IHP news #390

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Habitat III

By on October 21, 2016   Dear Colleagues,

I think we can all safely agree by now that a real Caveman is in the running for the US presidency this year, a slightly paranoid and whiny one moreover. That “The Donald” has come this far probably says a lot about the state of democracy in the US and the western world in general. Being a Caveman, he’s probably not sophisticated enough to go all the way and the polls even hint at a possible meltdown, but with a bit of bad luck or too many Hillary voters staying home thinking it’s going to be a “shoe-in” anyway, the Age of Caveman might still be upon us. If so, then we’d better be prepared in the global health community. True, many of us are already well adjusted to all sorts of leadership in our own institutions and have developed a dazzling variety of coping strategies over the years, but there’s always room for improvement. After all, as I learnt this week, “It’s not that power is, by itself, corrupting. It’s that “power simply brings our true nature out into the open”. That Osho, Sai Baba and other Krishnamurti’s never thought about that!

Even if Caveman doesn’t enter the White House, we might be in for a rough ride in the coming years in our increasingly delegitimized polities in the West, and can expect a bunch of Cavemen and a few Cavewomen at the helm. But no need to worry about that, we can just fit in an extra skills building session in Vancouver on ‘How to awaken your inner Caveman/Woman, in view of a changing era’.  After all, chances are your local caveman or cavewoman politicians won’t care all that much about “complex systems” or smart “evidence to policy” strategies.  Or in Caveman’s own words: “I Don’t think so! ”    Caveman will generally be too busy building walls to keep out the rival tribes from his cave, so we might not want to bother him with sophisticated health systems frameworks and the like.

No, for a “context-specific” evidence to policy strategy with a decent chance of success in the Age of Caveman, we have to learn to speak the language of Caveman. Can’t be that hard for most of us anyway, there’s a Caveman/Woman deep down in all of us just dying to be resurrected.  I was pondering that very question this week, while queuing in Domino’s Pizza for a discount pizza (for my son, who was too lazy to fetch it himself), together with hordes of other (mostly young) Cave Men & Women, getting ready for my weekly Cave Man Wednesday evening, watching some extremely overpaid/tax dodging Champions League Football players, and very much in agreement with a left-wing observer in my country who criticized the fact that people in Flanders who dare to question CETA are called populists or even cavemen. Glad to be a caveman then. Donald, I feel your pain!  Some argue that we need to become more sophisticated in our criticism of trade & investment agreements, but I say, no, sometimes you just have to speak the language of Caveman, and like Fred Flintstone himself  humbly acknowledge that  “the whole thing stinks”.  In addition to policy briefs and policy dialogues,  we should thus also include huge rocks as part of our evidence-to-policy toolbox, to hurl at our local cavemen if they come up with caveman policies.  

Don’t really know what a ‘Caveman/woman skills building session for a changing era’ should involve, but I’m pretty sure Tim Evans would benefit from it. The one billion dollar question is, of course, though, who can facilitate it? Who has enough bulldozer credentials in the global health community?  For some reason, I think Martin McKee is our man. But you might have other suggestions!  


In this week’s Featured article, Patricia Granja & Werner Soors give their take on the Habitat III conference in Quito.

Enjoy your reading.

The editorial team




(you find the pdf-version of the newsletter here: ihpn390 )

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