United Nations high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance

New York, 21.09.2016 - Speech by Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann, President of the Swiss Confederation

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Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Imagine a world where common infections became deadly again. Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest global threats to health. The excessive and sometimes inappropriate use of antibiotics has made a growing number of bacteria resistant to their effect. According to current estimates, without coordinated intervention by states, an additional ten million people a year could die as a result of antimicrobial resistance by 2050.

There is an urgent need for action.

In Switzerland, the goal of stepping up the fight against antibiotic resistance is at the top of the political agenda. Last November, the Federal Council adopted a national strategy that is fully compatible with the WHO’s global action plan.

The strategy is built around a One Health approach and focuses on the public health and animal health sectors, and on the fields of agriculture and the environment, where the need for action is equally important. The coordination of action at the international level should also incorporate the One Health approach. It is imperative to restrict the use of antibiotics in order to ensure their long-term effectiveness in maintaining human and animal health.

Switzerland is involved at the international level. In May 2015, it supported the adoption of the Global Action Plan to combat antimicrobial resistance devised by the WHO in collaboration with the FAO and the OIE.

In a bid to strengthen international cooperation against antimicrobial resistance, Switzerland has also joined the Global Health Security Agenda initiative, launched by the United States to combat communicable diseases. It has published a comparative study of the various national strategies for combating antimicrobial resistance, which aims to define best practices.

Switzerland also considers it important that all public and private stakeholders invest more in the research and development of new antibiotics and diagnostic tools. This area has been neglected for too long, primarily as a result of market failures. Switzerland has decided to increase its commitment to innovative public-private partnerships, and has pledged to contribute to the implementation of the GARD (Global Antibiotic Research and Development) partnership launched by the DNDi Foundation. To promote research in this area, Switzerland approved a CHF 20 million national research programme on antimicrobial resistance last year.

Colleagues, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a minister for agriculture, trade, education, research and innovation, this issue is close to my heart. Together we must continue to raise public awareness of the risks associated with antimicrobial resistance. As heads of state, it is our duty to strengthen political awareness, commitment and leadership in this area by involving all government sectors. If the international community does not come together and act with a united front, we risk returning to the era before the discovery of penicillin in 1928 when so many people died of simple infections.

Let us commit to addressing this major challenge that threatens the achievement of the sustainable development goals in a united and coordinated way, and let us meet again in the near future to take stock of the results obtained.

Thank you.

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