New York City was abuzz with visitors last week, from climate change protesters to Prime Ministers, all coming together to attend the UN General Assembly week and related events. Despite the variety of participants, the crowd was unique in the sense that everyone was convening to advocate for causes important to themselves and their organizations.
GHC and its members were excited to be part of this activity. The schedule of side events was extensive and it was challenging to choose amongst the many exciting discussions. An early highlight of GHC’s week was a session led by the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) that brought together a panel of esteemed international leaders including Dr. Tim Evans (World Bank) and Dr. Sania Nishtar (Heartline, former Minister, Pakistan). Speakers underlined the idea that while member state buy-in to UHC is important, an individual push at the citizen level is also required to make UHC a reality and a success. The event also served as a venue to promote the upcoming inaugural Universal Health Coverage Day, which will take place on December 12, 2014.
Along similar lines, GHC co-hosted an event with Action for Global Health and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law entitled Equal Partners in Health: Civil Society and Government Accountability Mechanisms – Best Practice and Lessons Learnt. Moderated by Professor Larry Gostin, speakers included Dr. Christophe Benn from the Global Fund, civil society leader Dr. Joan Awunyo-Akaba, and Mr. Jean-Pierre Halkin of the European Commission. In front of a packed room, panelists discussed the role of civil society and the importance of citizen voice in the design, implementation and accountability of the post-2015 health agenda, basing their comments on their respective deep experiences in civil society capacity building and engagement. Provocative audience questions and comments reflected the importance and passion that the global health community attributes to civil society participation in global health governance.
Overall, discussions were forward looking as post-2015 approaches. Speakers and event hosts were very cognizant of this, identifying potential future challenges and presenting a myriad of solutions. One of those proposed solutions is ramping up mobile technologies. The mPowering Frontline Health Workers Initiative led by USAID and supported by numerous public and private sector partners, recognizes that mobile platforms can be created and further enhanced to support health care workers in the field. mPowering Global Director, Lesley-Anne Long, notes in her blog that technology alone cannot build the capacity of health workers. Instead, these technologies must be combined with human support for training, mentorship, and supervision to effectively enable health care workers in doing their jobs. As the keynote speaker at the mobile technologies event co-hosted by mPowering and GSMA, GHC Executive Director, Dr. Christine Sow, highlighted the particular challenge of aligning public, private and NGO expectations and timelines within multi-sector partnerships, stressing the importance of goal setting and agreement on project metrics at the beginning of partnerships.
Finally, GHC rounded out the week with a post-2015 health agenda strategy meeting, co-hosted with the UN Foundation, the NCDAlliance and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Civil society organizations came together to review the past year of activity around the positioning of health within post-2015 agenda, and to discuss how they can best ensure that actionable inclusive health goals and targets are included in the final product. Key takeaways from this discussion included the affirmation of the importance of civil society voices within the process and the need to coordinate and share advocacy resources and approaches across partners.
All told, a busy, fruitful and stimulating week. The challenge now is to optimize and realize the connections and synergies created in New York! Stay tuned.