Monday, 22 September 2014

Evidence-based civil society advocacy...

At the upcoming 3rd Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Cape Town, I will actively participate in a satellite session “From human resources for health research to policy change: The role of advocacy” organized by the Health Workforce Advocacy Initiative. I will there talk about “Evidence-based civil society advocacy in the field of international migration of health personnel”

The content of that input is not really an issue: I asked some colleagues to provide insights in the making of recent papers on international migration of health personnel and the implementation of the WHO Global Code of Practice, and I will present the results of this little piece of “research”. 

But I am struggling with the words and the concepts. It might look as if policy change in key areas affecting people’s health can be achieved as simply as this:
(1a) There is sound (scientific) evidence that a policy is wrong and needs to change;
(1b) and/or there is scientific evidence on how to do it better;
(2) civil society “advocates” then take up the issue up and push the policy-makers
(3a) to do their job and change the policy;
(3b) eventually after publicly “committing” themselves to doing this;
(4) which again needs to be followed-up by civil society advocates.

Any questions? ...yes, eventually. Being in South Africa: What did it take to overcome Apartheid? What did it take to make HIV/AIDS medicines more accessible and affordable for South African patients? So what evidence is needed for political transformation, and what “advocacy”, what solidarity and support for those who struggle for their right to health, what political action? I hope to get some new answers in Cape Town, mainly also from researchers and policy makers, as the main theme of the Symposium is “science and practice of people centered health systems”.

And regarding the role of international NGOs in policy change and political transformation, I am just reading once again the input “high time to re-politicize NGOs” of my colleague Thomas Gebauer, two years ago, to the MMI workshop, at the People's Health Assembly ... in Cape Town. And it took me a bit longer than initially expected to put aside, after lecture, the angry blog post by Arundhati Roy:

“The NGO-ization of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary.”

Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary
Medicus Mundi International. Network Health for All
HWAI working group on migration - HW4All press officer

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