Discussions about Global Governance for Health in Kuala Lumpur

The Youth Commission, affiliated with The Lancet-University of Oslo Commission, had it’s meeting in Kuala Lumpur from January 25 – 27. Read about their discussions and reflections about Global Governance for Health below.

From the left: Juin Yi Ng, Usman Ahmad Mushtaq, Unni Gopinathan, Nick Watts, Jacob Jorem, Peter Asilia, Daniel Hougendoubler and Alexandre Lefebvre

In the front: Waranguru Wanjau, Tami Okamoto, Xiaoxiao Jiang, Saveetha Meganathan and Renzo Guinto

What is Global Governance for Health about?

During the opening of the meeting, the members of the Youth Commission provided their diverse opinions of the concept "Global Governance for Health".

While some were concerned with how international law could help improve global governance, others talked about how ill equipped public health is when it comes to dealing with the multiple issues and sectors that affect population health. Others again problematized how global solutions and technologies interact with local social worlds and challenged the very notion of global governance for health as inadequate when it comes to achieving real human development. Some even questioned whether the issues surrounding global governance could be properly conceived as  "global". In other words, are these issues becoming global merely to attract interest and financial resources, thus diverting attention away from the real health issues that require global governance?

Topics of Discussion

The agenda of the three day meeting was organized around topics which the Youth Commission felt were necessary prerequisites for discussing global governance for health:

  1. Overview of the current global governance challenges.
  2. The relationship between international relations and international economy, and the relevance for understanding global governance for health.
  3. How global governance can become more inclusive and increase participation, particularly among those who have not traditionally had a voice (e.g. public interest groups, affected communities).
  4. The capabilities approach as an alternative pathway for thinking about what besides health could guide global governance.
  5. Analysis of the diverging views and knowledge systems which should be taken into account in global governance for health.
  6. Development assistance as an example of the problems caused by the disconnect between global agendas and local contexts

The Youth Commission decided to avoid discussing specific global issues that remain unresolved (such as health effects of trade liberalization, access to medicines, environmental issues, health in conflict-ridden areas), acknowledging that all these have primary roots in interests, power and inadequate global governance. There was agreement that power disparities account for many of the governance challenges in global governance. However, other types of governance challenges may exist independently of powerful interests.

The complexity of global governance as a result of the involvement of multiple sectors, actors and different—sometimes conflicting—decision-making domains, raises difficult conceptual challenges. An important aspect of the governance challenge is the limited participation people have in processes that affect their own lives. A section of the Youth Commission's final report will be devoted to governance mechanisms which can expand participation and voice, particularly of people and communities who do not have the privilege of walking the corridors of the UN system.

Local Participation and Wider Communication

The meeting was open to local students, and several Malaysian medical students were present to listen in on the meeting. A representative from a Malaysian NGO working with humanitarian relief did also follow the deliberations.

The Youth Commission acknowledged that it could have been more successful in opening up a conversation with other students and other young professionals during its process. However, the members agreed that after the release of their report, they will pursue more extensive communication with students and others who read and scrutinize the report, and engage in blogs and writing of opinion pieces.

The presentations from the meeting will be released soon on this website. Until the release of it’s report, the Youth Commission can be followed through it’s Twitter account @GGHYouth.




By Unni Gopinathan
Published Feb. 19, 2013 10:46 AM - Last modified June 12, 2018 2:07 PM