France and WHO: a strategic partnership for global health security

Representatives from the Government of France and the Lyon Metropolis, and representatives of WHO gathered for the annual Statutory meeting of partners of the WHO Lyon Office, held virtually this year. The main objectives of the meeting were to take stock of achievements in 2020 and review the vision and strategic directions of the office in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, discuss on-going and future collaboration with local and national partners in the local scientific environment; and collaboration with the WHO Academy, the innovative centre for delivering advanced digital and classroom training to health workers and others around the world.

This year the WHO Lyon Office marks 20 years since its opening in February 2001. “The Government of France and the French partners of the WHO Lyon Office recognized the importance of global health security 20 years ago when they played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Lyon Office,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “WHO is extremely grateful to France not only for its longstanding financial and technical support but also for its strategic partnership that is based on a shared vision for better health outcomes for all people around the world,” added Dr Ryan.

The Lyon office was established in 2001 to support national laboratory and surveillance systems for epidemic preparedness and response, after an agreement between WHO, the French government, the Metropolis of Lyon (“la Metropole”) and the Merieux Foundation. The scope of the office was broadened in 2005 with the revision of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the creation of a new team in charge of health security at ports, airports and ground crossings. The office is now part of the Emergency Preparedness Division, Country Readiness Strengthening department, with three units in charge of Public Health Laboratory Strengthening, Border Health Risk Dissemination and Learning and Training Solutions. Its expertise is fully mobilized to provide support to COVID-19 preparedness and response.

Global health security preparedness and IHR implementation are one the French global health priorities and mentioned as one of the five France-WHO areas of collaboration in the 2020-2025 WHO-France framework agreement signed in 2019.

Moreover, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, France has contributed 10M EUR to support implementation of the strategic preparedness and response plan, and the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a unique global partnership that brings together health organizations, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The ACT-A was set up in response to a call from G20 Leaders in March 2020 and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.

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