Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Global Health Diplomacy: Training across Disciplines

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Global Health Diplomacy: Training across Disciplines

Article excerpt


In the March 2007 issue of the Bulletin, cross-cutting issues involving health and foreign policy were examined from a broad range of perspectives: conceptual, educational, military, trade, development and humanitarian aid, national and human security, migration, analytic, environmental and human rights. David Fidler, an expert in international law, reflected that there might in fact be a revolution under way in health and foreign policy, (1) though the transformation is not completely understood and still relies on governments to see health as a key function of foreign policy. Nevertheless, the changing landscape of health and foreign policy now involves so many new actors, approaches and funding opportunities that there is an inevitable sense of chaos accompanied by excitement about the opportunities ahead.

Some governments have taken purposeful strides to incorporate health as a foreign policy tool. Perhaps, however, it is the other way around: foreign policy is now being driven substantially by health to protect national security, free trade and economic advancement. We offer a few examples of this changing field of health and foreign policy as background to our academic response:

* The United Kingdom is attempting to establish policy coherence with the development of a central governmental global health strategy based on health as a human right and global public good. Rooted in the recognition of globalization and its effects on health, this new effort will bring together the United Kingdom's foreign relations, international development, trade and investment policies that can affect global health. (2) Switzerland has prioritized health in foreign policy by emphasizing policy coherence through mapping global health across all government sectors. (3) Through the Departments of Interior (Public Health) and Foreign Affairs, an agreement on the objectives of international health policy was submitted to the Swiss Federal Council to assure coordinated development assistance, trade policies and national health policies that serve global health.

* Brazil has demonstrated policy coherence through its assertion of health as key to its own development and as a basis for south-to-south cooperation. In particular, Brazil's role in asserting flexibility in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to support the health concerns of sovereign nations set the stage for an integrated, rights-based approach to trade policy. Today, Brazilian diplomats serve key roles in health and other ministries to assure policy coherence across the government; they have also provided leadership in key multinational health negotiations such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

* The Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) is an international partnership to strengthen health preparedness and response globally to biological, chemical, radio-nuclear and pandemic influenza threats. Launched in November 2001 by Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, WHO provides technical support to the initiative (available at: http://www. The ministers of foreign affairs of Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, South Africa and Thailand established an initiative on Global Health and Foreign Policy in 2006, with an Oslo Ministerial Declaration in 2007 that recognized the need for new forms of governance to support development, equity, peace and security. (4)

The issue of health and foreign policy has not escaped the attention of multinational organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and others. (5) WHO has formed the Intergovernmental Working Group on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health to find new ways to deal with access to health care and medicine. …

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