The craft of global diplomacy must shift to public health

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COVID-19 presents a generation, lessons to be learnt in a transitory lifetime besides shaping the ideas and personalities of human beings and molding the very character of progress and public health.

The choice between the struggle for regional peace, to eradicate hunger, to mitigate threats of bioterrorism, to tackle infectious diseases through shared regional co-operation, to achieve principles of social justice by fostering in shared values of fraternity, the attempts to achieve political goals through non-violence and negotiations, to decrease the burden of natural disasters and fight climate change heavily rests on outcomes & investments of public health.

This essentially also goes to state that we will as a nation or a cluster of nations work towards tweaking global health diplomacy and factoring in a health in all diplomacy policies.

Health today is an integral part of geopolitical narratives, domestic-foreign policy, human rights, economic advancements and trade so to say. This has to be leveraged solely by re-thinking new algorithms towards diplomacy at large and working in silos with a restricted audience of diplomats and consuls will no longer bear fruit like the last century. Today’s new world order will ought to forge partnerships around public health if we intend to care for our common home.

The craft of health diplomacy must shift towards public health so that relations between state actors improve and outcomes that support goals in increasing equity rises with alleviation of poverty with potential for peace. A post COVID-19 world must urgently position health as a driver of foreign policy goal and a key determinant of progress in a nation’s history.

I had pointed out in the past in very clear terms why Health Attaches must be positioned in all foreign embassies globally and it falls back on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to build this narrative at jet speed. We have all the lessons now learnt to add to the wisdom of this requirement and the only limitation I see is the inability of the human mind and will to profit by the same.

At times, I feel terribly depressed by these global developments which refrain from progressive ideas  and by the general lowering of public life. Events in Afghanistan, violence in Yemen, Sudan and Syria, Russian and Chinese aggression are outcomes of irresponsibility approved by responsible leaders who must otherwise strive to create a peaceful and egalitarian society globally. We must be conscious to the fact that when few countries are affected, all of us are affected and mere statements in front of the media will not contribute to fostering visible development over jargon.

Let us honestly accept the fact that only one thing that cannot be taken away from us is the inherent ability to act with courage and dignity and to stick to ideals that give true meaning to life. COVID-19 has shown us that diplomacy is not even the center of a human race and in shared sustainability lies our own welfare that will define our existence for the ages.

While we make attempts to envision a better world, a more peaceful world, a world which includes all, this is an opportune moment to shift the craft of diplomacy to public health and common good and pushing for creating health attaches all over. This is our moment to gain from. May we?

About the Author:

Dr. Edmond Fernandes is Founder, CHD Group – a public health organization holding UNECOSOC Special Consultative Status & Director, Edward & Cynthia Institute of Public Health.

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Dr. Edmond Fernandes is the CEO, CHD Group, India Country Office & Honorary Director - Edward & Cynthia Institute of Public Health

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