The pilot run of the Foreign Service Institute’s (FSI’s) Basic Course on Global Health Diplomacy affirmed and advocated that “Everybody is a health diplomat.” The Course was conducted online from 13 – 16 July 2021.
The 13-hour training program was collaboratively designed by FSI’s Training Specialists, with inputs and guidance from subject matter experts from the Department of Health (DOH), various offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Philippine Permanent Mission in Geneva (Geneva PM) covering the World Health Organization. This effort was conceptualized to introduce the basics on global health, including global health governance; global health instruments; and the various issues that health intersects with, such as trade and migration.
The Course provided a platform for challenging exchanges between diplomats and health practitioners on how health diplomacy is handled and shaped in the multilateral, regional, and bilateral fora. The timing of the Course paved the way for a common yet differentiated experiences during a pandemic, as expressed by the Course participants, putting discussions on health issues and their all encompassing impact on the individual level and society in general.
The idea for the introductory Course started from conversations between a public health practitioner, a diplomat, and members of the Philippine delegation: Dr. Joel H. Buenaventura, MD, MPH, Chief of the International Relations and Diplomacy Division of the Bureau of International Health Cooperation-DOH, and Minister and Consul Maria Elena Cristina D. Maningat of the Philippine Permanent Mission in Geneva (Geneva PM), resulting in a concept paper on the said advocacy.
This learning opportunity highlighted that global health diplomacy is not just about pandemics; it covers a range of issues, such as climate change/air pollution, universal health care/health equity, non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes, health in conflict crisis, adolescent health/teenage pregnancy, infectious disease such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, water, sanitation, and hygiene among others.
Discussions echoed that even beyond this pandemic, capacity building of diplomats, health practitioners, and other stakeholders must be sustained and collaborative efforts between the DFA, DOH, and other stakeholders strengthened.
FSI commits itself as an active advocate and partner of DFA and DOH in continually building up the capacity and competencies of both diplomats and health experts to effectively navigate the various global health governance venues where global health issues and Philippine health priorities are discussed, debated, and decided on.