IHP news #458

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Rising NCD attention (& tension) in an important year

By on February 23, 2018 

Dear Colleagues,

The Oxfam abuse scandal is triggering a thorough investigation into how things can be improved for the better, both in terms of protecting staff and changing the aid sector “culture” on the ground, towards often very vulnerable women and children. Overdue and very necessary, but it won’t be easy, as the problems are rooted in power dynamics and many other things that aren’t easy to change.  Analysis of how Oxfam and others also need to change in a broader sense, to adjust to changing times, is also  taking place.  All this is certainly a good outcome of the commotion, even if by now commentators like Ann Pettifor have made a (not entirely unlikely)  link with the Brexit debate – instead of ‘global citizens’ we will soon all become conspiracy theory adepts, which says a lot about the dark times we live in. In any case, we hope that the UK & US government, and the European Commission, will from now on also be “ultra-fast” in their response to future investigative journalism papers on offshore & other dodgy “tax optimization” constructions, maintaining “the highest moral standards” in these areas & sectors as well.  The UK government is certainly ultra-fast when it comes to reinstating secretive slush funds like the ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund’, assisting some of the less savory regimes in this world in “maintaining stability”.

Over to NCDs then. Last week, all members were announced of the “WHO Independent Global High-level Commission on NCDs”, “comprising heads of state and ministers, leaders in health and development and entrepreneurs.”  In a letter, Baby Milk Action/IBFAN UK raised conflict of interest concerns on Arnaud Bernaert (WEF); Dr Sania Nishtar (co-chair) and Katie Dain of the NCD Alliance.  Some we find more worrying than others, but the letter is certainly worth reading.  We also have a few of our own concerns. By now you know we’re not exactly big fans of Michael Bloomberg, but apparently the guy is a fixture in NCD High-Level circles nowadays. And what on earth is Jack Ma doing in this high-level Commission? I know he’s made quite an impression in Davos, but can you imagine what we would say if Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos were included? I’d personally like to see a couple of PHM people included, to get some more balance in this global HL Commission. After all, the aim is to propose “bold and innovative solutions to accelerate prevention and control of NCDs”. Bet they can think of a few. Maybe we can also add The Donald, to arm all McDonald’s staff so that every time you’re in the mood for a cheese burger, you risk to get shot if you make the wrong move.

Meanwhile, from what we hear on the Alma Ata 40th anniversary preparations, a serious attempt will be made to “resuscitate PHC”  this year – for the evangelicals among you, you are allowed to call it a ‘Second Coming’.  In an interview with CNN, Bill Gates acknowledged he needs to pay higher taxes.   Don’t hear him much about the Giving Pledge these days. Progress! Meanwhile, his key staff at the Foundation also answered some ‘tough questions’ this week, following the lead of Bill & Melinda in their annual letter. Next week, I also count on them to declare solemnly that they pay too few taxes.

This week’s issue features two short editorials, one by Sameera Hussain (reflecting on the 13th GPW of WHO from a health SDG angle) and another one by my colleague Willem van de Put on the Oxfam abuse scandal. Willem is almost sixty – although he has the drive of a 20-year old guy – and has quite some aid sector experience.

Enjoy your reading.

The editorial team



(you find the pdf of the full newsletter here: IHPn458 )

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