16-20 May 2022: People’s realities, determinants of health, democratic governance: Connecting dots outside the doors of the World Health Assembly

Series of G2H2 hosted public policy debates in the week before the opening of the 75th World Health Assembly

At the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) scheduled for 22-28 May 2022, the size of delegations allowed to attend the the deliberations in-person at the Palais des Nations will be strictly limited. This awkward setup is explained by the Secretariat of the World Health Organization with capacity issues (delayed renovation of the Palais des Nations), and it has found its way into the title of the May 2022 series of policy debates hosted by the Geneva Global Health Hub: “People’s realities, determinants of health, democratic governance: Connecting dots outside the doors of the World Health Assembly”. Outside the doors of the World Health Assembly this is indeed where most of us will be…

Programme

Past sessions:
Documentations below

Monday, 16 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST
Realizing equity in health emergencies: The way forward
Session organizer: Third World Network

Monday, 16 May 2022, 15.00-16.30 CEST
“Can we speak with the Secretariat of the World Health Assembly, please?”
New perspectives for civil society interaction with WHO
Session organizers: PHM ESA and partners

Wednesday 18 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST
The public health dimension of the world drug problem:
Promoting evidence-based health responses to drugs
Session organizers: Dianova and partners

Wednesday 18 May 2022, 15.00-16.30 CEST
Antimicrobial Resistance: The dystopia of an unsustainable development model
Session organizers: Society for International Development and AMR Think-Do-Tank

Thursday 19 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST
A “tobacco law” for the fossil fuel industry
Session organizers: Medicus Mundi International Network and partners

Thursday 19 May 2022, 15.00-16.30 CEST
Making the One Health approach socially sensitive
Session organizer: Third World Network

Friday 20 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST
Undermining democratic and multilateral responses: Multistakeholderism in global health governance
Session organizers: People’s Health Movement and partners

Session documentations and recordings

Monday, 16 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST

Realizing equity in health emergencies: The way forward

One of the significant questions which arose during the meetings of the WHO Working Group on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (WGPR) is about the operational definition of equity in the health emergency preparedness and response. Developing Countries asserted that concerns of equity should be addressed both through the amendments of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the proposed new legal instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, meaning there should be legally binding obligations on equity. Nevertheless, it has been noted that there is not much improvement in this effort, except for aspirational quotes on equity as a principle and outcome. On the operational front, selective silence is maintained.

The policy dialogue shall discuss how to translate the need for equity into concrete legally binding commitments. It also aims to comprehensively look at the IHR amendment proposals and the inputs on substantive elements for the new pandemic instrument, such that the net is cast wide by strategizing equity goals in both IHR amendments and in the new instrument. The session aims to explore why the current health emergency regime is not equitable, why the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities is important in the health emergency regime, and how to translate equity into deliverable, legally binding commitments.

Speakers/panel
  • Matiangai Sirleaf, Nathan Patz Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law
  • Adam Kamradt-Scott, Professor, School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute
  • Sangeeta Shashikant, Legal Advisor, Third World Network
  • Iddrisu Yakubu, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Ghana in Geneva
  • Moderator: Nicoletta Dentico, Health Justice Programme, Society for International Development (SID)
Session documentation
Key references and resources
More about this session
Monday, 16 May 2022, 15.00-16.30 CEST

“Can we speak with the Secretariat of the World Health Assembly, please?”: New perspectives for civil society interaction with WHO

We have often, and for good reasons, raised the issue of a shrinking civic space and difficult working conditions for civil society in its interaction with the World Health Organization and in particular the WHO governing body meetings. But not everything is hopeless, and it makes sense to distinguish between the indeed often difficult processes and fora in which WHO member states are in the lead versus a perhaps more open disposition towards civil society by the WHO Secretariat and its Director-General. 

To further improve WHO-civil society relations, the project of a WHO – Civil Society Commission was proposed by civil society networks and organizations to the WHO Secretariat in 2020, and found the interest of the Director-General. After quite some effort, the Commission is expected to be launched in 2022 –  but the form, scope and even credibility of such a Commission remain contested.

