Wednesday, 26 October 2016

World Medical Association General Assembly, Taipei 2016

Welcome Message: Michael Marmot

It is my special pleasure and privilege to welcome you to our WMA General Assembly Taipei 2016 and 204th/205th Council Sessions. And to thank our hosts in Taiwan for their gracious hospitality and splendid arrangements.

It is tempting to say that this has been a tumultuous year – when were they ever different? There is, though, evidence to support this contention. The Global Peace Index looks at three broad themes: level of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic or international conflict; and the degree of militarisation.

2016 shows the level of peace in the world to be declining and the gap between the most and least peaceful countries continues to widen. Not just peace, but economics, too. Inequalities of income have been increasing in many if not most countries. Globally the gap in wealth is enormous. Oxfam reported this year that the richest 62 billionaires have the same wealth as the poorest half of the global population. The 62 could just about fit into a red London double decker bus. Not so the 3.5 billion people with the same cumulative wealth.

Added to concerns of security and economic inequality there is the slow burn of climate change that threatens major changes to way of life, particularly in low income countries. All three of these – conflict, economic insecurity and climate events such as floods, drought and famine – drive migration. According to the UNHCR we are now witnessing an unprecedented number of people driven from their homes – 65 million worldwide. Among them are over 21 million refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18. The top hosting countries for displaced people are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon Iran, Ethiopia and Jordan, but there are big impacts in Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Asia and the Pacific.

Each of these dramatic trends affects us as medical professionals. We deal with the health consequences of conflict and insecurity, economic inequality, climate events and large scale displacement of people. Our freedom to deliver medical care to the needy has, in some countries, been compromised unconscionably. And, at our best, we are active in addressing the causes of these challenges to the health or our patients and the communities of which we are part.

As we come together to debate these big issues we, representing doctors from all parts of the world, bring the highest ethical principles and commitment to the health of our populations. We have important roles to play within the World Medical Association, our National Medical Associations, and in the society at large.

More, we enjoy the company of colleagues from round the world. What we share is so much bigger and more important than what divides us. We gain so much from each other. A heartfelt thank you to all.

Michael Marmot
World Medical Association

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