20 March 2017
UN Establishes Inter-Agency Coordination Group on AMR
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the establishment and membership of an ad hoc inter-agency coordination group on antimicrobial resistance.

The group, chaired by Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, and Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, will convene its first meeting shortly and report to the UN Secretary-General during the UNGA's 73rd session.

17 March 2017: UN Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the establishment and membership of an ad hoc inter-agency coordination group on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General and co-chair of the group, said AMR poses a “formidable threat” in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in developing countries, noting that if “superbugs” are not stopped, SDG targets will likely not be met by 2030.

AMR describes changes to microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites, due to exposure to antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials and anthelmintics. Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs.” The changes to microorganisms can make medicines ineffective and allow infections to persist in the body, which in turn increases the risk of spread to others.

The establishment of the AMR group follows on the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) September 2016 adoption of a political declaration on AMR. The declaration requests the UN Secretary-General to establish, in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), an ad hoc inter-agency coordination group to be co-chaired by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General and WHO, drawing on expertise from relevant stakeholders “where necessary.” The declaration mandates the group to provide practical guidance for approaches needed to ensure sustained effective global action to address AMR.

The coordination group, announced on 17 March 2017, is co-chaired by Mohammed and by Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. Members of the group are: Hanan Balkhy, Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, Saudi Arabia; Jarbas Barbosa da Silva, National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), Brazil; Otto Cars, Uppsala University, Sweden; Junshi Chen, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment; Dame Sally Davies, Department of Health, UK; Lyalya Gabbasova, Ministry of Health, Russian Federation; Martha Gyansa-Lutterod, Ministry of Health, Ghana; Jaana Husu-Kallio, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland; Martin Khor, South Centre, Switzerland; Marco Marzano de Marinis, World Farmers Organization, Italy; Gérard Moulin, National Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products and French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety; Donald Prater, US Food and Drug Administration; Susana Ramirez Hita, University Andina Simon Bolivar, Ecuador; Soumya Swaminathan, Indian Council of Medical Research; and Naoko Yamamoto, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan. According to the UN Secretary-General’s announcement, the composition of expert members reflects “strong gender parity.”

The group also is expected to include officials from: the FAO; the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); OIE; the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); the UN Environment Programme; the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the World Bank; the World Customs Organization (WCO); WHO; the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Antimicrobial resistance is already prolonging illness worldwide, said Margaret Chan.

Guterres said the group will convene its first meeting “within the next few weeks,” and it should produce a report to the UN Secretary-General during the UNGA’s 73rd session, discussing the implementation of the declaration and any further developments and recommendations. Chan, observing that AMR is already prolonging illness worldwide, said the group will get to work “right away” to support governments across the world and advise on the “use and abuse” of antibiotics for people and livestock.

In an interview with UN News on 16 March 2017, Mohammed said AMR is a multisectoral problem as it impacts clean water, sustainable food production and elimination of poverty, among other issues. The creation of the group shows how seriously UN Member States are taking the threat, she said, stressing that many UN agencies, international organizations, NGOs, civil society groups and the general public will need to engage in the fight against AMR.

The AMR political declaration was agreed by UN Member States on 21 September 2016, at a high-level meeting on AMR convened by the UNGA President Peter Thomson, during which UN Member States called for action, and outlined initiatives carried out nationally to address the issue. The UNGA then adopted the declaration through resolution A/RES/71/3. [UN Secretary-General Announcement] [UN Press Release] [UNGA Resolution on Political Declaration of UNGA High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on UNGA High-Level Meeting on AMR]

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