In this session, G2H2 members and partners engaged in the promotion of the WHO Civil Society Commission provide an overview of the history of this current initiative and what civil society may expect from the Commission. The policy dialogue will also outline potential pitfalls, traps, competing interests and open questions, based on past experiences and some particular challenges related to WHO governance. Will the Commission be a breakthrough towards more meaningful civil society engagement with the WHO Secretariat, or will it follow the path of other failed initiatives?

Session outline
  • Introductions and overview
  • The WHO Civil Society Commission project: What is it, and where are we with it
    Lucile Hermant, Action Contre la Faim (ACF)
  • Positioning the WHO CS Commission project in the broader field of WHO governance
    Thomas Schwarz, Medicus Mundi International – Network Health for All (MMI)
  • Presentation of the WHO Youth Council: Lessons from a parallel initiative
    Iris Blom, International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA)
  • Discussants from WHO Secretariat, represented by Gaudenz Silberschmidt, Director, and Taina Nakari, External Relations Officer, Health and Multilateral Partnerships
  • Plenary discussion
  • Closing: what’s next for the Commission project and how to engage further.
  • Session moderation: Ravi Ram, People’s Health Movement
Session documentation
Further references/resources: The Commission proposal
References/resources: Context
More about this session
  • Session organized by: People’s Health Movement (E&S Africa), Action Contre la Faim (ACF), Save the Children International, Medicus Mundi International Network, COPASAH, and AfroPHC
  • Contact for enquiries: Ravi Ram, PHM, phm.esafrica@phmovement.org
Wednesday 18 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST

The public health dimension of the world drug problem: Promoting evidence-based health responses to drugs

The world drug problem has multiple public health dimensions that touch upon prevention, treatment, and care of people with drug use and drug dependence, reduction of harm associated with drug use and access to controlled medicines for pain relief. In addition to the public health dimension, there is also a human rights dimension to drug policy.

WHO has a key role in addressing and promoting the public health and human rights dimension of global issues related to drugs. The World Health Assembly has been periodically reporting on the public health dimension of the world drug problem since 2017 and will accomplish its last planned reporting in WHA 75, to be held between 22 – 28 May 2022. 

This policy dialogue aims to raise awareness on the public health dimension of the world drug problem and to highlight the importance of WHO continuous work and monitoring in this field.

Programme/speakers
  • Vladimir Poznyak, Unit Head of Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours, World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Access to medicines: Smriti Rana, Pallium, Head Strategic Programs and Partnerships, International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care
  • Prevention: Kristina Sperkova, President, Movendi International
  • Treatment, Recovery and Social Reintegration: Gisela Hansen, Director, Dianova Spain
  • Harm Reduction: Colleen Daniels, Deputy Director and Public Health Lead, Harm Reduction International
  • Moderation: Lucia Goberna, Institutional Relations, Dianova International
Session documentation
References/resources
More about this session
  • Session organized by: Dianova International, International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care, Harm Reduction International and Movendi International
  • Contact for enquiries: Lucía Goberna, Dianova International, lucia.goberna@dianova.org
  • Language: English only, no interpretation
  • Social media card: see below – “Save the date” flyer: here
Wednesday 18 May 2022, 15.00-16.30 CEST

Antimicrobial Resistance: The dystopia of an unsustainable development model

In March 2022, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) was invited to join the Tripartite Group embracing WHO-FAO-OIE in the struggle against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Why? Because, basically, most antimicrobial resistant bacteria take their origins from the environment – water, soil, air – as 80% of antibiotics are used in industrial meat and fish farms, mostly for preventing animals’ diseases while they are in horrible breeding conditions and for fattening animals faster. Antibiotics are routinely spread on fruits, and glyphosate – which was registered in 2014 as an antibiotic – is massively spread on fields devoted to industrial agriculture.

Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death: the WHO calculates that around 700,000 people die of drug-resistant infections every year. Scientists working in this field calculate between 10 and 20 million excess deaths per year, in all ages; and a very high neonatal mortality in India.

