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NordAN applauds WHO decision to relocate European NCD Office from Moscow to Copenhagen

16.05.2023 - The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Europe has decided to close its Moscow-based European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD), relocating its operations to WHO/Europe in Copenhagen, Denmark. The decision was made during a special virtual session held on May 15, 2023, chaired by Ambassador Nora Kronig Romero.

The move comes after a concerted push from 30 WHO European Region Member States, who requested that the NCD office be closed in Moscow and its functions transferred to Copenhagen. This decision was reached despite proposed amendments from the Russian Federation and Tajikistan, both suggesting different courses of action, which most Member States voted down.

The Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN) has been a vocal advocate for this relocation. In October 2022, NordAN issued a letter to Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, and Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, urging the relocation of the NCD office from Moscow. NordAN board cited the ongoing war in Ukraine and the international sanctions against Russia as reasons for the move, arguing that WHO's presence in Moscow undermined international efforts to address the conflict.

NordAN's follow-up letter in November 2022, sent to the Standing Committee of the WHO Regional Committee and Ministers of Health, echoed their previous concerns. In addition, the letter emphasized that operating the NCD office in a country engaged in an unjust war, disregarding its own citizens' well-being and health while causing significant global disruption, was counterproductive to achieving NCD prevention goals.

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NordAN is pleased with the WHO's decision, seeing it as a crucial move in line with global sanctions on Russia and a firm stand against violence and aggression.

Following the decision, the WHO will continue to provide support and guidance to Member States on addressing NCDs across the region during the transition period. This move is seen as critical in ensuring that political factors maintain the essential work of the NCD office and can continue to focus on addressing the leading cause of mortality in the region.

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