Ranking Member Ruiz’s Opening Statement at Select Subcommittee Hearing on World Health Organization and Global Health Security

Dec 13, 2023
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (December 13, 2023)—Below is Ranking Member Raul Ruiz, M.D.’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing examining pathways to enhance global health security and reform the World Health Organization.

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Opening Statement
Ranking Member Raul Ruiz, M.D.
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic
Hearing on “Reforming the WHO: Ensuring Global Health Security and Accountability”
December 13, 2023

In the last three years, the world has persevered through a deadly pandemic that has claimed nearly seven million lives across the globe.

Now, as we reflect on the international response to this public health crisis and look to the future, we must do so with a commitment to advancing global health security.

There is no international organization as central to this work as the World Health Organization, which has contributed to monumental advancements in health care access, improvements in population health outcomes, and the defeat of deadly diseases even in farthest corners of the world.

The WHO’s continued surveillance of global health threats has helped prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases such as measles from arriving on our shores.

And the WHO’s global vaccination programs have helped contribute to an overall 54% increase in global life expectancy in the last 70 years and put us on track to prevent 51 million deaths from measles and hepatitis B around the world.

So, I want to take this time to emphasize now that our work to prevent and prepare for future pandemics is not in conflict with enhanced international cooperation.

Instead, our efforts are strengthened and fortified by it.

In our last hearing on biosafety and biosecurity, we all agreed that threats to the American people’s health do not end at our borders.

So, in order for us to ensure our nation is truly prepared for the next pandemic, we must continue to engage with the international community on work that prevents future threats from reaching our nation.

The United States has served as the preeminent leader in global health for decades.

And now is not the time to cede that role to another country angling for global influence.

No—now is the time to reinforce the United States’s global health leadership with meaningful reforms to the WHO that promote transparency and strengthen international cooperation in the event of a future pandemic.

Thankfully, after years of volatile leadership under the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration has sought to correct course by re-engaging not only with the World Health Organization, but our partners around the world to advance global health and our interests abroad.

Taking a lessons-learned approach from the early days of the pandemic, the Biden Administration has pursued reforms to the WHO that I think we can all get behind.

Reforms that enhance oversight of Member States’ compliance with International Health Regulations, develop an early warning system for public health threats, and strengthen investigative capabilities for public heath emergencies of international concern.

These reforms would not only institute positive change at the World Health Organization, but they would also enhance pandemic preparedness on a global scale, and therefore, reinforce U.S. influence in international institutions and norms.

You see, in many ways, global health is the cornerstone of our diplomatic efforts.

And we must continue to find ways that enhance our role in this space on the international stage.

The fact of the matter is, when we leave gaps, our adversaries will fill them.

So now more than ever, we should work to deepen cooperation with our allies and commit to a collaborative approach to global health security that will ultimately counter the Chinese Communist Party and deter their influence.

Bold investments in global health and pandemic prevention made through the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan have set the stage for this work.

For example, American Rescue Plan funds bolstering the WHO’s COVID-19 vaccine administration efforts helped vaccinate approximately half the world’s population from COVID-19 within a one-year period, with U.S. vaccines making their way to key regions of the world where we compete with the PRC for influence.

Additionally, the Biden Administration has complemented these investments with forward-looking policies that advance U.S. interests abroad.

Notably, under President Biden’s leadership, the State Department established its Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy with Ambassador-at-Large Nkengasong at the helm.

Ambassador Nkengasong, I look forward to hearing from you today about how the Bureau has integrated global health security in our national security and foreign policy priorities and how the United States is engaging with WHO to advance that effort.

There is certainly a great deal of ground to cover in today’s discussion.

And it is my hope that today, we can identify constructive reforms to the WHO that build on the Administration’s work to enhance global pandemic preparedness, as well as forward-looking policies that further cement America’s leadership in global health security.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.


118th Congress