European Union External Action

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the High Level international conference on Ebola

03/03/2015 - 00:34
Statements by the HR/VP

"CHECK against delivery"

I would like to thank her Majesty for her presence here today and salute the contribution Belgium has made in the fight against Ebola.

Thank you for coming today. The level and number of participants here bears witness to the importance and the seriousness of Ebola.  I welcome those coming from all corners of Africa and all continents of the world.  The solidarity of the whole international community, including the UN and NGO's, is demonstrated in this room today in a very significant way.

I would like to start by paying tribute to the victims, those who have suffered and those who have helped them, often at considerable personal cost. They should not and will not be forgotten. I hope the meeting today, in its own modest but important way, can make a contribution to ensuring that others do not have to go through what they have suffered.

Today we should send a message of hope and continued determination in fighting Ebola. This fight is one that is based on co-operation and partnership. It has been a fight that has been conducted primarily in West Africa by the people and authorities of the three most affected countries.

A fight that has shown how crucial the role of communities, and community leaders, can and should be. And I think that we'll need to invest more in this dimension if we want our response in the future to be strong and effective.

The EU has been proud to assist all of you in these efforts. This assistance is a practical demonstration of solidarity with the people but also clear determination of the partnership between the EU and Africa that we have nurtured over many years. 

True to this partnership, the EU committed itself last October to provide €1 billion in support of the campaign against Ebola.  This sum has been exceeded.  So far, the EU had committed €1.2 billion in cash and kind to the international response.  This has ranged from the ship of supplies that reached West Africa in November 2014 to the arrangements for medical evacuation for health workers that enabled international volunteers to arrive in numbers.  They say a friend in need is a friend indeed, and the EU's deeds will, I hope, speak for our commitment to our friends and partners in Africa.

This effort has gone alongside Africa's own.  The African Union mobilisation of 850 health workers in a few short months, with help from the private sector, has been a remarkable achievement.

It has been very much a collective effort from the outset.  The lead role of the UN has been crucial for all of us.  It has the expertise, the experience and the global convening power.  I pay tribute to UNSG Ban Ki-Moon and to Dr David Nabarro, the UNSG's Envoy for their work in rallying international support.  Neither must we forget the too often unsung work of UNMIL in Liberia in providing invaluable support in very difficult circumstances.

The World Bank and its President, Dr Jim Kim, have also been crucial in helping tackle the wider effects of the epidemic.  It has not been just the death toll and the cost to families and communities that has done damage, but the economic effects for the region as a whole – be it in terms of investment, tourism and trade.

Ebola is a global threat and a global challenge. There may be others and we need to reflect carefully on how to confront them in the future.

While much has been accomplished, there are three big challenges we must beware of, and which this conference can make a contribution to addressing.

Firstly, complacency: Experience has taught us that we should not assume the worst is over.  We are all too aware now of what a virulent and contagious disease this is.  So, we should reiterate our re-dedication to deliver the support needed to bring a real end to the outbreak. We have to continue our work.

Second, the idea that the world can go back to the way it was. It cannot.  We face a new and deadly global disease that, if not constantly addressed, could return to haunt us.  So, one of the challenges today is to look hard at the lessons we can learn and ensure we put in place the measures and structures necessary to respond swiftly enough to any new outbreak before it takes hold.  This includes ensuring that research into antidotes and vaccines is pursued vigorously so that we have at last some means of treating the disease in the future.

The third challenge we face is of building public services and getting the economies going again so that people earn their livelihoods and governments can afford the structures necessary to help their people.  Only if we take a holistic approach will we be able to deliver a robust and sustainable solution. And as I said before, community levels need to feel ownership.

So I hope this will be both a reflective and action-oriented conference, which draws on the positive and negative experiences to plan for a better future. The people deserve no less and let this be a positive, lasting legacy for those who will not be here to see it.

I wish you all a fruitful conference.

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