Countries in European and Eastern Mediterranean regions build capacity in global health diplomacy

Ministry of Health, Turkey

Dr Cristina Profili, WHO Representative in Turkey, Professor Recep Akdağ, Minister of Health of Turkey, and Professor Ilona Kickbusch, Course Director with participants at an executive course on global health diplomacy

Representatives of 10 countries in the WHO European and Eastern Mediterranean regions participated in an executive course on global health diplomacy, exploring common interests in health as a foreign policy issue and illustrating how countries have collaborated at the national and regional levels for global health. The course was held in Ankara, Turkey on 26–30 November 2012.

The course was jointly organized by the Ministry of Health of Turkey, WHO/Europe and the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Participants included diplomatic and health professionals from Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, the Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey (host), Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“Health is the right of every human being on the earth,” said Professor Recep Akdağ, Minister of Health, in his opening speech, outlining that the global health care system should have universal values. “The way we approach the issue of health diplomacy builds the right foundations for reducing inequalities in access and fairly distributing resources. All people around the world should have access to health, both in physical and monetary terms.”

“Health diplomacy as an important component of our work in the 21st century to improve population health and reduce inequities in health,” said Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe in a video message. “In our globalized and interconnected world, we have to interact with a large number of players and make the case for public health every day! We therefore need the right arguments and skills to advocate and reach out.”  

“Good global health begins at home,” commented Professor Ilona Kickbusch, the course director. “The relationship between and across levels of government is characterized by mutual dependence. Bridging these gaps – related to information, capacity, funding, administrative and policy coherence – and avoiding overlaps requires coordination, capacity building and leadership.”

Professor Kickbusch was joined by senior experts including Professor Michel Kazatchkine, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia; and Dr Mihály Kökény, Lecturer, University of Debrecen, Hungary. Honorary and guest speakers included Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, Head, Delegation of the European Union to Turkey; Mr Shahid Najam, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Turkey; Ms Ebru Ekeman, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva; Dr Serdar Çam, President, Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA); and Professor Dr Mustafa Sıtkı Bilgin, Head, Department of International Relations, Yıldırım Beyazıt University, Turkey.

About the global diplomacy course

The course is part of an initiative to build capacity in global health diplomacy in the countries in the WHO European Region, as proposed in WHO Regional Committee for Europe resolution EUR/RC60/R6. This course, the third held in Europe, is part of the follow-up process. The first was organized for WHO staff in Copenhagen, Denmark in April 2012, and the second, for representatives of Member States in the South-East Europe Health Network at the end of August in Debrecen, Hungary.

The course focused on health diplomacy as it relates to health issues that transcend national boundaries. It discussed the challenges ahead and how they are being addressed by different stakeholders and at different levels of governance. Negotiations on health-related international instruments and mechanisms, as well as the global response to new infectious diseases, provided the real-life backdrop for the discussions.

During the course, case studies and negotiation processes at the national, regional and global levels were presented. The course contents were divided into five modules, on:

  • global health and global health governance
  • global health and foreign policy
  • development cooperation and diplomacy
  • global health diplomacy 
  • capacity for global health diplomacy.