Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, your Excellencies, our friends from South-East Asia.
I’d like to let you all in on a little secret – being the Minister responsible for Global Health is one of my favourite parts of the job.
Partially because I’m asked to attend receptions in beautiful rooms like these, which I must confess, are slightly nicer than what I’m used to!
But also because it’s a real privilege to meet with our partners from across the globe.
And today, I’m delighted to welcome the Secretary General of ASEAN, on his first visit to the UK.
Your Excellency, your visit comes at a vital time. We stand at the dawn of a new partnership between ASEAN and the UK.
In 2021, the UK became ASEAN’s first new dialogue partner in a quarter of a century. And since then, our relationship has continued to grow in confidence and in strength, because we share a vision of a free, open and stable Indo-Pacific region, governed by the rule of law.
And the UK wants to play the fullest possible role in advancing that vision, drawing on the best of British expertise in finance, regulation, and healthcare. That’s why we applied to join the ASEAN Regional Forum.
And it’s why we’re committed to working with ASEAN to meet the challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to global health, and harnessing AI’s potential.
Your Excellency, I hope you’ve witnessed the UK commitment to our cooperation throughout your visit. I know you’ve have met with our Deputy Prime Minister. You have visited Oxford University, and tomorrow you will open the London Stock Exchange.
As I can see in the room tonight, our leading scientific minds and industry partners are committed to finding solutions.
Not just to current health challenges, but also those facing future generations – from pandemics to the impact of a changing climate on our health systems.
As a health minister, I’ve got a front row seat to see the benefits our joint efforts will deliver for our people.
I know investing in global health research isn’t just good for my country – it benefits the peoples of South-East Asia, and the world.
And we all know it’s the only way we’ll prevent the next global health crisis.
That’s why since 2016, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Research has joined forces with 27 institutions across South-East Asia, funding over £86m in critical health research.
The UK’s Newton Fund has supported over 70 research teams to conduct crucial research on strategic areas like antimicrobial resistance, meningitis and COVID-19.
And through the Fleming Fund, my department has invested £265m, supporting countries around the globe to generate, share, and use data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
I’m proud this is the world’s single largest aid investment in AMR surveillance.
It will continue to bolster our partnership with at least four ASEAN member states.
But this is just the beginning. Today, I’m proud to announce we’re investing more than £30m of aid in four new vaccine manufacturing research hubs through the UK Vaccine Network.
This will build partnerships between British universities and global vaccine developers.
And that includes creating a dedicated UK-South East Asia Vaccine Manufacturing Hub, in a partnership between the University of Sheffield and twelve ASEAN partner institutions.
So that if another pandemic strikes, lifesaving vaccines will be more readily available across South-East Asia and the world.
And that’s not all. We’re also working closely with our friends in the Secretariat to develop a new programme: the ASEAN-UK Health Security Partnership.
This will bring the full force of our expertise to bear in tackling shared global health challenges.
And there is no greater symbol of our friendship, than the nearly 36,000 nurses and midwives, and the several thousand doctors from ASEAN member states who are working in our National Health Service.
I pay tribute to their decades of dedicated service. And in recognition of that service, we’re giving leadership development opportunities to healthcare staff working in the UK and across ASEAN, through NHS England’s Global Fellowship Programme.
With their help, together, we’ll build the resilient and inclusive health systems we need, to save lives across the world.
Your Excellency, the measures we’re announcing today will help our countries tackle future pandemics, boost research into vaccines, and reduce deaths from infectious diseases.
And I hope you return to the region, safe in the knowledge our partnership will go from strength to strength from here. Thank you.