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World Health Assembly 70: Explanation of vote on Agenda Item 19

The UK statement delivered at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva on 25 May 2017.

The World Health Assembly takes place at the Palais des Nations. The World Health Organization is headquartered in Geneva.
The World Health Assembly takes place at the Palais des Nations. The World Health Organization is headquartered in Geneva.

UK explanation of vote on World Health Assembly decision on ‘Health conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan’ (Agenda Item 19)

The reason we had this decision today was not because of the health needs of the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, important though they are.

No, the reason we had this decision today, was because of the political situation relating to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Conflict, the absence of peace, politics itself; these all affect the health and well being of millions indeed billions of people, often tragically so.

But we do not have decisions in the World Health Assembly relating to every conflict, or civil war, or political stalemate around the world. This is the only one.

I would like to commend the efforts by many in this room to avoid presenting this text today. This is the World Health Assembly, not the UN General Assembly. The WHO is one of the world’s most important technical agencies. It should not be a place where we argue over geopolitics. If we politicize the WHO, we do so at our peril, and we do the cause of global health, and the health of our citizens, a grave disservice.

We all know that a just and lasting solution, that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians, is long overdue. The United Kingdom stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the international community, in the conviction that a two-state solution is the only sustainable path for delivering justice, and improving the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

We have serious concerns about the conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But the politicization of their health needs does them no favours. And it undermines the WHO’s credibility, as the globally-focused and objective international health body we all support.

Today, the United Kingdom voted against this politicization of the World Health Assembly, and in the hope that, next year, we can finally succeed in bringing it to an end.

Published 26 May 2017