It is a fact that most conversations on AMR are blaming the individual patient or doctor for mishandling of antibiotics, and solutions are sought through the restricted R&D-and-access-approach adopted for past infectious diseases, reductions in FDA requirements, including the need for new incentives to the pharmaceutical companies to engage in R&D.  This interpretative model does not correspond to the systemic nature of this health crisis. AMR comes from the environment and the food chain: one’s vegetables, tomatoes, and meat (chicken, pork, fish), when over 55% of the world lacks wastewater treatment and clean water systems. At a time of climate change, with flooding, cyclones, and many other extreme weather events increasing in frequency and intensity, the environment must come first when we deal with AMR control.

Speakers/panelists
  • Garance Upham, President, AMR Think-Do-Tank, Geneva international.
  • Professor John Poté, PhD, Head of Environmental Microbiology Group, UNIGE, Geneva
  • Dr Jane Kengeya-Kayondo, MD, former TDR-WHO Implementation Research & former Advisor Wellcome Trust Africa
  • Cassandra L. Quave, PhD.  Ethnobotanist, Associate Professor, Dept of Dermatology, Emory University, USA
  • Cecilia Elizondo, Grupo Académico de Agroecología, Ecosur, Mexico
  • Session moderator: Nicoletta Dentico, Health Justice Programme, Society for International Development and co-chair Geneva Global Health Hub
Session documentation
Key resources/references
More about this session
  • Session organized by: Society for International Development (SID) and AMR Think-Do-Tank
  • Contact for enquiries: Nicoletta Dentico (SID), ndentico@sidint.org, and Garance Upham (AMR Think-Do-Tank),  garance.upham@gmail.com   
  • Language/interpretation: the session will be available in English, Spanish and French
  • Social media card: See below
Thursday 19 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST

A “tobacco law” for the fossil fuel industry

Damage to planetary health and human health is fueled by advertisements that promote polluting companies and tempt citizens into polluting lifestyle choices. Like tobacco, air pollution by the fossil fuel industry is killing millions of people yearly (WHO). The fossil fuel industry uses a similar playbook as the tobacco industry. Yet, there is no regulation for the fossil fuel industry that prevents advertising, sponsoring, and marketing of their products and services. 

The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control by the WHO (FCTC) has been effective in reducing the power of the tobacco industry and the daily temptations for (new) smokers. A similar Convention for the fossil fuel industry will stop the promotion, misleading messages and lobby by polluting companies and will shift norms and values in society. Subsequently, it will lower emissions of GHGs and other pollution and create a social tipping point needed to keep global warming well below 1,5°C. Similar to a ban on tobacco, a ban on fossil ads will yield enormous health improvements worldwide.

This policy dialogue provides a space for discussion and brainstorm about the possibilities for a global law or regulation that prohibits the use of fossil ads. It will provide a scope on if, and how, legislative efforts can be made by the WHO, its member states and relevant health networks to advance a global ban on fossil fuel ads. The session will elicit on pathways, possible international allies and next action points to take this campaign further.

Speakers / panelists
  • Ken Henshaw (Executive Director We the People, Nigeria)
  • Jessica Beagley (Policy Expert, GHCA, UK) Mark Eccleston-Turner (Global Health Lawyer at King’s College London, UK)
  • Omnia el Omrani (resident at Ain Shams University Hospital, representative of the Youth Sounding Board of the European Commission, Commissioner of the Lancet-Chartham House Commission on Post-COVID Planetary Health, Former representative IFMSA Egypt and YOUNGO (UNFCCC))
  • Maria Neira (Director Health and Environment Department, WHO)
  • Session moderated by Martine Doppen, Campaigner at Reclame Fossielvrij
Session documentation (work in progress)
Key references and resources
More about this session
  • Session organized by: Medicus Mundi International Network, Zorg Voor Klimaat, Reclame Fossielvrij, Klimawandel und Gesundheit 
  • Contact for enquiries: Winne van Woerden winne.van.woerden@hotmail.com and Martine Doppen martine@reclamefossielvrij.nl
  • Language: English only, no interpretation
Thursday 19 May 2022, 15.00-16.30 CEST

Making the One Health approach socially sensitive

Ever since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the One Health approach has been mainstreamed to achieve a better health preparedness plan. The One Health approach is about addressing the concerns of endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical and vector-borne diseases, as well as antimicrobial resistance, food safety risks, and environmental health including climate change. 

