Appointed by the UN Secretary General in September 2005, the UN System Influenza Coordinator has worked to make the UN system work to its best effect to support national, regional and global efforts to address the threats posed by animal and pandemic influenza. Since then, much work as been done and progress made in the efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to animal and pandemic influenzas. Much progress has been made in containing the H5N1 avian influenza virus, as about two-thirds of the 62 countries which reported the virus presence to date have managed to contain it. However, the virus continues to circulate and be detected in about 10-15 countries and it is still endemic in five highly-affected countries. In addition, H5N1 virus continues to evolve and spread. Therefore the risk remains unchanged. This situation, combined with decreasing donor funding and decreasing political and public interest in avian influenza, has called for adopting progressive control and targeted strategies. 2011 saw a broadening of efforts toward pandemic response and preparedness, shifting to multi-sector, multi-level, ‘Whole of Society’ approaches, and a broadening of efforts to move beyond pandemics to address diseases at the animal-human interface. During this period, the Coordinator’s work was principally focused on:
High-Level Coordination of the UN System agencies and other partners through the continued provision of advice and support to the UN Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General, including support to the UN System Steering Committee on Avian and Pandemic Influenza; management of the UN Inter-agency Technical Working Group on Influenza; chairing of the UNDP Multi-Partner Trust Fund Management Committee dedicated to pandemic preparedness work (the Central Fund for Influenza Action); and stewarding a final update of the UN Consolidated Action Plan for Contributions of the UN System and Partners on Animal and Human Influenza.
Promoting Multi-Sector and Whole of Society Approaches to Pandemic Preparedness, particularly through the ‘Toward a Safer World’ initiative to find the right ways of sustaining and transferring experiences and expertise in pandemic preparedness to be used in other crises. Involving governments, UN agencies, technical and specialized agencies, non-governmental and community-based organizations and private companies, a strategic advocacy program is also being developed to communicate the research findings to key decision-makers.
Promoting and maintaining efforts for addressing Health risks at the animal human interface given that the collaboration at the animal-human-environment interface is strategically building on the lessons learned from, and achievements of, the preparedness and responses to avian and pandemic influenza.
Strengthening International Partnerships and alliances through continued close linkages with global initiatives as well as support to the organization of international conferences (such as the November 2011 High Level Technical Meeting on Health Risks at the Human-Animal-Ecosystems Interfaces, in Mexico City).
Supporting Communications and Information Sharing through the development and sharing of reference tools as well as the continued management of the UN System Influenza Portal (http://un-influenza.org).
It should be noted that upon the request of the UN Secretary General, throughout 2011 the Coordinator also served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition and as Coordinator of the High Level Task Force on Global Food Security.