UN Debate Global Health and Foreign Policy

On 10 December the Assembly held a debate on “global health and foreign policy”, adopting a consensus resolution on that issue, by which it underscored that global health was a long-term objective — local, national, regional and international in scope — that required sustained commitment and closer international cooperation beyond emergency. It welcomed the coordinated international response to the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, and acknowledged, with serious concern, that global influenza vaccine production was insufficient to meet anticipated need in pandemic situations, notably in developing countries.

The debate initiated by the Oslo Declaration of the Foreign Ministers of France, Norway, Brazil, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, and Thailand in 2007 and supported by Switzerland will consider a report from the Director General of WHO setting out the links between global health and foreign policy and calling for increased focus on these issues in national, regional and global policy deliberations.

The report identifies the health-related challenges that must be addressed by foreign policymakers and the key foreign policy issues that have a significant impact on health.

Health-related challenges include:

  • Addressing the role of health in national and global security
  • Meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals
  • Ensuring access to and affordability of medicines
  • Controlling emerging infectious diseases, including sharing biological materials
  • Bolstering international support for strengthening health systems
  • Addressing the challenges facing global health governance
  • Integrating health into all policies and addressing non-communicable diseases.

Foreign policy issues that affect global health include:

  • Security, arms control, armed conflict and post-conflict challenges
  • The global economic and financial crisis
  • Natural disasters and emergency response
  • Climate change
  • Food insecurity
  • The promotion of health as a human right
  • Migration.

Recommendations include:

  • Identify and act on global health issues that require foreign policy action at national, regional and global level
  • Strengthen political and institutional capability for foreign policy action on global health
  • Improve information for foreign policy diplomacy on global health issues
  • Improve policy coherence and involvement of diplomatic forums in global health
  • Improve training of diplomatic staff in global health issues and provide open source training materials for them.

For the full report to the UN see here