Privilege or Participation

Privilege or ParticipationAlthough the World Health Organization (WHO) has failed over the last 70 years at its charter mission to realise the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standards of health, it has succeeded in assuring that the WHO itself enjoys the highest attainable standards of privilege, well hidden from public view by its lack of transparency. A recent article in the Washington Post (see below) revealed that the annual travel budget of the WHO was in excess of $200 million each year, more than the total amount they spend on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The WHO is mandated to serve first and foremost those that are the most vulnerable, the billions of poor or marginalised, and people struggling to survive life-threatening diseases or life-changing disabilities. Instead, it seems to first make sure that it serves its own interest and those of the 193 governments (Member States) that have complete control over the governance of the WHO. As the oversight of the WHO is in the hands of these Member States, including hundreds of governments with long histories of high-level corruption, a culture of  institutional impunity is allowed to go unchecked, while transparency is limited. Five star hotels and first class travel are just some of the many privileges and perks provided to long term staff, as well as substantial tax-free salaries. Meetings are held in luxury settings around the world, with a mix of the international and national elite in attendance to declare that these important gatherings are essential to improve the health and well-being of the world.

Those that the WHO should prioritise, the people most affect by health inequities and most in need of their right to health, are excluded from participating in the governance of the WHO. Their community organisations also have no say in how the WHO manages its programmes or spends its funds, which mostly come from governments through taxation of the public. As seen at other UN entities such as UNAIDS, the inclusion of representatives from these most affected communities ‘at the table’ contributes to increasing the accountability of the institution. Without the participation of the most affected communities, it’s almost impossible to fully monitor programmes or ‘follow the money’ to see what the WHO is doing on the ground, or in the air.

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Last Call: All Aboard! Survey1

All Aboard Survey1UPDATE: As we are moving towards launching the next survey for the All Aboard Research Project, this is a ‘last call’ for responses to the current questionnaire on participation and representation in global health. We’ve had many responses from very diverse folks from around the world, and we would like a few more before  Survey1 closes. So please contribute 5 to 10 minutes of your time and views, and do the quick survey. Click here to get on board.

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Reposted from 06/06/2017

Sometimes, an opinion can make a difference. This is one of those times.

The human right and principle of participation states that people, particularly those clearly affected (yet usually excluded), must be involved in institutional decisions that have an impact on them, including in the design, development, implementation and monitoring of the programmes that are needed.

When the right to participation is applied to health, with hundreds of millions of people whose lives may depend on these decisions and policies, their views and ‘voices’ must be through a system of representation that is equitable and responsive to their needs.

In global health governance, it appears that those most at risk of being ‘left behind’, are also being left out — excluded from participating in decisions about them. So late last year, the IMAXI Cooperative began a new and needed initiative — All Aboard!

‘All Aboard’ is a two step research and development project that will first assess the state of affected community participation in decision-making bodies within key institutions in global health, including the United Nations (WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women) and two major foundations, the Global Fund and Gates. The second step is to apply this knowledge to the programmatic advance of meaningful participation and accountable representation. First the scientific research, then the evidence-based development.

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