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Source: New Zealand Government

Chair, Director-General, Dr Jakab, fellow Ministers and colleagues – Greetings, Tēnā koutou katoa and Warm Pacific Greetings

  • It is a pleasure to reconnect kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face), at this important Regional Committee Meeting – the first Aotearoa New Zealand has attended in-person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Whether delegates are present in Manila or joining this meeting virtually, our engagement here reiterates our commitment to work collaboratively together to address the diverse health challenges facing our region and make it the safest and healthiest region, as envisioned in For the Future.
  • Since we met last year, Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced significant waves of COVID-19 infection which have seriously strained our health system and health care workers. We know many of our fellow Member States continue to face similar challenges.
  • Like all challenges, it is one that shapes us and will influence the way we work in future – ultimately in positive ways. As we emerge from the pandemic, the same health issues the Western Pacific faced beforehand continue to test us and call for our action, perhaps with more urgency.
  • This includes the prevailing inequities within countries that impact on our most vulnerable and marginalized populations.
  • We must learn from our experience of the pandemic – first and foremost, the truth that not all populations, both within and between countries, have borne the burden of COVID-19 equally.
  • This was the case before the pandemic. In Aotearoa New Zealand, people have differences in health that are not only avoidable but unfair and unjust.
  • Māori, our indigenous people, and Pacific peoples are more likely to experience disproportionate rates of health risk and shorter life expectancy compared with the general population.
  • How can we address this? We need robust, people-centred healthcare systems, built on platforms of primary health care, co-designed to reach all populations. We have to eliminate systemic racism, remove barriers and tackle inequities head-on.
  • For Aotearoa New Zealand’s part, our recent health and disability system reform has enabled us to learn from our past and set us on a path to better address the health and disability disparities within our country that undermine individual and collective socio-economic wellbeing.
  • Acknowledging these persistent health inequities, the reforms will enhance Māori decision making and ensure greater influence across the system, supporting Māori to take control of their own health and wellbeing.
  • Similarly, we have mandated Aotearoa New Zealand’s first Women’s Health and Pacific Health Strategies as part of our primary health system legislation. These strategies will reflect the social, cultural and economic circumstances that influence health.
  • Their development will rely on significant stakeholder engagement – for example, the Pacific Health Strategy will be informed by our strong and sustainable relationships with Pacific healthcare providers and community fono. Consultation will also underpin our Women’s Health Strategy, as we seek to learn more about gender differences and bias in health from our communities.
  • Colleagues, as a Pacific nation with a deep shared history with our partners in the sub-region, Aotearoa New Zealand remains committed to supporting Pacific Island Countries to achieve resilient health systems that can withstand health security threats and deliver sustainable and inclusive health services.
  • Collaborating to face the remaining challenges around sexual and reproductive health and rights is a priority for our mahi (work) in the Pacific– in particular, the need for improved access to these services for remote and underserved communities.
  • We are committing to significant multi-country investments in the Pacific over the next five years, with a focus on family planning and the overall aim of supporting Pacific peoples’ full realisation of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • We are proud to work with Ministries of Health, as well as WHO, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund and International Planned Parenthood, to support our partners’ ambitions and strategies, and achieve progress in these areas.
  • Chair, as we begin the week’s work, I wish to reiterate that Aotearoa New Zealand looks forward to listening and learning from you all over the course of this RCM.
  • No reira. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.