The recent Ebola and Zika crises demonstrate the global vulnerability to emerging infectious diseases and the devastation they unleash. Apart from the human suffering they cause, health crises of this sort tend to have longer-term consequences, including in terms of security, economic growth and sustainable development. Ebola perhaps was most extreme in exposing the multilateral system’s weaknesses in preventing, preparing for and responding to global health crises. Such crises also re-emphasize the need to invest in public health and hygiene, strengthen national health systems and adopt a more proactive research and development agenda. These are key elements in making the global health system more resilient to the threat of future pandemics, but also in addressing global public health issues more generally.
The ICM convened its thirteenth retreat—on global pandemics and global public health—on February 8-9 at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Participants included senior officials and experts from the UN, its member states, academia, NGOs, civil society and the private sector. This ICM retreat aimed to identify and analyze the main challenges the global public health architecture faces today—particularly in relation to global pandemics—and come up with concrete recommendations as to how the multilateral system anchored in the UN can be adjusted to better respond to these challenges.
The retreat was organized around three main sessions. The first session focused on preventing global health crises through more and better investment in public health and hygiene and in robust health infrastructure and services. Based on lessons learned from recent crises, the second session featured a discussion on how to improve the multilateral system’s preparedness and response capacity for pandemics and epidemics. The third session aimed to identify concrete ways in which the global normative framework and health infrastructure can be adjusted and strengthened to better respond to the challenges ahead.
Discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule of non-attribution and were moderated by ICM Chair Kevin Rudd, ICM Secretary-General Hardeep Singh Puri, and Dr. Ilona Kickbusch, Director of the Global Health Programme and Adjunct Professor at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies. Dr. Kickbusch also delivered the keynote address. A discussion paper, based on the retreat discussions, will be posted online in April 2016.
For a longer look at the ICM retreat on global public health, please read this article published on the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.