APEC Economic Leaders have moved to protect the people and economies of the APEC region from possible future bio-terrorist attacks and naturally occurring disease outbreaks.
Leaders issued the "APEC Leaders' Statement on Health Security," which provides direction for APEC Member Economies to collectively take domestic measures to protect public health, combined with cooperative efforts involving government and non-governmental institutions.
The full text of the APEC Leaders' Statement on Health Security is now available online.
Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, Ambassador Piamsak Milintachinda said that disease outbreaks have a significant impact on the social and economic health of the region.
"The outbreak of SARS and terrorist attacks have stimulated new thinking on the best way for APEC to address regional health issues," said Ambassador Milintachinda.
"The APEC Leaders' Statement on Health Security adds value to APEC's overall activities and the work of other organizations to protect our people and economies.
"Last year, APEC Economic Leaders noted that, 'investing in health will benefit economic growth'. As a result, APEC has been building on existing work to establish a regional health surveillance network and an early warning system to monitor and respond to critical disease outbreaks in the region and critical threats such as bio-terrorism.
"Our future focus will be on monitoring disease, containing outbreaks and coordinating responses in the event of disease outbreak.
"We will also work closely with the World Health Organization and the APEC Emerging Infections Network on these issues.
"A high level of physical security, accountability and safety with respect to the storage, use and transfer of dangerous biological pathogens, will be collectively established consistent with current national and international efforts.
"A strict code of ethical conduct for bio-scientists will be established and we will promote already existing codes in this area.
"Finally, we will strengthen, or introduce, laws, regulations and enforcement mechanisms that require strict export controls on dual-use biological materials and equipment."
Ambassador Milintachinda indicated that the newly formed, ad hoc APEC Health Task Force, would coordinate health-related issues in APEC.
"APEC demonstrated it is serious about heath issues by convening the first APEC Health Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok on 28 June 2003, where an Action Plan and Communications Strategy on SARS were agreed," Ambassador Milintachinda said.
"The creation of the APEC Health Task Force is the next logical step to better coordinate heath issues in the region, including facilitating follow-up of the SARS initiatives," said Ambassador Milintachinda
"The implementation of the Action Plan on SARS will be an important task for the APEC Health Task Force. Lessons learned from this plan will assist the group to effectively manage possible future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
"Dr Melinda Moore from the United States has been appointed Chair of this important group, which will address health-related threats to economies, trade and security, focusing mainly on naturally occurring and man-made emerging infectious diseases.
"The group will also coordinate their activities with other APEC fora and international organizations, such as the World Health Organization to ensure APEC's work is efficient in this area and does not duplicate the efforts of others.
"The APEC Health Task Force will develop detailed Terms of Reference by the First APEC Senior Officials' Meeting for 2003 in March.
"It is expected that the task force will complete its assigned mission within two years, unless it proves the need for continuation and receives approval from Senior Officials."
The APEC Leaders' Statement on Health Security and creation of the APEC Health Task Force build on APEC's 2001 Infectious Disease Strategy. The 2001 strategy sets the groundwork for APEC's commitment to health security measures which address naturally occurring and intentionally caused disease outbreaks.