Address to United Nations General Assembly side event

  • Speech, check against delivery
20 September 2016

My colleagues, Susana (Malcorra), and representatives from the partner governments.

Australia takes a keen interest in antimicrobial resistance.

It was esteemed Australian scientist Howard Florey who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945 for his work as part of a small team that brought the wonder of penicillin to the world.

Since the first use of penicillin in the 1940s, millions of people have survived wounds and injuries, operations, diseases, child birth, thanks to antimicrobial drugs.

However, with use and overuse and misuse, penicillin and other tried and true drugs are becoming less and less effective. Compounding this problem, no major new types of antibiotics have been developed in the last 30 years.

While antimicrobial resistance is a global problem, it has its most profound impact on women and children in developing countries.

Each year more than 30,000 women and 400,000 newborns die from infections around the time of birth. 200,000 newborn deaths are from infections that do not respond to available drugs.

Most of these deaths occur in low-income countries, and the situation will only worsen as the antibiotics available for treating infections become less effective.

It is encouraging to see an increase in global awareness and action against antimicrobial resistance.

Lessons from other emerging health threats - like Ebola and Zika - have demonstrated the importance of international collaboration in halting the spread of diseases and this is equally important for halting the growth of resistance to antimicrobial drugs.

Australia is strongly committed to working with partner countries and international institutions to combat these threats.

And we welcome the recent commitment by the G20 to explore ways to fight antimicrobial resistance, including through research and development into new drugs. This discussion started under China's presidency of the G20 and I know will continue under Germany's presidency.

I am also aware that researchers have identified the Asia Pacific region as a hot spot for emerging infectious diseases and growing antimicrobial resistance. Australia is working closely with our neighbours on these issues.

We are, for example, involved in the formation of a new Asia-Pacific regional regulatory partnership. This aims to develop ways to permit faster approval of new antimalarial medicines and diagnostic tools.

Australia is also working hard to help our neighbours build their capacity to respond. We are investing in a new $100 million Health Security Partnerships Initiative to support regional partnerships and expertise and I believe this Initiative will improve health and development outcomes in the Indo-Pacific.

Australia has also contributed $30 million over the last three years to bring to market new diagnostic tools and medicines, including for multi-drug resistant TB and malaria.

Last week, I was pleased to announce Australia's pledge of $220 million to the Fifth Replenishment of the Global Fund for the period 2017-2019 of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund is playing a key role financing efforts to combat the spread of drug resistant TB, and to eliminate malaria resistance from the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Domestically, we have released our National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019. The Strategy is aligned with the World Health Organisation's own Global Action Plan.

So Australia will continue to work closely with the WHO, the World Bank and other international partners on these challenges.

I am here today as Australia's representative to confirm that we will continue to raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance, and support the necessary steps to respond.

Australia welcomes today's event as one of those important steps.

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