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Who’s afraid of Don Juan in global health?

By Rachel Hammonds
on May 18, 2015

Don Juan is a mythical figure often viewed sympathetically as a harmless and near irresistible babe magnet (think pre-marriage George Clooney, Yanis Varoufakis before the media tore him apart, or Julio Frenk when he was still young and handsome). Sorry to disappoint, you, ladies, but this blog will not be debating Don Juan’s (many) merits and (few) faults, and their impact on global health. As for the men who clicked on this title, sorry guys, you will not learn here how you can become a Don Juan in Geneva or Seattle. There are probably more specialized websites for that. Or ask Julio over a good glass of wine.

No, this blog aims to whet your appetite to participate in a European Development Days (EDD)  session on the SDGs and UHC – and Don Juan is playing a key role in it. In this case, Don Juan is a Guatemalan community leader, whose work is truly admirable.

By now, you probably feel like we have tricked you into this blog under false pretences but, hey, our story is about a Don Juan, and we can guarantee you that some people are afraid of Don Juan. Very afraid, actually. Why? Because as a community leader he is focused on improving his media skills, including videoing, to hold authorities to account for failing to address barriers to access to health care services in his community. As the ongoing global discussions around the SDGs and UHC largely focus on governments and financial risk pooling there is less discussion about the key role of communities and civil society leaders in shaping and validating this process and outcomes. As you probably know, many American police forces are now afraid of cameras – and the truth they can reveal. Global health can learn a thing or two from this. So increasing Don Juan’s effectiveness, and that of other community leaders can scare leaders who are not working for their people, not working to realise their rights. They might try to clamp down on these community leaders, but that will be in vain, as Don Juan can never be caught!

At our EDD session, Guatemalan researcher Lorena Ruano will be sharing what she has learned from Don Juan (sounds a bit ambiguous, so, more accurately, she’ll tell us how communities can hold governments accountable for advancing the right to health. (We’re still considering to ask Bryan Adams to come over to Brussels as well and play ‘Have you ever really loved a woman?’ only for us in the session)

Even if you are not afraid of  Don Juan, perhaps you are afraid, like Bill Gates (not a babe magnet, last time we checked) of the SDGs because they look too much like an unwieldy development bible? Well, then we have something for you too. Heidelberg’s Albrecht Jahn will discuss financing and UHC. Finally, Peter Hill, from the University of Queensland – we have a hunch he also was sort of a Don Juan in his young days – will dwell on whether or not the SDGs will usher in a new era of global cooperation.

So, lots of interesting important issues to discuss in our session for the daredevils among you. Please join us at the EDD on 3 June at 16:30 for the sessionShared responsibility for the right to health in the post-2015 agenda’.

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