

National regulators are fundamental to ensuring access to safe, high-quality medical products, medicines, diagnostics, medical devices and vaccines. Ensuring that regulatory processes are efficient and effective is therefore vital to health outcomes. By extension, it is also vital to achieving Universal Health Coverage and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.

SEARN provides a compelling solution to today’s gaps and inefficiencies – one that takes full advantage of our collective strength. I thank you for your commitment and enthusiasm for this Network.

Distinguished participants,

When you met in Bangkok last year you formed an Initial Steering Group with representatives from Thailand, Maldives, India and Indonesia. They have ably steered the Network since then, shaping the agenda and suggesting priorities for the Network’s activities. These will be finalized in this meeting.

In Bangkok you also emphasized the critical role Heads of Agencies will play in this Network. It is encouraging to see so many key decision-makers here today to take this initiative forward.

This first Annual Meeting is important as it defines the Network’s future course in very concrete terms. The adoption of a prioritized work plan and governance structure will facilitate cooperation and ensure we learn from one another while regulating the vast number of products in our countries.

The Network’s success will depend on whether it delivers tangible benefits to its members and ultimately to the general public.

What am I expecting from SEARN?

I expect that by increasing collaboration SEARN will enhance the ability of national regulatory authorities to ensure the safety and quality of medical products.

I expect that by establishing streamlined work-sharing arrangements together we will find ways to accelerate access to medical products.

And I expect that as a result of SEARN, medical products across the Region will be safer and of better quality. This will benefit the vulnerable in particular, who are often pushed into poverty when paying for low-quality or unsafe products.

Achieving these outcomes will require national regulatory authorities in the Region to make good on their commitments. I am confident this will happen.

As per your wishes, I am pleased that WHO SEARO can act as SEARN’s initial secretariat and facilitate your progress.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, better access to medicines is one of my flagship priorities. I am committed to SEARN’s success, and to supporting your efforts.

I trust this consultation will lead to sustained cooperation among the Region’s regulators, and that the foundations for SEARN’s success will be securely laid.

I wish you a productive meeting and a comfortable stay in New Delhi.