Members of the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee (SCRC) met on 18 May 2021 to agree on the agenda for the upcoming 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.
Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, rethinking health- and social-care systems in the post-COVID era, and renewing the focus on primary healthcare will be among the key agenda topics for the session in September 2021.
Member State delegations will also consider the progress made in the first year of the European Programme of Work 2020–2025, and will be invited to formally launch 2 of its flagships: the European Immunization Agenda 2030 and the Mental Health Coalition.
During the meeting this week, the SCRC also decided that the 71st session should be held virtually for a second year running, in order to ensure equal participation by all 53 Member States. After the plenary on 13–15 September, additional online events and briefings will be held on 16–17 September.
Solidarity and equity remain in focus
During the meeting, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, briefed SCRC members on WHO/Europe’s recent activities. Following up on the SCRC’s call for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation in a joint statement in March 2021, Dr Kluge highlighted the COVAX rollout, through which more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to 14 countries and territories in the WHO European Region in recent weeks. He also reported on his recent missions to countries in central Asia, central Europe and the Western Balkans.
The Regional Director emphasized the need to maintain a dual-track focus in health work: addressing COVID-19 while taking action on other health priorities and essential services. In that respect, he mentioned the opening of the WHO Athens Quality of Care Office in Greece in April 2021, and the launch of the One Health Coordination Mechanism for Europe and central Asia a week later, as some noteworthy examples of improvement, investment and solidarity.
Recommendations of the Pan-European Commission
The final recommendations of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, established in 2020 to rethink policy priorities in the light of pandemics, will also be discussed at the upcoming Regional Committee session.
In response to a briefing by Professor Mario Monti, the Commission’s Chair, members of the SCRC expressed support for the idea of creating a Pan-European Health Security Council at the level of heads of state.