Executive Course on Global Health Diplomacy

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Saturday, 6 July, 2013
Rick Speare at Executive Course on Global Health Diplomacy

THS Director, Rick Speare, attended the 2013 Executive Course on Global Health Diplomacy run by the Global Health Programme of the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Switzerland. Duration was 5 days (1-5 July) and the course was held in Geneva. The overall quality of the course was very good. Speakers came from the global health arena, foreign affairs and international organisations; many were diplomats or negotiators themselves at the international level. Real-life examples provided insight into how global health recommendations and treaties were developed and final documents negotiated among actors with differing interests.

The outstanding lecturer in the course was Professor Felix Addor of the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. His ability to communicate concepts and ideas and to direct professional “student” groups is amazing. Felix orchestrated a simulated negotiation session, based on Indonesia’s refusal in 2007 to provide Influenza H5N1 isolates to the WHO. Course participants played the parts of various state and non-state actors. This session concluded with an agreement at 11PM. It could have gone later! The session was immensely valuable not only to illustrate how global health negotiation is done, but also as an exemplar of how to structure such simulation sessions for teaching. I would recommend that any opportunity to hear or see Felix is utilised!

Another remarkable presentation was by Steven Solomon, the Principal Legal Officer, WHO. He communicated the essentials of international law relevant to health very succinctly and clearly. Quite an amazing feat!

The roles of academia and private industry in international health diplomacy were discussed, but not developed.

The concluding speaker, Dr David Nabarro, United Nations Development Programme, gave a brilliant presentation in which he stressed that global governance is changing rapidly. In the past decisions at the international governance level have been made by state actors alone, but now non-state actors, including NGOs, citizen groups and companies, must be involved. Bodies like WHO will be more involved in network governance, provision of technical advice and implementation. Within government at all levels most problems will also need to involve multiple departments, eroding the current cumbersome silo structure.

The Course Director, Professor Ilona Kickbusch, linked topics competently and also donated a copy of her new book Global Health Diplomacy to each participant. Logistics of the Course were managed expertly by Pascale Wyss. Everything ran very smoothly.

Participants in the Course were very diverse, including health professionals, diplomats, and lawyers from many countries and representing many organisations, including governments, NGOs, international organisations, private companies and academia. Networking opportunities were very valuable and encouraged.

Would I recommend the Executive Course on Global Health Diplomacy to others? Definately! Particularly if you want to rapidly gain an understanding of global health diplomacy, health governance at the international level, and to understand how negotiations at this level are conducted. The course is expensive (2800 Swiss francs) and accommodation in Geneva is not cheap. However, specialised information and valuable relationships always come at a price. For me it was excellent value!

Posted by Rick Speare