Address by the Regional Director at The AMR Challenge: A Night Celebrating Global Resistance Fighters

23 September 2019, New York

Honorable members of the Department of Health and Human Services, distinguished participants and partners, ladies and gentlemen,

I start by thanking our hosts at the Department of Health and Human Services for organizing this event. Their ongoing work to support the global struggle against AMR is commendable.

I very much appreciate the AMR Challenge the Department launched last year, as did our Member States and partners in the Region.

For many years the One Health approach has been integral to our battle against AMR, with the WHO-FAO-OIE Tripartite working with Member States to ensure all vulnerabilities at the human-animal-ecosystems interface are addressed.

Though our work continues, we have made substantial progress, for which securing high-level political buy-in and commitment has been crucial.

With the UN General Assembly deliberating on universal health coverage, we must ensure that AMR is included in that discussion. Access to medicine is a focus of the South-East Asia Region’s quest to achieve UHC. AMR threatens access to our most powerful drugs.

Partners, distinguished participants,

In 2014 the WHO South-East Asia Region made combatting AMR one of seven, now eight, Flagship Priorities.

In 2015 the World Health Assembly adopted WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, which requires Members States to develop national action plans to address the issue.

All 11 of the Region’s Member States have achieved that outcome and are now implementing their plans. WHO has been proud to support them.

We are moving fast.

Ten of the Region’s 11 Member States have enrolled in the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System.

WHO has rolled out training on the AWaRe classification scheme, with a focus on adapting the AWaRe strategy to essential medicines lists and implementing antimicrobial stewardship programmes.

National Regulatory Agencies are making concerted efforts to reduce over-the-counter sales of antimicrobials through improved labelling, inspections and public education. Several Member States have banned irrational and unsafe fixed-dose antimicrobial combination drugs.

National Reference Laboratories across the Region have been assessed and gaps identified. Our regional external quality assurance programme continues to detect and characterize GLASS pathogens.

Partners, distinguished guests,

While highlighting the Region’s advances, I want to use this opportunity to speak to a broader concern: monitoring progress against AMR within the SDG framework.

I am pleased that the 2020 Comprehensive Review of the global indicator framework provides a chance to raise AMR’s profile. At present, AMR is mentioned only in the SDG preamble, even if several indicators indirectly cover it.

As the Inter-Agency and Expert Group considers the initial comments provided earlier this month, we can look forward to deliberations on them in October, and then in March 2020.

Though we are conscious of burdening countries with the need to collect further data, we are also conscious that on AMR they have been receptive to doing so, and that an additional SDG indicator would facilitate this.

We should all support it.

Regardless of the Review’s outcome, however, we at the Regional Office have been proactive, and are already working with Member States to better track AMR-related progress and ensure its profile reflects the threat it poses.

First, we are applying a regional tracker that gauges the implementation of national action plans. The tracker covers a range of areas, from coordination and governance to infection prevention and control and laboratory capacity. It will prove vital to ensuring all plans are fully implemented.

Second, we continue to leverage the Tripartite’s AMR Country Self-Assessment Survey. The South-East Asia Region is the world’s only Region in which all Member States complete it. They will continue to do so.

Third, because AMR is one of the Region’s Flagship Priorities, we are processing an external evaluation that covers progress from 2014 to 2019. The evaluation will make recommendations on how best progress can be accelerated, in keeping with the Region’s guiding vision – ‘Sustain. Accelerate. Innovate’.

And finally, we continue to carry out bi-annual AMR assessment workshops, with participants from Member states and Country Offices identifying achievements, challenges, future activities and other collaborations. The next workshop will take place in 2020.

Partners, distinguished participants,

I once again thank the Department of Health and Human Services for organizing this event and hosting us today. You have provided yet another opportunity to raise AMR’s profile within the international policy space.

We in the South-East Asia Region very much appreciate your efforts and will continue to battle AMR as a core priority, as we have since 2014.

I look forward to working with you – our partners – as we do that, and to ensuring that our most precious drugs remain fit for purpose for the health and well-being of all people everywhere.

Thank you.