Watch the Commonwealth Secretary-General's speech at the Commonwealth Secretariat and World Health Organization MoU signing ceremony.

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High Commissioners,

WHO Representatives in Commonwealth countries,

Colleagues and friends,

Thank you for being with us today. 

And Dr Tedros, my dear brother, thank you.

Thank you for your words

Thank you for your friendship – to me and to the whole Commonwealth family

And thank you for your leadership – now and throughout this terrible pandemic.

You, and the World Health Organisation that you lead, have done extraordinary work in unique and terrible circumstances – and we are all extremely grateful.

Signing this Memorandum of Understanding is an important moment. 

The Commonwealth is a family of 54 nations, bound by history, tradition, and shared values.

It is home to more than 2.5 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under 30. 

Our mixture of advanced economies, developing economies, and small states is spread right across the globe.

We have huge advantages, real challenges, and limitless potential.

Dr Tedros, you have already said so much that I agree with and wish to reinforce.

So, I will focus my contribution today on three things.

First, your call for nations to work together to vaccinate the world could not be more important.

In this, the partnership we are sealing today has immediate and vital practical application.

Equitable access to vaccines – especially for our small and vulnerable countries – is the most pressing political, economic, social and moral priority.

If we fail to deliver effective and prompt action on vaccines, we face perpetual global crisis that threatens all of our health, wealth and security

So I fully endorse the W.H.O’s goal to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year. 

And I hope that this can be achieved across the Commonwealth before Heads of Government come together in Kigali in June.

It is self-evident that, if this is to be achieved, we must concentrate our efforts on small states. 

32 of the world’s 42 small states are in the Commonwealth. 

At current global vaccination rates, we could vaccinate the entire population of these states within two or three days.

In doing so, we can protect the most vulnerable people in our world.

We can reopen and re-energise economies from across Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean.

And we can give the countries in the greatest need a foundation for sustainable development. 

If we can, we must.

Second, the W.H.O and The Commonwealth have long shared a vision for what we can achieve together. 

Working together in a spirit of partnership, harnessing technology and data to help our member states in so many ways: -

Tackling the full range of disease, from malaria to cancer;

Building strong, resilient, high quality health services to which everybody has access;

Rising to new challenges, such the health impacts of climate change. 

The partnership we are signing today turns that vision into a practical action plan for the long-term.

It can help us to do more for the people our organisations strive to serve.

I am proud of that.

Third, that this – what we are doing here today – matters.

Partnership matters.

Multilateralism matters. 

Progress is made when countries and international organisations come together and work together.

Dr Tedros, you recognised the Commonwealth’s diversity, our shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law; and the bonds of history and tradition.

As leaders, it falls to us to ask ourselves what inheritance we wish to bequeath to those we serve, and those who come next.

My vision is for a safe, equitable and just world where the needs of the most vulnerable are at the heart of what we do. 

I believe this partnership is a step towards that.

And I am confident that, by formalising and deepening our work at every level, we can better serve the 2.5 billion people of The Commonwealth, and provide an example to the rest of the world.

Thank you.