Last month marked yet another annual World Health Assembly (WHA), a convening of government representatives, civil society advocates, and other stakeholders around the global health agenda. As always, Global Health Council was there in full force, hosting nearly 100 delegates from 18 countries for critical meetings and engaging side events with policymakers. A number of our members were featured in panel conversations and media coverage, including patient and provider, champions from the field. All told, it was a solid showing for our community.
I was struck by how many new faces and organizations were joining WHA for the first time and think it signals a couple of things. First, that people across the global health community realize an increasing value of participating in various global dialogues, including WHA, with health ministers, international partners, and fellow advocates. But I think it also demonstrates support for a new vision and leadership at WHO, one that invites and embraces meaningful collaboration across sectors in pursuit of a bold global health agenda and “triple billion” targets. It’s encouraging to see more global health actors actively seeking out these opportunities and that being well-received by multilateral entities and policymakers, especially at a time when ongoing government commitments and resources are being called into question.
We have a chance to replicate this type of energy at upcoming high-level meetings on non-communicable diseases and TB in New York this fall as well as other forums such as G7 or G20 summits and additional multilateral events next year. More than background observers and bystanders in the galleries of these important meetings, advocates are increasingly becoming key players in critical policy discussions focused on the future of global health. It is ever-more important that we consider not only how the public sector or donors will address global health challenges, but what we all should be doing collectively – NGOs, donors, corporations, and policymakers – to reach our end goal. This isn’t a new idea but its execution is, as evidenced by the taskforce charged with assessing WHO’s engagement with civil society across its work. In reality, this is a welcome shift that’s been a long time coming and still has some ways to go before “outsiders” are fully-integrated into meetings across global health priorities. However, we can celebrate advocates having an elevated voice and role.
And we, as advocates, have a job to keep showing up to these forums in meaningful, visible ways to promote or protect such platforms. Let’s not only see ourselves as external actors defending a cause but also embrace our role as internal influencers driving an agenda. Let’s also keep passing the mic to other champions who don’t often have a seat at the table: those affected by or working on the frontlines of issues we’re trying to address through our work. Ultimately, we want the presence and voice of advocates like us to be the norm across global policy forums and enhance the conversations and commitments made to advance lifesaving initiatives around the world.
Loyce Pace, President and Executive Director, Global Health Council