"Diseases Do Not Know National Borders"

Diseases, terrorism, data security - many challenges cannot be solved on a national level anymore. During the dialog forum Global Governance Futures, young professionals from Germany, USA, China, Japan, and India talked about global problems and developed scenarios for the future.
Robert Bosch Stiftung | June 2016

As part of the Global Governance Futures - Robert Bosch Foundation Multilateral Dialogues program (GGF), 25 young executives from various fields and five countries come together. Over the course of a year, they work together in three groups on scenarios that the world of tomorrow will face. This year, the teams are taking on the topics of global health, international terrorism, and data governance. The kickoff meeting was held in Washington, D.C., in May.

Interview with Fellow Sulzhan Bali from India

What exactly is meant by the term global health?

Global health means considering the health of population groups in a global and comprehensive context. The interdisciplinary approach is the special thing about it. It is not only about approaches of classic medicine - in fact, global health affects many fields such as foreign policy, global trade, and international law. That is why it is important that we think in a connected and interdisciplinary manner. For my part, I deal with the role that nongovernmental stakeholders can play in the fight against epidemics.

How do epidemics like the Ebola and Zika viruses change the requirements of our current health care systems?

Zika and Ebola have clearly shown us that pathogens know no borders. Regardless of how far away a disease breaks out, it can still have effects on one’s own country - because local is global, and global is local. The Ebola epidemic also showed that we must empower the World Health Organization (WHO) to take on greater responsibility. There has to be intense international collaboration in the fight against epidemics so that we can become more resistant to those epidemics. Thankfully there were already improvements made between the last Ebola outbreak and the current Zika crisis.

How can an effective global health system be practically implemented in the future?

The commitment of the different stakeholders has to conform with the various national priorities. During the Ebola epidemic, pressure from donor countries - which were primarily the OECD countries - warped the priorities in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone vis-à-vis national health policies. In the future, this should be avoided when constructing international agreements. And funding in this regard still needs to be increased drastically. This applies to affected countries that, for example, need to allocate more tax funding for the expansion of their health care systems, but it applies to companies as well. Donor countries must also finally fulfill their promise of making 0.7% of their gross domestic product available for developmental collaboration. We must also be able to better implement international guidelines in the future. We already have an excellent set of international laws in the health care sector, but this is only recognized and applied by a third of all countries. How can we change that in order to come to binding agreements in the health care sector?

What are some realistic goals that can be achieved within the next ten years in the field of global health?

Reforming the WHO would most likely take a long time, but - over the medium term - international collaboration and coordination can be improved. Additionally, we can begin developing monitoring and evaluations systems that are more effective. Today, the private sector is already taking measures for global health. This is looked at critically by some, but I believe that the world will benefit from the private sector over the next ten years - especially with regards to funding these measures.

How is GGF 2027 contributing to achieving these goals?

Our work can be used by political decision-makers. They can use the scenarios we have developed as potential frameworks for the shaping of their policies. GGF 2027 can also help make partnerships across national borders possible. Our working group is made up of experts from India, China, Japan, Germany, and the United States. This allows us to incorporate extremely different regional views into our work, thereby allowing us to reach a comprehensive and - in the truest sense of the word - global perspective.

How does collaboration work in a team whose members have such different fields of expertise and national backgrounds?

It works very well. The learning effect is greater when you can benefit from those various outlooks. We are typically trapped in our disciplinal, national, and professional “silos;” here, we are set loose. Recently, one Fellow talked about how difficult it can otherwise be to come to a consensus due to national differences. At GGF 2027, however, the combination of the various disciplines and regional perspectives increases the performance of the working group as a whole. Within the team, we can break down the complex correlations we take on much more quickly, thus allowing us to come up with a solution.