The World Health Assembly 2016, where “Nothing About Us Without Us” meets “Leave No One Behind.”
‘The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the decision-making body of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO). It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the WHO Executive Board.’ -WHO. This year, the WHA will be held from 23-28 May in Geneva.
A limited number of international NGOs, professional societies and foundations are allowed entrance to WHA to observe the decision-making, and only a handful are permitted to submit short statements before the meetings. These ‘insider’ organizations have little in common with the billions of folks around the world that depend on inadequate public health programs and often denied essential medicines and services. Without any system of accountable representation, we are voiceless.
The total lack of participation at the WHA of those most affected by the decisions and policies of the World Health Organization is not only unjust, it’s a denial of key human rights recognized in various UN instruments such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — the right to participate in decisions that affect you is integral to the rights to development and health among others. Although all of the UN agencies signed a ‘Common Understanding’ on the Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) in 2003, which puts meaningful participation of those most affected at the core of all policies and programming, the WHO has not done what it agreed to do. At the World Health Organization, most everything is about us, but is decided entirely without us.
It’s time to reach out broadly, collaborate actively and speak-up loudly. As the Sustainable Develop Goals (SDGs) are beginning to gather steam, those who desperately need the achievement of these global goals must have both a say in the process, and come together to claim their rights. The United Nations slogan of “Leave No One Behind” is meaningless if most people are left-out from the start.
The IMAXI Cooperative, a collective of people living with diseases and disabilities (public-health users) in different countries, is organizing a series of online events to ‘open’ the World Health Assembly to all. Using Twitter and WhatsApp, IMAXI and partners aim to connect folks from our communities with the WHA in Geneva. Live news and ‘bottom-up’ views will feed into 6-8 discussion sessions on topics taken from the WHA Agenda, including Health in the SDGs, access to medicines, patents, violence against women/girls, NCDs, HIV and hepatitis strategies, public health systems/ workforce and choosing the next WHO Director General, among other issues that affect all our well-being and rights.
Under the banner of WHO4ALL, each of these one hour sessions will be ‘hosted’ by community partners, and will reach out to specific groups through different networks, list-serves and media, while highlighting the common cause of advancing the realization of the Right to Health and its related rights to water, sanitation, food, etc. A daily online media-briefing for journalists will also be held to amplify the voices of those that the WHO seem to want to leave behind.
Involving people across diverse communities, sectors and ‘silos’, WHO4ALL is a small yet dynamic step towards opening the WHO and the UN to those it is mandated to serve around the world. Join this mash-up for meaningful participation.
Meet-up with #WHO4ALL at #WHA69.
For more information, e-mail Lusiana (Aprilawati at imaxi.org)
or tweet to @WHO4ALL