NGOs making their voices heard at WHO
ICM appointed former Board Member for Central Europe, Mary Higgins, as representative at the 64th Session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Europe at the WHO European Headquarters in Copenhagen. For the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) representatives it began on Sunday afternoon when they attended a briefing session. This get-together aims to ensure that the representatives can make full use of the opportunities for networking and have an understanding of the procedures for participation. Over the last few years the need for civil society, as represented by the NGOs, to play a more active role at the meeting has been recognised. However, this is a meeting for the countries within the region and the right of ministers and their representatives to speak is paramount. NGO representatives are encouraged to produce joint statements on the session topics. This approach means that there is a better chance of having their voices heard. Not all NGO representatives favour this practice. Nonetheless, it should be understood that the regional meetings are for making final decisions and if NGOs want to influence policies then interventions should be made much earlier in the process.
A room was available between 08.00 and 09.00hrs each morning for NGO representatives. It was used by a number of organisations to meet, work on joint statements and discuss how to use this annual meeting to bring the concerns and ideas of the health community to the member states. Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, who was re-elected as Regional Director for the European Region, and members of the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee (SCRC), met with the NGOs on 17th. She congratulated on successfully putting joint statements together and gave advice on making the best use of the time for presenting them. (3 minutes). The NGO representatives made some suggestions on how their presence could be improved and it is likely that the suggestions will receive favourable consideration.
The session opened at 09.00 on Monday 15th and among the VIP guests was Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark who addressed the assembly. During the coffee break three NGOs, the Internal Federation of Medical Students Associations, the World Organisation of Family Doctors and the International Confederation of Midwives, were invited to meet Her Royal Highness. She is a gracious lady and it was a privilege to have a few minutes to talk with her about the ICM.
On Tuesday, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, addressed the meeting; setting her speech in the context of the Ebola outbreak she, inter alia, reminded delegates that ‘the world is ill prepared to respond to any severe, sustained and threatening public health emergency’. She also noted that while the Ebola threat needs attention other health issues cannot be neglected.
The topics on the agenda were:
Implementing Health 2020: 2012-2014, Investing in Children, European food and nutrition action plan 2015-2020, European vaccine action plan 2015-2020, Partnerships for health in the WHO European Region, WHO reform, Outcomes of high-level conferences, Matters arising out of resolutions and decisions of the world Health Assembly and Progress reports.
There was a Technical Briefing during lunch time each day. On Wednesday it focused on nurses and midwives. The purpose of the briefing was ‘to promote debate among Member States and relevant stakeholders on how to strengthen nursing and midwifery in order to maximise their potential and enable their full contributions for supporting Health 2020 implementation’. The usual format is to have input from members of the panel and then open the floor for discussion. The input from the panel went well over time and the discussion consisted of two questions from the audience that were answered by all the panel members. By then the session was over. However, there will be an opportunity for ICM to comment on the draft document.
The social events hosted by Mr. Nick Haekkerup, Minister for Health, Denmark on Monday evening and by Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for Europe, WHO on Tuesday evening, were further opportunities for networking as well as viewing the beautiful buildings in which they were held.
Report prepared by Mary Higgins, International Officer Midwives Section of the INMO, Representing the International Confederation of Midwives