Dimitri Kerkentzes, Deputy Secretary General of the BIE, spoke of our theme to at our international symposium. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
Specialised Expos are unique global gatherings that educate the public, promote innovation and advance cooperation on an international stage. By fostering progress and by conveying the key values that underpin their theme, Expos bring life to diverse ideas, connections and solutions that help us confront the pressing challenges facing the world.
According to Article 4 of the Convention relating to International Exhibitions, Specialised Expos must “illustrate a definite theme”. This theme must be precise and of international interest, allowing countries from across the world to address a particular challenge through an engaging and immersive event.
“Healthy People, Healthy Planet” is one such theme, one that would create a unique opportunity for the international community to promote health and well-being, not only for individuals, but for society as a whole, for our cities, and for our planet.
Expos have always provided solutions to the great problems of their time. As early as 1994, the General Assembly of the BIE adopted a resolution guaranteeing that all Expos have “a commitment to the supreme importance for Humanity of due respect for Nature and the environment”. This principle is of great significance to the BIE, as the solutions to the challenges of the 21st century can only be sustainable ones. Improving quality of life for all is dependent on respect for each other, and on respect for the planet.
In 2000, the Millennium Summit cited respect for nature as a fundamental value for the international community, and introduced healthcare as a component of Millennium Goals number 4, 5 and 6. Two years ago, the United Nations identified “Good Health and Well-Being” as the third Sustainable Development Goal, while four additional Goals were specifically agreed upon to protect our planet.
The proposed theme of Expo 2023 Minnesota is therefore a clear priority issue for the international community, one that can only be addressed by encompassing dialogue, action and innovation at the same time and in the same place. All of the factors that determine individual and public health – from prevention to treatment; from research to products; from infrastructure to policies – necessarily require cooperation within and across communities, which are more interconnected today than ever before.
Through their themes and through their means – exhibits, forums and events – Expos support the efforts of the global community in promoting and advancing the subjects at the core of the well-being of the entire planet, in a spirit of cooperation. qw
This is why the global dialogue promoted by Expos is a powerful tool in the hands of the international community, inspiring and connecting the actions of governments and civil society in a joint endeavour. Expos are venues to addresses difficult issues in a non-confrontational setting, which will greatly benefit the search and application of solutions for healthier communities.
Expo 2023 Minnesota aims to be the first Expo to directly address the theme of health and well-being. But as a top-priority issue for humanity, the topic has been the focus of much attention at numerous past Expos. The historical World Expos of the 19th and 20th centuries placed a great deal of emphasis on showcasing modern healthcare techniques, and their designers and architects even had to take into consideration the health conundrums generated by the concentration of people at such large-scale gatherings. In this way, Expos contributed in part to the development of public health standards for large events, serving also as a test bed for public authorities. In the United States, Expo 1893 in Chicago, for example hosted an international congress on hospitals, dispensaries and nursing, while less than a decade later the X-Ray was first showcased at Expo 1904 in St. Louis.
Now in the 21st century, Minnesota has the opportunity to apply the same spirit of innovation and cooperation to health and well-being. The issues continue to evolve: the knowledge and best practices to be shared in 2023 will concern among others the promotion of active lifestyles, of sustainable and nutritious diets, and of a harmonious relationship between humankind and its environment.
Amid the changing focus of health and well-being priorities, cooperation remains essential. Only through dialogue and concertation can we overcome and contain health threats that know neither borders nor nationalities. It is at the macro scale – institutional and economic – that organisations must invest and work across boundaries to pursue research and development, to improve access to treatment, and to build coherent prevention strategies.
Only by involving citizens, experts, companies, governments and international organisations will it be possible to identify, foster and promote global solutions in favour of healthy lifestyles, and mental and physical well-being for all. Without health, there is little hope for the future, and without a healthy planet, there is no room for progress.
We look forward to learning more about this vitally important theme over the course of this forum. The future of humanity and the future of the planet are dependent on the issues that will be raised here, and it is essential for global dialogue to continue.