The Quadripartite Alliance of FAO, OIE, WHO, and UNEP has proposed a draft One Health Joint Action Plan (OH JPA) which has been circulated by WHO Secretariat to its Member States for written comments.  A One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) was formed to look at the One Health policy at the behest of these organizations and they have adopted an operational definition of the One Health approach. Further in other forums like the Convention on the Biological Diversity, the Quadripartite Alliance representatives are actively working to develop action plans and strategies complimentary to their Joint Action Plan, promoting the OHHLEP definition of the One Health approach.

Nevertheless, this definition has found resistance in the meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity, with some states questioning its comprehensiveness and legitimacy of the definition. The questions are being raised about whether One Health, its definition, its approach, and pathways, are blind to the developmental divide existing between developed and developing countries, and socio-economic inequities, and, if yes, whether the approach is truly “One” in its spirit and essence. 

In this context, the policy debate shall discuss the One Health approach and the Joint Action Plan and seek to explore ways to make the One Health approach socially sensitive, especially to the existing socio-economic inequities and the development divide.

Speakers/panelists
  • Syed Abbas, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Institute of Development Studies
  • Alexandra Phelan, Assistant Professor, Center for Global Health Science & Security, Georgetown University
  • Sergio Arispe Barrientos, National Representative to CBD and UNFCCC, Plurinational State of Bolivia
  • Session moderator: K M Gopakumar, Legal Advisor, Third World Network
Session documentation
Key references and resources
More about this session
  • Session organized by: Third World Network
  • Contact for enquiries: Nithin Ramakrishnan, directornithin@gmail.com
  • Language/interpretation: English only, no interpretation
  • Social media card: see below
Friday 20 May 2022, 13.00-14.30 CEST

Undermining democratic and multilateral responses: Multistakeholderism in global health governance

Although the process of dislocating governments and civil society from determinant global decision-making mechanisms is not new, multistakeholderism, as it has been called, has been rapidly increasing in the last two decades. According to a recent study, “pharmaceutical companies, private philanthropies, the World Bank group and Northern donor governments have far greater influence [in the governance of global health] than the developing countries, multilateral UN institutions and elected governments”. 

The decisions made in these multistakeholder mechanisms and in captured multilateral institutions have direct impact on people’s health, children’s education, digital rights, access to basic public services and human rights, including the right to a healthy environment. While many civil society organizations are welcoming multistakeholder arrangements given their closeness to industry, multistakeholderism has been dislocating both legitimate governments and civil society from decision-making tables (Gleckman and Kumar). 

This policy debate aims at unpacking multistakeholderism in the health sector, connecting the dots between multistakeholder arrangements and the erosion of civil society’s participation in global health governance. It aims to inform and mobilize organizations and people with an interest in WHO to deliberate on building a stronger democratic multilateral system accountable to the public interest and committed to a sustainable planet.

Programme and speakers
  • Launch of the Report “The Great Takeover: Mapping of Multistakeholderism in Global Governance”
  • Mr. Madhuresh Kumar, Transnational Institute:
    Mapping of Multistakeholder Arrangements in Health
  • Dr. Fifa Rahman, University of Leeds and Civil Society Representative COVID-19 ACT- Accelerator:
    The future of the ACT-Accelerator: four non-negotiable demands by CSOs
  • Dr. Lauren Paremoer, University of Cape Town and People’s Health Movement:
    Building campaigns from the country to the global level against corporate capture of multilateral institutions
  • Dr David McCoy, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health, Malaysia
    Corporate Lobbying on US Positions Toward the World Health Organization
  • Call for action and way forward: Open discussion
  • Moderator: Dr. Sulakshana Nandi, People’s Health Movement and People’s Working Group on Multistakeholderism
Session documentation (work in progress)
References/resources
More about this session
  • Session organized by: People’s Health Movement PHM, Transnational Institute TNI, People’s Working Group on Multistakeholderism PWGM
  • Contact for enquiries: Sulakshana Nandi, PHM, sulakshana@phmovement.org, and Juliana Rodrigues de Senna, TNI, j.senna@tni.org 
  • Languages/interpretation: English / Spanish

Public policy debates hosted by the Geneva Global Health Hub (G2H2) and set up as Zoom webinars. For general enquiries, please get in touch with the G2H2 secretariat. Thank you!