Cooperation in the field of health takes its commencement from the Extraordinary Summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Turkic Council held on 10 April 2020 on the theme of “Solidarity and Cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic”.As stipulated in the adopted Baku Declaration of the Extraordinary Video Summit of the Turkic Council, the Parties have agreed to establish close interaction among the Ministries of Health of the Member States, with the aim of sharing best practices, assisting each other on substantive subjects regarding the pandemic.
Based on this instruction, the Secretariat and Ministry of Health of the Republic of Azerbaijan representing the Chairman-in-Office of the Turkic Council have organized the 1st Video-Conference Meeting of the Ministers of Health of the Member and Observer States of the Turkic Council on 28 April 2020.
Ministers of Health discussed the ways of implementation of the decisions made during the Extraordinary Summit and emphasized the significance of cooperation among the Member and Observer States in the fight against the COVID-19 and in the post-pandemic period within the framework of the Turkic Council.
During this meeting it was decided to set up Health Coordination Committee and Health Scientific Group in order to exchange of information and experience and best practices in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment of dangerous infections, monitoring, epidemiological studies and scientific researches among the Member and Observer States.
As a result of the Ministerial Meeting, the Parties have established the Health Coordination Committee responsible for coordinating all health cooperation issues among the Parties. Within the Coordination Committee there are also “Health Scientific Group” consisting of leading scientists, specialists and experts to expand coordination in fight against COVID-19 and other dangerous infections and “Supply Chain Group” to provide each other with needed pharmaceutical products and medical equipment.
Under this cooperation framework, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Turkey organized the first face-to-face Vaccine Workshop of the Health Scientific Group on 24-27 August 2020 in İzmir, where Turkey shared its experience in the vaccine development and combatting against the pandemic.
The Ministers of Health of the Member and Observer States came together in Istanbul on 30 October 2020 for the 4th Meeting of the Health Scientific Group and adopted the Joint Declaration in which the importance of international cooperation in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and concerted actions to prevent its further transmission were underlined. They also praised the coordination and cooperation efforts of the Turkic Council as an example of institutionalized sub-regional collaboration focusing on the ways to foster solidarity in the interest of people.
The Ministers underscored the importance of maintaining the achieved level of cooperation, carrying it further with new concrete projects, as well as preparing the Turkic Council’s Pandemic Action Plan.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
The Turkic Council also has been in close contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Turkic Council is the first international organization to hold a Summit on COVID-19 pandemic at the level of Heads of States on the global scale. At the Summit, the Heads of States put a special emphasis on the need of a close cooperation between the Turkic Council and WHO.
Director General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivered a speech at the Extraordinary Video Summit of the Turkic Council held on 10 April 2020. WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge also delivered speeches at the Meeting of the Ministers of Health of the Turkic Council on 28 April 2020 and at 4th Meeting of the Health Scientific Group of the Turkic Council on 30 October 2020.
Turkic Council in its turn for the first time participated as a partner at the 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe on 14 September 2020 and the Secretary General delivered a statement emphasizing support to the proposal of WHO European Regional Office to unite efforts of regional multilateral institutions and mechanisms around health as one of the key objectives of the European Programme of Work (2020–2025) – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”.
The Secretary General and WHO Regional Director with the aim of putting the relations between the two organizations into an institutionalized framework and establishing the legal basis for future engagements signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 11 September 2020.
To discuss the cooperation opportunities, as well as to develop an Action Plan between the Turkic Council and WHO on the basis of the MOU signed between the two organizations, the Secretary General visited the Regional Office for Europe of WHO in Copenhagen on 30 November-1 December 2020.
The parties reaffirmed their determination and solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic as well as in implementation of the MOU and European Program of Work for 2020–2025.
They also agreed to organize online training programs for health professionals, to accelerate implementation of the International Health Regulation (2005), to improve high vaccination coverage, conduct capacity building for data and health information systems, strengthen digital health in primary health as well as together with the WHO Representatives in the Member and Observer States’s capitals to start procedures of designating new WHO Collaboration Centers.
As a result of the close cooperation between the two organizations, Prof. Dr. Emine Alp Meşe, Deputy Minister of Health of the Republic of Turkey and the Chair of the Turkic Council Health Scientific Group also contributes to the work of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development as the representative of the Turkic Council.
The Parties currently working on finalizing the draft Action Plan for the implementation of the MOU and planning to start putting it into practice at the beginning of April of 2021.