CITATION: Editorial| volume 396, issue 10253, p735, September 12, 2020
Global collaboration for health: rhetoric versus reality
The Lancet
Published: September 12, 2020

The UN General Assembly is traditionally built on bold rhetoric of global collaboration and exhaustive debate over some of the world’s most intractable problems. But rather than expressing a shared vision for a common future, countries are now undermining global cooperation through rising nationalism, open hostility towards multilateral institutions, and a growing tendency to look after their own interests—eg, rushing to secure supplies of potential COVID-19 vaccines. Health is precariously caught in the middle of these tensions. Science has become increasingly politicised, with multiple and conflicted interests at play, and often little sense of solidarity within or between nations…

Global solidarity cannot be garnered through rhetoric alone. COVID-19 has brought into clear view that every person’s health is interconnected, and the UNGA is a platform with the power to reorientate global interests in such a way as to protect the health and lives of all people in every nation. The need for global cooperation has never been more visible or more crucial. Unfortunately, the UN has so far in 2020 not been able to transform rhetoric into reality. This should give pause for serious reflection. Global crises call for global responses, and we have yet to see them.

Comments (NPW): 1. That last paragraph rather unfairly indicts the UN. For me, everything points to the need to support and strengthen UN agencies as the vital, central mechanism for global collaboration.

2. With regards to mechanisms to promote global collaboration, I would humbly suggest that we could and should be using virtual communication tools more effectively than we do, to ensure the maximum munber of people have the opportunity to have their voice heard – and, consequently, to ensure that cumulative understanding of complex global health issues can embrace the full range of stakeholders.

I like to think of global health communities of practice like HIFA as one mechanism for helping to achieve this, especially at global level. We are a long way from making a substantial impact, but this is because we all have minuscule funding support and capacity. Right from the beginning, HIFA has reached out to other global health CoPs to seek ways to increase our collective impact. We are now getting somewhere in collaboration with PATH and Jhpiego, and recently had a very successful open meeting of global health CoP managers.

You can read more about global health CoPs here:
and my blog on the subject:

What do you think?

Best wishes, Neil

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