Health Ministers Take Action to Improve Health Security Globally

7 November 2001 – Ottawa, Canada

Ministers and Secretaries of Health and senior officials from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Commissioner of Health and Consumer Protection, European Union concluded their first meeting on health security and bioterrorism in Ottawa today. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss a more coordinated approach to improving the health security of citizens, and to better prepare for and respond to acts of terrorism, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Following the meeting, the participants issued a statement calling for concerted global action to strengthen the public health response to the threat of international biological, chemical and radio-nuclear terrorism.

Ottawa plan for improving health security (Ottawa, November 7, 2001)

  1. We, Health Ministers/Secretaries/Commissioner, have consistently condemned in the strongest terms all forms of biological, chemical and radio-nuclear terrorism and in particular the acts of terrorism that have taken place in the United States. We affirm our resolve as a group of Health Ministers/Secretaries representing diverse nations to, individually and collectively, take concerted actions to ensure the health and security of our citizens, and to enhance our respective capacities to deal with public health incidents.
  2. The events of September 11 have changed the focus of governments. It has centered our attention on how we assess risks, how we prepare for any eventuality and how we respond more effectively to public health security crises. It has added urgency and determination to further strengthen our plans, networks and protocols in collaboration with other countries as well as international organizations. Terrorism, particularly bio-terrorism, is an international issue, for instance, an outbreak of smallpox anywhere in the world is a danger to all countries. International collaboration is essential.
  3. We intend to forge a new partnership to address the critical issue of protecting public health and security. We are committed to working aggressively to strengthen our readiness and response by increasing collaboration amongst governments, in partnerships with international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Recognizing the wide range of issues that are part of any health security plan, our objectives for the partnership, within the framework of existing international agreements are:
    • To explore joint cooperation in procuring vaccines and antibiotics;
    • To engage in a constructive dialogue regarding the development of rapid testing, research in variations of vaccines, and our respective regulatory frameworks for the development of vaccines and in particular smallpox vaccines;
    • To further support the World Health Organization’s disease surveillance network and WHO’s efforts to develop a coordinated strategy for disease outbreak containment;
    • To share emergency preparedness and response plans, including contact lists, and consider joint training and planning;
    • To agree on a process for international collaboration on risk assessment and management and a common language for risk communication;
    • To improve linkages among laboratories, including level four laboratories, in those countries which have them;
    • To undertake close cooperation on preparedness and response to radio-nuclear and chemical events; and
    • To share surveillance data from national public health laboratories and information on real or threatened contamination of food and water supplies along with information on risk mitigation strategies to ensure safe food supplies.
  4. To urgently take this process forward, each of us will designate a senior official to be the point person to ensure that this Plan is translated into concrete actions. Officials from each country will meet without delay to flesh out specific measures of this Plan. In addition, these senior officials constitute a network of rapid communication/reaction in case of crisis.
  5. To ensure follow up, Canada will serve as the coordinating partner to take the lead in establishing networks, linkages and collaboration agreed upon today, and to facilitate arrangements for a second ministerial meeting. Ministers/Secretaries/Commissioner also agreed to broaden this forum as appropriate to include other governments. Ministers/Secretaries/Commissioner accepted the offer of the United Kingdom to host this meeting at an early date. Canada will also coordinate the early designation of senior officials, the ongoing sharing of best practices and development of specific proposals for ministerial consideration, including cooperation on pharmaceuticals and stockpiling issues.
  6. We welcome other Health Ministers/Secretaries who stand ready to join in this effort.

The statement was endorsed by the following Health Ministers, Secretaries and senior officials:

  • The Honourable Allan Rock, Minister of Health, Canada
  • Mr. David Byrne, Commissioner of Health and Consumer Protection, European Union
  • Mr. Jungoro Kondo, Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan
  • L’honorable Bernard Kouchner, Ministre délégué à la Santé, France
  • The Honourable Julio Frenk, Minister of Health, Mexico
  • The Right Honourable John Hutton, Minister of State for Health, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Klaus Theo Schröder, Secretary of State, Federal Ministry of Health, Germany
  • Professor Girolamo Sirchia, Minister of Health, Italy (in absentia)
  • Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, United States